The tag line to my novel Her Borrowed Angel is “Life at the intersection of horses. And angels.”
Horses have been important to me as long as I remember, and horse stories were the first stories I ever read. The first book I remember checking out—mainly because I had to convince the librarian in the Douglas County, GA library that although I was a first grader I could read it—was Patsy Gray’s Galloping Gold. The book told the story of a little girl who rescued the family’s stolen palomino, Golden Eagle, to keep the family from losing their ranch.
I read all the childhood horse stories, but as much as I adored Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series—I fell in love with British horse stories—Ana Sewell’s Black Beauty, and from then on—Dick Francis’s mysteries that were centered around British racing, usually the steeplechases. Francis rode for the Queen Mother, and his stories featured horses, and glimpses into British royalty—my version, I guess, of “princess stories,” seasoned liberally with murders and fascinating characters. And horses.
When I read today that Queen Elizabeth has a secret, encrypted phone and only speaks personally to two people, I got it. Princess Anne and the Queen, along with the late Prince Philip, are renowned for their love of horses, especially thoroughbreds. When I found out that she checks in with Princess Anne and her racing manager daily—I total got it. Why wouldn’t she? Yes, she’s reported ill. She’s disliked by many, and controversial on today’s stage—but she would understand my obsession. There’s something—satisfying—to think that the Queen and I share something in common, although I’m sure the satisfaction is all on my side.
And it may be the Queen, Dick Francis, and their books who made me who I am, along with the years. (They were also responsible for those spelling tests I didn’t get hundreds on, because I insisted on using British spellings—grey, colour, honour—until about sixth grade. I still don’t like the American spelling “gray.”)
While it’s true that I find it hard to write a book that doesn’t have a horse in it, it’s also true that my love of words started early—and that it’s been one of my most cherished gifts.
My love of reading and words is also why I’m so upset when books are attacked—we choose our actions, and they’re not dictated by words. But if we read widely—our lives are enriched by words, and some of the ideas they express.
Like horses, which now are only an idea to me, but were once a reality that got me through some really bad spots.