Kate Lattey – author of the Pony Jumpers series – answers a few questions about her writing life.
Q. Why do you like writing for teens?
A. As a horse-mad teenager, I devoured every horse book I could get my hands on, but none of them ever reflected the equestrian lifestyle that I was living in New Zealand. So I started writing the books I wanted to read when I was that age, which naturally meant that they would incorporate teen characters. As a Pony Club coach, I spend a lot of time working with young people and have so many real-life stories to draw from. Your teenage years are also so important to your development as a person and so much change happens in that time. I also love writing about show jumping ponies, and in most countries (NZ included) you can only compete on a pony until the age of 17, so that sets a time limit on the ages of my characters.
Q. Have certain authors or books you’ve enjoyed been part of your inspiration to write? Why?
A. When I was a teenager, I always loved Patricia Leitch’s ‘Jinny at Finmory’ series and Jill Ferguson’s ‘Jill’ series. As an adult, I came across Patricia Leitch’s ‘Dream of Fair Horses’ which had a big influence on my most popular novel, ‘Dare to Dream’. Leitch’s writing is so poetic and atmospheric, her characters so richly drawn and complex, and she is not afraid to challenge readers with an unexpected ending. Readers will love or hate ‘Dream of Fair Horses’ but nobody can deny that it’s a novel that gets under your skin – you won’t forget it in a hurry. Ferguson’s ‘Jill’ series was also influential in being about an ordinary girl who is a fairly ordinary rider, who isn’t afraid of hard work and, while she’s fairly successful in her showing endeavours, is never the most brilliant rider. One of the books ends with Jill competing in the under-sixteen jumping for the last time as she is about to age out of pony classes, and a lesser author would’ve had her win the class, but she places third – and is happy with that. That ending always stayed with me – I was expecting her to achieve a glorious victory, but that’s not how life works, and Jill’s satisfaction in the fact her pony jumped very well for her has also stayed with me as a reminder of how lucky we are to have the opportunity to ride horses, let alone to win a few scraps of ribbon every now and then.
Q. What are you working on at present? Are you going to publish it and when?
A. I am currently working on book 12 in the Pony Jumpers series (which actually already has 14 books in the series, as I have written two ‘Special Editions’ as well – plus four other novels!) I’m hoping to have it out by Easter 2021.
Q. What sort of things provide inspiration for your writing?
I get a lot of inspiration from real-life! Being involved as a Pony Club head coach, show hunter judge, show jumping course designer, cross-country commentator and many more roles as required, I’ve spent a lot of time in the equestrian scene, and there are so many stories out there still to tell. The nervous riders with good ponies, the kids under pressure from their parents, the kids whose parents couldn’t care less, the talented riders with uncooperative ponies, ponies going lame two days before a competition riders have worked all year towards, wins and losses and inevitable disappointments – equestrian sport is full of ups and downs, something I have tried to incorporate into my stories, and how those trials and tribulations build determination and resilience. There’s something about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of a person, as they say, and everyone’s equestrian journey is different. Not everyone is going to win a gold medal, but sometimes it’s more about the journey than it is about the ending.