Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kristi Benedict is talking with W.H. Raymond, author of Theo and a Horse Named Rocket.
FQ: Was there a specific person who inspired the character of Gramps in this book?
RAYMOND: Yes actually, there was a person who inspired the character of Gramps. When I was a little girl I was invited on adventures with my dad. He was a veterinarian and enjoyed company when he went on farm calls. I loved the adventures we had together helping farmers keep their animals healthy. Each trip was a new farm and new animals. My family also lived on a farm, and adventures were plentiful with the many animals we kept as pets. I was always learning while watching my father. In a way, my dad was my hero – taking a sick animal and making them healthy again.
FQ: What experiences did you have with horses as a child that made you want to include a horse in your book?
RAYMOND: The adventures I had as a child with horses were more observational. I always dreamed of having my own, but we lived on a dairy farm, so cows were the closest thing I could find to a horse. As mentioned above my father would take me on doctor calls to cattle, sheep, pig and horse farms. I would watch him trim their hooves, de-worm them with a long tube and treat any ailment that was of concern. Horses have always seemed majestic and sophisticated to me. Although I know from my own experiences, cattle are smart animals – horses are extensively trained and therefore seem smarter. As I grew older I sought out opportunities to go riding with friends and family. I still enjoy horses to this day, but cannot say I own one – at least not yet.
FQ: What drew you to horses?
RAYMOND: The intelligence and capabilities of a horse is what first drew me to them. There is a curiosity in a child that wonders what a horse can do if left to their own devices. Horses have been known to let themselves out of their pens simply by using their teeth and mouth to unlatch the gate. The competence they seemed to possess, the beauty of their sleek coat and long mane and tail, along with their strength and power leaves a child in awe. I was thoroughly infatuated.
FQ: Have you always had a love of all animals?
RAYMOND: Yes, I have always had a love of animals. When I was very young I would rush up to any dog or cat that came near me. After several bites and scratches, and after warnings from my mother and father I finally started to back off a little. The love was still there but I realized caution with some animals can be beneficial. I think with so much interaction as a child I learned that animals have some of the same feelings as humans. Animals of all types experience pain, happiness, sadness, curiosity, love and a desire for cleanliness. Surprisingly, revenge never seemed to be one of them.
FQ: Were there trips you took as a child that inspired the trips in this book?
RAYMOND: As a child, I didn’t travel much. My dad couldn’t leave town often. Animal emergencies were a constant in his life. The traveling I wrote about was inspired by trips I have taken as an adult. I have enjoyed watching my own children learn and grow from their own observations. Most of the vacations we’ve taken recently as a family, include some kind of interaction with animals. We’ve explored several different places in the U.S. learning what kind of wild animals thrive there and then hoping to find them in their natural habitat.
FQ: Was there a particular reason you chose to write about a boy instead of a girl?
RAYMOND: This is a great question. I chose to write about a boy simply because it seems girls don’t mind reading about boys, but boys usually don’t like reading about girls. I wanted both to find my book fun and interesting, so I decided to make the main character, Theo, a boy.
FQ: What initially brought on the inspiration for this book?
RAYMOND: I have always enjoyed writing, but the push for writing this particular book was inspired by my desire to write a fun and interesting book for my two younger children. These two happen to be children who never found their calling in reading books. Reading, to them was like torture. I wanted to give them a book that could not only teach them something new but could also trigger their heartstrings and make them a better person.
FQ: Did your experiences as a teacher help with the writing of this book?
RAYMOND: My experiences as a teacher solidified my knowledge on how children interact at school, in which situations they find their independence and their voice, and what triggers their desire to be kind versus unkind. Some children march to the beat of a different drummer. My main character, Theo certainly did. I wanted to show children that these kids having feelings too. And like reading we should never judge a person by what they look like. Sometimes what’s inside could surprise you.
FQ: What was your favorite part of this story to write about?
RAYMOND: I think my favorite part of this story was writing about the adventures Theo had with his friend Winston. There is nothing more satisfying and simple than a super fun and mutually respectable relationship with a friend. It can be nostalgic. Relationships are so important for children’s mental health and livelihood.