It’s always exciting to release a new book, but it’s a little nerve-wracking as well. It’s putting yourself out there, and every time I write another book, I get a little big nervous about how it’s going to be received. Especially when I’ve written something a bit different, or covered a different topic to something I’ve done before. SIX TO RIDE takes a firm step into serious YA territory, and SEVENTH PLACE is following hot on its heels. Without revealing any spoilers or giving too much away, it will suffice to say that this series is going places that your average pony book doesn’t. Seems to be a hallmark of my writing…unfortunately for my poor characters, I don’t like things to be too easy or predictable. There’s no fun in reading a book if you know what’s going to happen in the end, right?
I’ve never subscribed to the belief that pony books should deal with ponies alone, and ignore or gloss over the other details of life. Otherwise all of your drama and tension has to come from the horse storyline, and there are only so many injuries or colics or evil competitors that you can write about without ending up repeating not only yourself, but a hundred other writers of equestrian fiction out there. That’s one of the beauties of being self-published – there’s nobody to tell me that ‘you just can’t do that in a pony book’. I can write, essentially, whatever I like!
Of course, that’s both a blessing and a curse. The difficult part comes in releasing a book that nobody (literally, nobody) else has read until the moment that it goes online. For my longer novels (the DARE TO DREAM and CLEARWATER BAY books), I have a group of beta readers who give me feedback before I release them, but none of the PONY JUMPERS books have been treated to that scrutiny. I write them, I read back through them (rarely more than once) to tidy up the spelling and grammar, then I release them into the world – and get cracking on the next one. (NB: If you spot a typo in one of my books – email me and let me know! I won’t be offended…in fact, I’ll reward you with a free e-book for your troubles.)
But it’s not just the threat of hidden typos that makes me nervous when I unleash a new book onto the unsuspecting public. It’s the fact that while I’m in the writing process, and even before that, in the drafting and imagining processes, I can change the story as much as I like. I’m constrained only by what has gone before, but going forward, I can do anything. I have a lot of plot points figured out, but I’m not married to any of them. I could change them all, completely, and nobody would be any the wiser. But once a book is published, the words on the page become real. Become canon, to borrow a term. Now that other people have read it, it has become a part of the story, and there’s no going back. I suppose it’s a bit like making pottery – you mould it and mould it until it’s the shape you want, and then you fire it in the kiln, and if you get it out and discover that it has lumps and bumps and uneven patches, you’ve just got to learn to live with it.
SIX TO RIDE both does, and doesn’t, feel like that. I’m sitting here second-guessing myself about a few things, but for the most part, I’m happy with the way the book turned out. (I don’t know whether I’ll ever be completely happy with a book – there’s always room for improvement – but I didn’t want to throw the laptop across the room when I was reading it back, so that’s something.) Are there lumps and bumps and uneven patches? Probably. Undoubtedly, in fact. Those things are natural byproducts of writing. The biggest challenge right now is to keep all of my facts straight, and I can’t tell you the number of times I had to open one (or all) of the previous books in Word and search for a name, or a reference…knowing I’d mentioned that character before, hoping like heck that I hadn’t said something that was going to negate what I’d just tried to write, and crossing my fingers constantly that I haven’t inadvertantly contradicted myself at any point. I do have a file that outlines every character and their physical characteristics, their behavioural quirks and prior descriptions, their backstory and their family’s names, and any tidbits of information I threw in there at random that might become important later.
With 20 books planned for the series (and 14 of them still to write) it’s becoming more and more important that I not only get these details right, but continue to plan ahead. When I wrote FIRST FENCE, it was on a whim. DOUBLE CLEAR was supposed to be a one-off opportunity to see Katy’s side of the story, and then I couldn’t resist writing from Susannah’s perspective, and so TRIPLE BAR came along. But from then on, it spiralled out of control, and now I have not only plots for those remaining 14 books, but all of the titles, covers and blurbs as well. (I just bought the cover images for books 7 and 8 today, and have been having fun designing back covers for when I get around to setting up CreateSpace and making copies available in paperback.) And I have notes. Countless, endless notes – some on my computer, some on my phone, some scrawled on the back of my shopping lists or in that 2013 diary that I never used.
And still, every day, something new comes to me. Some new storyline or scene springs to mind. Some books are clearer than others – I’m still very fuzzy on book 9, and I’m just hoping to have some inspiration by the time I get to it. Book 11, on the other hand, I could write tomorrow (and actually already have some scenes penned). A new character turned up today who will feature sporadically from book 7 onwards to the end of the series, and I have a sneaking suspicion that she’ll be around a lot more than even I’m predicting. Characters have a habit of taking control of their own narrative, and steering the story in directions that I never expected them to go.
But that, after all, is the fun part. I just hope that my readers are enjoying the journey, and are willing to continue the ride.