Blog Discovering 'Finding Wonder'
Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind your book ‘Finding Wonder’?
When I was growing up in Africa, I adored reading horse books and longed for a special horse of my own – ideally, a black stallion or a chestnut Arab mare with a white blaze. Most book ideas begin with a ‘What if..?’ A couple of years ago, I thought, what if a girl who yearned for a special horse suddenly found herself in a position to buy it. What if that horse then vanished without a trace. What if she set out to look for him and that quest took her on an epic journey. In Finding Wonder, Roo Thorn, assisted by her aunt Joni, goes in search of her stolen dream horse, a showjumper called Wonder Boy. The question then is, how far will they go and what will they risk to find Wonder.
How long did it take to write ‘Finding Wonder’?
Eighteen months, during which I did about six rounds of edits. I worked incredibly hard on it for a very long time, but it was a huge joy because I loved my characters and plot and being immersed in a world of horses. I hope so much that readers enjoy the book.
‘Finding Wonder’ is centred around a young girl's journey to rescuing her horse with her aunt. What message do you hope readers will take away from her story?
In Finding Wonder, Roo starts out with a dream of a perfect horse, but along the way learns that wonder is all around us – in nature, in friendship, in kindness, in generosity of spirit, in courage and in connections of every type. My hope is that readers are inspired by her journey to find the wonder in their own worlds.
How did the bond between yourself and your own foal contribute to your portrayal of the main character’s relationship with her horse?
When I was 11, my dad promised I could have his mare’s first foal. I was the only one there when he was born in a storm and I named him Morning Star. We sort of grew up together, and when I was a teenager he was my best friend. I loved him so much. Everything I know and understand about horses I learned from him, and the special bond I had with him has inspired every horse book I’ve written, from The One Dollar Horse series to Roo’s relationship not just with Wonder Boy but every horse with which she bonds in Finding Wonder.
Watching racehorses on the gallops at Kingsclere, and volunteering with rescue horses at Mane Chance Sanctuary must have been incredible experiences. How did these encounters influence your understanding of horses and their roles in the narrative?
I couldn’t have written a word of Finding Wonder if I hadn’t visited Dartmoor, Kingsclere racing stable, and Mane Chance, or spent months working as a groom at a competition yard. Being with horses, caring for them, and being immersed in the different horse world helped me imagine each of the horses in my book so vividly. Throughout the writing of Finding Wonder, I felt so close to every character and I miss them now it’s finished. I wish I knew them in real life and could go hang out with them.
As an author, how do you balance the factual aspects of your research with the creative elements needed to bring the fictional world of ‘Finding Wonder’ to life?
As a young journalist, I loved researching stories, travelling to amazing places, and interviewing fascinating people. I still do that now. I start out with the basic story in my mind, but along the way I take inspiration from the things I experience or see. For instance, I rode a palomino mustang through the mountains of Wyoming when I was researching my YA horse thriller, The Glory, and I experienced a scary storm and nearly froze to death while on a sailing course to research my ocean mystery, Wave Riders. Those kind of first-hand experiences help enormously when I’m sitting at my desk.
How would you describe ‘Finding Wonder’ in just three words?
Thrilling horse mystery!
Or: Heart-poundingly exciting!
Where can fans find out more about you and your work?
Lastly, do you have any advice for aspiring authors who wish to blend personal experiences with fiction in their own works?
Young writers are often encouraged to write about what they know, which can be hard if you feel that your own life isn’t adventurous enough. I certainly felt that way at school. However, you can throw seemingly ordinary characters into a high-octane adventure by kick-starting things with a relatively small event – a wrongly addressed letter begging for help, say, or the discovery of a stowaway on a boat or a runaway in the attic. To me, fiction works best if you feel that you’re right there with your character, seeing things through their eyes or looking over their shoulder. If you imagine you actually are them, it’s harder to stand back and look at the whole story. My advice? Keep reading and follow your dreams.Published: Fri 1st Sep 2023