Today, I've got an interview for you! It's with the author of the Stay the Distance series, which I read and adored. Here's my review of it, if you haven't read it yet!
Hello Mara and thank you for being here today! I have a few questions for you about you novel, Stay the Distance, and yourself, so let's get started! Can you explain what your novel is about?
Sure! Stay the Distance is a coming of age story about July Carter, her horse racing family, and a summer full of changes. July’s world is perfect from the back of a horse. From the ground, everything is a complete mess: her jockey mom ran off for California years ago and her dad always seems more interested in the horses than in her. Unsure of what she wants to do in her summer after high school, July starts riding horses for her dad on the New York racing circuit, while her best friend wants her to move into the city, go to college, and maybe live a real life for a change.
July isn’t sure that real life isn’t all horses all the time, especially when she can’t help connecting with Kali, a hopeless filly that refuses to run when it counts. When bankruptcy rumors start swirling around the barn, the future is murkier than ever. July can’t stand losing one more thing, and Beck, the barn owner’s son, knows more about the rumors than anyone else. July will get the truth, even if she has to pry it out of him, for Kali’s sake and her own.
What inspired you to write this story?
I read a lot of horse books when I was a kid. Of those, I adored the Thoroughbred series and the Black Stallion, which introduced me to horse racing. After I grew up with those books I did the first thing you’d think to do: go searching for more horse books. The pickings were pretty slim, especially for young adults. Part of my aim with Stay the Distance, Whirlaway, and my upcoming Finding Daylight was to write more of the kinds of books I wanted to read, particularly for young adults. People who love horses don’t just stop loving horses when we’re teenagers and pick it back up again when we suddenly like romance and mysteries as adults. We’re horse people, period. That’s what inspires me to write.
There's also a short story, Whirlaway, related to your novel, which we can download for free on your website. Do you plan on writing more novels in this series?
Yes, I’m working on the outline details for a sequel, and I’m already threading a loose plot for a third book. My goal is to get July to a point where I feel comfortable leaving her, even though contemplating that makes me sad!
How did you choose your stories' titles?
Titles sometimes pop out of nowhere and stay, like Whirlaway. Incidentally, I set the story during the Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct, and I liked the name Whirlaway as it applied to July’s mother, who seems tantalizingly within reach yet so far away. For Stay the Distance, horse racing commentators always love asking whether or not a horse can win at a certain distance—whether or not they’re bred for it, even. I chose Stay the Distance because of those racing roots, and because it connects back to July’s struggles throughout the novel in terms of her family, her mom, and what on earth she wants to do with herself.
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
This is such a good question. Writing is something that I always played with, but also something I didn’t know how to realistically pursue when I was younger. All through college I wrote while getting a bachelor’s degree in Classics, and I kept writing through grad school to get my master’s in Library Science. I’m a librarian by day, but always I was writing.
Then I wrote Whirlaway and sent it off to the Thoroughbred Times, which they loved and published. That was my wake-up call, that moment where I thought that writing could be more than something I do in my spare time. So now I’m this mixed breed of indie and traditionally published author. Stay the Distance has been out since March, I’m editing my next book, and a very different short story will be appearing in an anthology in April 2016. Most importantly, I’m having a lot of fun!
Your novel is a lot about horses. When and why did you start being around them?
I have absolutely no memory of the why when it comes to horses. I think I just saw them in a field one day as a toddler and a switch flicked somewhere, as I believe happens with most horse people. Since I didn’t have a horse crazy family to grow up in, I begged for and received riding lessons when I could get them, but barns sold and people moved, and eventually I stopped riding until I was in my late twenties and decided out of nowhere that not riding was unacceptable. So I found a dressage barn and learned my little heart out.
What is your favorite equestrian discipline? Why?
So I have two. Bear with me. Horse racing is my first love. It’s thrilling to watch horses in motion like that. Dressage is the first discipline I really felt that rider-horse connection, which is thrilling on a whole other level. I love it for all the tiny details that go into it, and how much of a difference those tiny details make.
Is there a rider that you admire particularly?
This might seem like a cop out, but I want to say every female jockey that has ever lived. The horse world always seems dominated by women, but that is not the case with horse racing. People still second guess a woman’s ability to ride a race horse, so I admire all women who put on silks and do that job.
Describe your dream horse in terms of personality, breed, looks, etc.
I’m a sucker for Thoroughbreds. They’re phenomenal work horses that just try and try, and I know without a doubt that if I ever find myself in possession of a horse it’s going to be an OTTB. I’m also a sucker for bays with white feet, and some white on the face. It gets me every time.
If you could bring any of your characters (including horses) to life, which one would it be and why?
I thought this would be a difficult question at first glance, but after a couple of seconds the answer became obvious: July’s trusty pony, Maggie. She’s a sweetheart and I would definitely keep her in my backyard.
If you could make a movie of your novel, who would you cast as your main characters?
So my confession is this: I based a lot of Beck on Jensen Ackles circa Dark Angel. If time travel is possible in this hypothetical, it would be really difficult for anyone to dissuade me from plucking Jensen out of 2001. As for July, I am going to aim high and say Jennifer Lawrence. My movie is now Oscar worthy!
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Hopefully I’ll have ten published books to my name. Cross your fingers for me!
If you could give one tip to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Start! I like to say that you have to get the words on the page. Writing is personal, and everyone goes about it differently, but the words have to be on the page before you can revise, rewrite, and ultimately become a better writer.
Are you a fan of social medias? Where can your readers find you?
Absolutely I’m a fan of social media. You can find me in several places, so take your pick:
You can also find me at my website, www.maradabrishus.com, where you can read the occasional blog post, sign up for my newsletter regarding new books, or just e-mail to say hi.
There's a giveaway of Stay the Distance on my blog, which will be open until September 20th. You can participate here!