inspiration / new books / writing

So I wrote down all my wishes…

‘All my books were about ponies or horses, as that’s all I thought about when I was a child. I couldn’t have a pony of my own as we lived in a town and my parents couldn’t afford it. So I wrote down all my wishes and invented ponies whose life stories I followed: good owners and bad owners, like Black Beauty.’

That’s K M Peyton, author of the wonderful Flambards books, writing earlier this month in the Guardian newspaper.

Her words exactly describe me as a child. I started writing aged 5 and my stories were always wish-fulfilment dreams about ponies and living in the countryside. My favourite toy was my farm, with its painted pond and wooden buildings, and loads of plastic animals, especially horses. All my information about riding and horse-care came from other books and from the pony magazine I bought with my pocket money. I once even wrote about going hunting! All from a council house on a London estate.

Unlike KM  Peyton, I didn’t end up spending my grown-up earnings on horses. I don’t live on a farm now, or keep lots of animals. Probably just as well, as I’m not good at getting up early, or going out in all weathers. The odd wild walk is fine, but not every day, come what may. I have a cat. That’s it.

But there are always animals in my books. Dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, hens, mice, canaries, magpies. I don’t write books about animals – it’s strictly a human landscape – but they always creep in. And once they’ve crept in, as in real life, they make themselves at home.

Which makes the research fun. I’ve searched the internet for pictures of Pekinese dogs that matched the one in my head to help with a book cover. I’ve been through loads of pics of vintage horse carriages – there seems to be great enthusiasm for these in the USA – to find just the right 19th century high-wheeled trap for a nervous horse to pull, and hunted for examples of child-sized pony carts. Recently I’ve trawled for dachshunds (a key character in Nancy Parker’s Diary of Detection) and got an illustrator to make one even more droopy-eyed and sad-looking.

dog and catNow I’m on the look-out for dachshund-related stuff just for fun. These two – Bernard and Sausage (I’ll let you guess which is which) – are from my new book  and are keeping me company at my desk. And this little doggy brooch just came with me on a school visit. A big plus: they don’t make me get up early to take them for walks in miserable winter weather!

dog (51)


9 thoughts on “So I wrote down all my wishes…

  1. Great post, Julia! – and from one pony-mad-but-unable to own one- kid to another! As you might’ve picked up, I’m already bursting with excitement for Nancy Parker. Now you’ve added fuel to the fire by mentioning it contains SAUSAGE DOGS! Really can’t wait! Emma

    • Thank you, Emma! I get very fond of all the fictional animals I write, even the spoilt coven of Pekes in ‘Clemency Wrigglesworth’. It’s almost as good as having a real dog, and I can try out the different breeds for compatibility. That’s spoken as someone who owned a pretend Greyhound for several months when I was eight – amazingly it never shot off after a rabbit. Maybe I didn’t yet know they did that.

    • I know, Laura, they are the best for unconditional love. And even ordinary pets have their brave or noble moments when you can’t help but admire them even more. I think it is fascinating how humans and certain species have lived intertwined lives for millennia, helping each other.

  2. Lovely post Julia – so wish I’d read it before I got my lunatic of a Springer Spaniel – Bramble who needs VAST amounts of exercise – come rain or shine.
    But you’ve made me ponder on the notion of writing as wish-fulfillment for the writer. Hmmmm

    • Thanks, Cas. I bet Bramble brings lots more positives to your life than negatives, though. Think of all that vast amount of exercise you are getting. While I, under my duvet, just exercise my imagination…

    • Ooh, thanks for the info about snow! I knew about the back problems – and lots more – from reading a lengthy article on dachshunds in one of those country magazines you find in holiday cottages. I couldn’t have one as my house is full of stairs – it wouldn’t be fair.I understand that although they look serene and friendly, they can have very strong personalities and dominate their owners. Would you say that’s right?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s