Interview with Victoria Eveleigh – Author of Katy’s Wild Foal
Victoria Eveleigh is our June Author in Residence. Here is our interview with Victoria…
Tell us a little about yourself and how you began writing
I was born in London and I went to school there until I was a teenager. Then I moved to a boarding school in Kent, which I loved because it was in the countryside and I could have my own pony there.
I’ve got an older brother and two older sisters, and they called me ‘Tortie the Tortoise’ because I was rather plump and slow! My nickname, Tortie, has stuck with me throughout my life, but I like it. At a pinch, I can always pretend it’s short for Victoria – except you know now, don’t you?
Unlike a lot of writers, I didn’t want to be an author when I was a child. My ambition was to become a mounted policewoman or, failing that, to look after the dogs in the Battersea Dogs Home or the monkeys in London Zoo. As you may have guessed, from an early age I was nutty about horses, dogs and pretty well every animal under the sun. I spent as many school holidays as possible staying with my grandmother on her farm near Lynton, on Exmoor in southwest England. To me it was heaven. When I was about ten, Grandma bought me a pony called Jacko. I thought he was the best pony in the world.
My holidays on the farm made me realise I wanted to be a farmer, so I studied science and agriculture at university. After that I moved down to Exmoor, where I worked for the Exmoor National Park Authority and lived on my grandmother’s farm. As luck would have it, there was a handsome young farm manager called Chris Eveleigh on a neighbouring farm, and before long we were married.
We took over Grandma’s farm, and we’ve been farming it in partnership for over twenty-five years now. We’ve got two children called George and Sarah. They’re both grown up now, but when they were younger I used to read to them a lot. Sarah, especially, liked pony stories. I used to read her all my old pony books as well as more recent ones, like the Sheltie tales, and I began to think about writing my own pony story one day, with a girl and an Exmoor pony as the main characters. The trouble was we were always so busy with farming, a horsedrawn tour business and a self-catering cottage. The opportunity eventually came when we couldn’t have any visitors to the farm during the foot and mouth disease crisis in 2001. Although it was an incredibly worrying year, it gave me time to write the story I had in my head about Katy and Trifle. . .
Tell us about your Katy’s Ponies series and your latest book ‘A Stallion Called Midnight’
The Katy’s Ponies trilogy is about a girl called Katy Squires, and her adventures with a young Exmoor pony called Trifle as they grow up on an hill farm together. It was inspired by my experiences here on our farm, complete with our animals, our wild Exmoor pony herd and the ups and downs of farm life. When my daughter Sarah was younger she had a spirited Exmoor pony called Tinkerbell, and the things they got up to gave me lots of ideas for the books! I couldn’t resist including Jacko, my wonderful first pony, in the story too.
Chris and I love the island of Lundy, which lies between the North Devon and Welsh coasts at the point where the Bristol Channel meets the Atlantic Ocean. We spent our honeymoon there, and have returned many times since. I’ve always been intrigued by the herd of rather beautiful feral ponies on the island, and the more I found out about them the more I became fascinated by tales of a legendary stallion called Midnight who lived on the island for many years. A Stallion Called Midnight is fictional, but it was inspired by the story of the real Midnight and what actually happened to him.
I must just mention that Chris does the beautiful illustrations for my books. I love his drawings because they are so true to life. Wasn’t I lucky to marry an artistic farmer who likes horses?
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a trilogy about a boy called Joe who moves from Birmingham to a small farm in the country. To begin with he’s more interested in aikido and football than horses, but several things happen which make him realise that riding is fun, and pretty cool too. Writing the stories has involved research into aikido, Romany folklore, Pony Club mounted games, horseshoes, farriers and lots of other really interesting topics.
I wanted to write a horse and pony story with a boy as the main character because plenty of boys ride but most of the stories published nowadays seem to be aimed at girls. These books are for everyone.
Where is your favourite place to write?
I write in the farm office, on a temperamental old computer which I keep threatening to replace. I have a view of the farmyard and some trees, so I can see what’s going on outside without leaving my nice warm office.
Sometimes I have to use my laptop if my computer decides to go on strike. I tried writing in bed with my laptop the other day, but after about ten minutes I went fast asleep, so that wasn’t much good!
What do you like to do outside of writing?
I like reading, walking, riding, and being with horses, dogs and people. I really enjoy taking photos, too. Oh, and I enjoy cooking, but I hate washing up or any sort of housework. I’d far father muck out a stinky stable than clean a room in the house! I love learning new things and meeting new people.
What are your top five childhood books?
1.Silver Snaffles by Primrose Cumming.
2.The Famous Five books by Enid Blyton.
3.Is it cheating to have a series of six books? No? Good. The books by K M Peyton that started with the Ruth Hollis series (Fly-By-Night and The Team) and continued as The Pennington series (four books).
4.Moorland Mousie by Golden Gorse.
5.Cobbler’s Dream by Monica Dickens.
Thank you Victoria!
We have one set of the Katy’s ponies trilogy to giveaway. To enter, retweet this post or leave a comment. Open to UK residents only. Closes 30th June 2012 at 5pm.