Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lynette Latzko is talking with Susan Count, author of Mary's Song - 2017 First Place Winner in the Feathered Quill Book Awards in the Best Animal - Children's/YA category.
FQ: You've written two award winning books about horses - Mary's Song and Selah’s Sweet Dream. Can readers expect more installments in the Dream Horse Adventures series?
COUNT: How did you know? Yes, I'm working on a continuation of Selah's story. She has a knack for finding adventure and it's fun to ride along with her. Plus on my website; there is a free short story that was to be the beginning of a collection, but might turn into a novel instead.
FQ: What do you think is so magical about horses that attracts children (especially girls) to them?
COUNT: It would be easier to explain where pixie dust comes from. This world is full of wonders that draw our hearts to God above. Equines are a special wonder and blessing. Perhaps children are more open to an almost spiritual connection with them. On one hand the horse can be wild, powerful and dangerous. On the other, it can submit gently to the smallest child. To ride a horse is magical experience. For that moment in time, the world withdraws from your mind. In the best of relationships, the horse will respond to the most subtle of cues and it inspires awe. I've heard a horse knows what you're thinking before you think it. They seem to know your heart as well. A nicker will melt your heart like chocolate in the warm sun.
FQ: Can you tell us a little bit about your illustrator, Ruth Sanderson, and why did you choose her to design your cover?
COUNT: Ruth Sanderson is nothing short of amazing. She did the covers for the Black Stallion paperbacks. I've long admired her exceptional horse art, but her princesses and fairies are exquisite and well worth a side trip to her website.
FQ: Do you currently own any horses? How has your past experiences with horses influenced your writing?
COUNT: My passion is forest trail riding. I have a six-year-old, precocious, Rocky Mountain gelding who indulges me for two hours worth of riding. After that he bites my stirrup. I think he's concerned he might be losing weight.
FQ: In what ways do you believe Mary’s Song is a unique story that sets it apart from other children's horse books?
COUNT: Perhaps Mary's Song is unique in that there are layers of conflict and threads of drama that can take the reader deeper if they are willing. It's a glimpse through a window of time when life for children was more innocent.
FQ: Are any of the characters in Mary’s Song based on real people, or horses?
COUNT: Miss Charlotte Dann, the librarian, was loosely based on my grandmother. Like the character, my grandmother was elegant, refined, and feminine. She worked in a charming library with wood floors and wood shelving in Falls Village, Connecticut. She put Black Beauty and The Black Stallion in my hands.
FQ: I see that you've been interviewed by numerous book blogs, what is one question (and answer) that you haven't been asked, and would love to tell your readers?
COUNT: What is the most extraordinary experience you've ever had with a horse?
When I bought an eleven-year-old Missouri Foxtrotter grey mare who had already had 11 owners, I promised her I would never sell her. She was a powerhouse of a horse for being 14.2 hands high. She was like riding a steam engine. Bold and fearless, and I adored her. At 33 years old, I had to have her put down as she was suffering from reoccurring colic episodes and had gotten to the point where she refused to eat even chopped apples. The vet gave her the first sedation, then took the lead rope. When he gave the second injection, she nickered to me. The most tender moment I've ever experienced with a horse. All the love I'd given her was returned to me in that moment.