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Be in to WIN a free digital copy of DARE TO DREAM

Free D2D

Your chance to read DARE TO DREAM for free is now live on Instagram! Just follow me @kate_lattey, then Like and Comment on this post to go into the draw to be given a free digital copy! Double your chances by tagging someone else – if they start to follow me, then you go into the draw twice.

About the book:

Inspired by a remarkable true story.

Saying goodbye to the horses they love has become a way of life for Marley and her sisters, who train and sell show jumpers to make their living. Marley has grand ambitions to jump in Pony of the Year, but every good pony she’s ever had has been sold out from under her to pay the bills.

Then a half-wild pinto pony comes into her life, and Marley finds that this most unlikely of champions could be the superstar she has always dreamed of. As Marley and Cruise rise quickly to the top of their sport, it seems as though her dreams of winning the Pony of the Year might come true after all.

But her family is struggling to make ends meet, and as the countdown to Pony of the Year begins, Marley is forced to face the possibility of losing the pony she has come to love more than anything else in the world.

Can Marley save the farm she loves, without sacrificing the pony she can’t live without?

Dare to Dream is set on the NZ PGP circuit, has over 50 five-star ratings on Amazon and is a bestseller in Teen Equestrian fiction on Amazon in the USA and UK.

Conditions:

One winner will be drawn for every 10 entries so the more people enter the more chances to win 🙂 Only condition is that you review on social media once you’ve read the book! Entries close at midnight on Sunday 29th March 2015. Giveaway is for a digital copy only, which will be emailed in either PDF or .mobi format (for Kindle/Kindle app). Winners are requested to read the book and post an honest review on social media.

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On writing ‘Strong Female Characters’

I wrote this for the Horse Crossings blog a couple of weeks ago, and will repost it here for anyone who missed it on the other site.

On writing “Strong Female Characters”

What is a Strong Female Character? There’s a lot of debate and discussion going on about that right now across the internet. What constitutes a Strong Female Character? How do you make sure to write one (or several)? There is of course, no hard and fast rule, but let’s start with a definition.

One of my favourite definitions comes from this blog, which quite simply points out that “A female character should have the wits and a big enough part in the story to propel and shape the plot significantly of her own accord. We all enjoy seeing women kicking ass, but we’d enjoy even more watching a woman whose decisions are important and taken seriously by the characters around her.”

This goes for girls too.

Many girls around the world love ponies, and they love to read stories about ponies. The success of the “pony book” genre has hinged for many years on the relationship between a girl and her pony, that unbreakable, magical bond that they share. One of the most popular and enduring pony book series in the English language is Ruby Ferguson’s “Jill” series, which contains plenty of wit, charm and realism, and a wonderful protagonist in Jill Crewe. And although written and set in the 1950s, one of the most endearing things about this series is that Jill herself possesses a great deal of agency.

What is character agency? There are boundless definitions, but here’s one that I particularly like:

The character makes things happen. They move the plot forward. They make choices — even if they are bad ones — that propel the story. They make a difference. They do not wait for the story to happen to them. They do not wait to be rescued. They do not let somebody else handle the hard stuff. If your character is sitting around the house gnawing their knuckles and hoping everything will work out okay, you need to punt them into the middle of the action.

Anyone who has read any of the Jill books can scarcely imagine their heroine sitting around waiting for everything to work out, and it is Jill’s tenacity and determination to get things done that make these books so timeless, despite being set in an era that many of today’s readers won’t recognise.

As Ada Hoffman succinctly pointed out on Twitter: Agency is not about characters being good or bad characters, it is about what the characters are given the opportunity to do.

As a writer of YA fiction, I am very aware of my target audience. (Sure, the books are read and enjoyed by many adults as well, but that’s not really who the books are “for”. Their enjoyment is, in some ways, incidental to my purpose.) The young women of today are growing up in a tumultuous, unnerving and difficult world that is quite different from the idyllic lifestyle that Jill and her friends enjoyed in Ruby Ferguson’s series. Today’s girls are hyper-aware of what is going on around them, of what other people think of them, of society’s expectations for them. They are viewing themselves and the world around them through a lens that is at once incredibly narrow and unbelievably wide.

They are looking for characters that they can relate to.

They are looking for role models.

They are looking for strong female characters.

So there’s that question again – what is a Strong Female Character? How do you know whether or not you’ve written one? This blog provides a useful checklist to consider:

  1. Give her a goal and a reason for having that goal
  1. Give her flaws
  1. Let her change
  1. Have her act under her own initiative.

Notice that none of the above has the slightest thing to do with being physically strong. That’s not what it’s about, although it can be an element.

A quick comparison:

Van, one of the characters in my novel Dare to Dream, is described as physically strong. At eighteen years old, she does the heavy lifting around the family farm, building fences and fixing water troughs and riding horses that others have consigned to the scrap heap for being too unruly and difficult. She’s also emotionally sturdy – stubborn and often tactless, determined and passionate, argumentative and resilient. One of her sisters is warned against ever telling Van that she can’t do something, “because she’ll kill herself proving you wrong” (which interestingly enough, is one of the most highlighted passages in the Kindle book).

Her older sister Kris is the opposite of Van in many ways. She’s physically weak, after a riding accident left her with a back injury that severely limits her capabilities. But more than any other character in that book, Kris is possessed of a great deal of emotional strength. Far more world-wise than her twenty-one years, she has given up on her own dreams to raise her sisters after their parents’ death. She struggles on, day after day, complaining as little as possible, selling the horse that she built her own dreams on in order to help her sisters’ dreams to continue to come true. Kris is a pillar of strength, although she never sees herself that way, and (for me at least) is one of the most inspiring characters I’ve ever written.

I want people to read my books and be inspired. Not just because of the way the characters treat their horses, but because of the way they treat one another. In the sequel Dream On, youngest sister Marley is witness to the ongoing bullying of a rival competitor. Marley has ample reason to despise this rival, because the prior actions that she now is being stigmatised for affected Marley more than anyone else, but she believes that this girl has seen the error of her ways, and doesn’t participate in the bullying tactics. And when she eventually sticks up for her rival and helps her out, she is immediately chastised by one of her friends, who calls Marley “naïve” for thinking that the other girl could’ve turned over a new leaf. Marley’s response is, in my mind, one of her greatest and proudest moments.

“Maybe I am,” Marley conceded, starting to walk away. “But I’d rather be that than a bully like you.”

If any of the young readers of this book felt inspired in that moment, if it gave them pause and made them also feel proud of Marley, and think that “I could do that”, then I have succeeded.

It’s about agency, and it’s about emotional strength, and it’s being unafraid of the opinions of others. I do a lot of work with young people and I see a lot of what they are thinking about and worried about on a daily basis. Being an individual, being confident enough to have different opinions and tastes from other people, being resilient enough to keep getting up when you get knocked down, knowing who your friends are and being self-reliant enough to walk away from bad relationships. Teenage girls are not worried about being able to beat up the world, they just want to be strong enough to live in it with confidence.

The people that young women surround themselves with will have huge impacts on their lives, and this goes for the characters they read about as well. Whether male or female, the characters we write do not have to be physically strong in order to be role models. But if their actions can make us smile, make us cheer, make us want to step inside the book and give them a pat on the back, then I reckon that we’re on the right track.

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Transformation Tuesday

On the 17th of October 2010, I went to see about a horse. I was only recently back from 15-months overseas, and I didn’t have the money or really the inclination to buy a horse, but I was looking for something to ride. When I heard from a friend about an available free lease on a 6 year old Welsh Cob x Thoroughbred, green-broken but good-natured, sensitive but sensible and just in need of some mileage, I thought I’d go check him out. I looked at a couple of photos and a video or two online, and arranged with his owner to see him at a show that weekend.

Just over one year later, not long before Christmas 2011, I bought him.

As JJ and I approach four and a half years together (hard to believe it’s been that long!) I can look back and remember the horse I once had, and compare him to the horse I have now.

JJ transformation Tuesday

The horse I had in 2010 was nervous about meeting strange horses, and would hide when new horses came into his paddock.

The horse I have in 2015 thinks the whole world is there to admire him (horses and humans) and has to be locked away so that he doesn’t pester incoming horses by trying to impress them with his striking looks and vibrant personality.


The horse I had in 2010 didn’t like going out for rides on his own, and wouldn’t canter more than six strides down the beach before getting tired.

The horse I have in 2015 doesn’t like going for rides with other horses as they cramp his style by making him stick to their pace, and will canter a full kilometre down the beach without breaking into a trot.


The horse I had in 2010 couldn’t cope with having his ears touched, and would take between ten and twenty minutes to bridle every day.

The horse I have in 2015 falls asleep when I pull his forelock, and is easy to halter and bridle.


The horse I had in 2010 was hard to catch, and had to be haltered carefully so he didn’t take fright at any pressure on his poll.

The horse I have in 2015 whinnies when he sees me and comes up to me in the paddock.


The horse I had in 2010 couldn’t canter a 20m circle – the closest we got was about 40m in the first few weeks! – and struggled to pick up his canter leads.

The horse I have in 2015 will canter 10m circles, perform effortless flying changes and walk to canter transitions, and is starting to school towards canter pirouettes.


The horse I had in 2010 was just learning to jump, and would frequently run out if he was slightly unsure about taking a fence.

The horse I have in 2015 is a consistent winner in Show Hunter competitions (7 wins from 9 starts this year), and will willingly tackle any obstacle – not only jumps but shrubs, bathtubs, barrels, road cones, wheelbarrows, mounting blocks, etc.


The horse I had in 2010 didn’t know what hard feed was.

The horse I have in 2015 knows exactly what hard feed is, and thinks he should get much more of it.


The horse I had in 2010 thought life was a bit of a worry.

The horse I have in 2015 thinks that life is an awfully big adventure.


The horse I had in 2010 belonged to someone else.

The horse I have in 2015 is mine.