In this 27th Equestrian Author Spotlight, I talk with equine author Emma Bradley. Of course, we discuss the best topics on earth — writing, books and horses! In the interview, you'll learn about her horse book series, Windy Mill Farm, the home for stray humans as well as stray horses. Emma's interview is educational and humorous. As a fellow author, I particularly enjoyed her comments on good/bad reviews and her advice for aspiring writers. Happy reading!
About Equine Author Emma Bradley
Emma has written books in the fantasy, romance and equestrian genres. She is the author of 'The Firebird Trilogy' in the fantasy genre and the 'Windy Mill Farm' series in the Young Adult equestrian genre. Standalone titles include 'The Paper Bouquet' and 'His Daughter's Journey'.
Emma lives with her husband on the south coast near to Brighton, complete with pebble beaches and the seagull invasion. As yet she is still waiting for someone to buy her a unicorn. Or a tank.
Nice to meet you, Emma! Let's gallop into the interview.
What is your favorite horse memory?
I used to share a horse at the local stables when I was about 13. Her name was Millie, a piebald cob and she was only five years old. Basically I fell in love and my parents used to pay £30 for me to go up and ride and muck out, groom and generally work at the yard for one night a week and two days on the weekend.
My best memory is of her. It’s a little bit of a mean one but she would quite happily let me ride her most of the time, but often she would just as happily buck other people off. They’d come back from hacks caked in mud and I’d smile to myself and think ‘she’s definitely mine’.
How did you/when did you/why did you choose to write horse books?
I started riding when I was about nine, and I remember my first ever ride on a fat grey Shetland called Chalky. I decided I was going to be the next Ginny Elliott. That didn’t quite come to pass when I realised how expensive horses were and finally stopped tormenting my parents, but I never stopped loving horses.
Then I got a few compliments on my stories at school in creative writing classes and the writing just kind of started happening. I ended up with several fifteen page stories that I was convinced would make me millions, and never understood why nobody tackled me to the floor in desperation when I sent them off to publishing houses.
Slowly I grew up and learned more, about horses and about writing, but neither hobby ever quite left me and now I get really grumpy and restless if I’m not writing something.
What advice can you share that might help aspiring authors?
Love your subject, I can’t stress that enough. The research that goes into a project like writing a story isn’t just the plot line and making the characters realistic, but also the background. I’m always paranoid that I’ve forgotten the difference between a browband and a martingale!
Also if you’re determined to do all your own editing, no matter how many times you read it while editing/finishing – TAKE A BREAK. By this I mean write or read something else, walk away and give your brain a break from that particular project. When you return to it you’ll suddenly see it needs changes that you never noticed before.
Most of all don’t get disheartened. If you’re a champion procrastinator (like me) it can feel as if you’ve given up too easily and yet you just can’t get yourself away from Facebook/Twitter/cat memes. Or you might read stuff and feel like its complete rubbish. None of my books remotely resemble the first draft, other than maybe a couple of characters or settings. The story starts to have a mind of its own eventually and I’ve learnt just to roll with the punches and write as it comes.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I start with rough ideas, which usually stem from thoughts about the characters themselves. Something they’d say or do, or I see a horse in a magazine and start thinking ‘ooh that’d be the perfect horse for so and so and s/he doesn’t have enough yet!’
In the books we also focus quite a bit on the family dynamic at Windy Mill Farm, so I try to make sure I progress that aspect on top of how well the yard and the horses are doing. The family bits seem to write themselves almost but often I’ll end up with anything between 3 and 7 drafts where everything changes before the die is completely cast.
I also think that never being able to have a horse of my own as a kid makes me want to fill the book with more horses all the time, so I end up having to save some for later books (otherwise there would be so many and not enough people to look after them!)
Once the first draft is hashed out though I try to be quite methodical, reading through to edit and taking a break, looking critically at what works and what doesn’t. (Then taking many more breaks and editing many more times, and threatening to throw it in the bin and do something sensible like be an Accountant!)
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
I think I’m safe in saying that nobody wants a bad review. It might be a bit unbelievable to have nothing but 5-star “best thing since Harry Potter” reviews, but nobody wants a really bad one.
Reviews can be fair whilst still being critical, for example ‘I didn’t personally find the language engaging’ would be much more appreciated than ‘it was awful’. I think the mark of a successful review (even if it’s being negative) is the ability to explain why. That way the author can get an idea of what works and what doesn’t to possibly work on their skills. We’re always learning as writers, so if the criticism is fair and in depth, it can only help.
Then again, I read a review recently on Goodreads that had several very detailed examples of why something wasn’t approved of and I felt like hiding under the table! I do sort of live in fear that one day someone will say that my books are absolutely awful and I should stop terrorizing readers. In all honesty that does make it daunting to go out and market. I try to get honest feedback before publishing but nobody will tell you the truth quite like a reviewer behind a computer screen.
But then I suppose love of the story we’ve produced and the characters we’ve been yelling at for months and/or years is the reason we put ourselves through this!
If this book is part of a series, would you share little about it?
The Windy Mill Farm series is a little bit like my baby; it’s comforting to know I can continue writing about Kerry and the Windy Mill family. The yard has expanded as the books have continued and the number of horses and characters has grown with the story-telling.
Kerry is obsessed with horses and spends most of her life at the yard, even making sure that she has a job waiting for her the moment she finishes her GCSE’s and leaves school.
Clyde owns the yard and is often seen running about making a mess of the office, but he has a wealth of experience when it comes to all things horses. Then Kerry’s friends all tumble in and out of the tales, Luke always joking and messing about, Nathan being level-headed and calm, and Jo who is completely mad but has a heart of gold.
As the books move along we see new faces, returning faces and all sorts of different horsy faces too. I just wanted to create a series that could continue and grow just like we do in real life, with sad bits and funny bits and happy bits and a little engineered luck sprinkled in on top. That and with my current mortgage I’ll be two hundred years old before I can get anywhere near a life like Kerry’s, so I will continue to live vicariously through her and keep pretending that Windy Mill Farm is real!
What was your inspiration for the horse(s) in your book?
My friend has two horses (lucky her!) and when I go to visit I often draw inspiration from them. They’ve even posed as the cover stars for Windy Mill Farm books 1 and 3! I also like to hark back to memories of horses I used to know at old riding schools and from pictures I see that inspire me, but often I just let my mind run riot and fill up my imaginary stables full of different types, breeds, and disciplines.
I really liked creating the contrast between Titan and Marty the most I think, although I’m proud of all of the horses at Windy Mill Farm. Marty is constantly naughty but loves to jump, and Kerry has a totally loving blind spot when it comes to him. In comparison Luke’s horse Titan is a true gentleman despite being a huge beast of a horse, yet they often get led together and seem to have formed a ‘bromance’ of sorts!
Finally I didn’t want to have the yard full of show-stopper horses, so we have Hannah who hates being tacked up, Shandy who bites and pulls faces, Bianca who hates men, and the list goes on. I didn’t want them to be too ‘perfect’ or unbelievable so the Windy Mill lot often adopt them from the local Sanctuary to give them a forever home!
How did you research your novel?
I think it’s important to make sure you have accuracies in the books. When I was really little I used to find the instructional horsy text books too heavy-going and stories were an amazing way for me to learn without having to specifically study. So the stories I read as a kid were actually one of the main sources of information until I grew older.
I’ve been in and out of the horsy world as often as I can, working at yards for rides all the way to studying for BHS exams. To keep the facts and information in stories fresh, I generally use horsy magazines like Your Horse or Horse & Rider, websites and then I still read horsy books as often as I can.
Most of all I do a fact check each time I edit, on spelling mistakes, the latest trends and even updates to horse care or riding skills.
Discover more about Emma Bradley's books!
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Emma-Bradley
What a spur jingling interview!
A BIG thank you to Emma Bradley for participating in my Equestrian Author Spotlight series. I enjoy these interviews. I learn so much from other authors and appreciate how unique each of our writing journeys are. I love that all the authors featured in this series are linked through our creativity, passion for writing, and love of horses. I think it is so important to support each other. I appreciate the support of a fellow author. Thank you for giving me the gift of your time, Emma! #authorsunite
I LOVE HORSE BOOKS! If you are an author who writes about horses and would like to be spotlighted let me know. I’d be happy to include you, too. Sharing about fellow horse book authors makes my spurs jingle! Visit my contact page to fill out a request: https://www.carlykadecreative.com/contact.html
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Books by Carly Kade
Carly Kade writes for anyone who loves horses, handsome cowboys and a great romance. Creative writing about horses makes her spurs jingle!