Such a rare pleasure to interview both father and daughter who have just released a wonderful fantasy book HORSE DREAMER, a book about overcoming adversity through the power of spirit. I am so pleased to welcome them both to my blog, and looking forward to reading the book this summer!
Thank you, S.J. and Marc Secchia, for the interview and for proving that children and parents CAN make miracles! I bet your family is proud!
1. Tell us a little bit about each other. What matters about your dad/daughter?
Marc: S.J. is eleven and we share a love of books and reading. We also share overactive imaginations and a love of travelling to fictional worlds. We live in Ethiopia most of the year where it is more difficult to come by books. S.J. has a deep love of animals, particularly horses, and most weeks can be found down at the local stables or trail riding.
S.J.: I love sharing book ideas with my dad. That is how we got the idea for this book.
2. Whose idea was it to co-author this book?
S.J.: Horses are my passion, so I loved working on the book and thinking about what a world of horses would be like. Besides, I love working with my dad. The world was fun to create, and very different from Earth.
Marc: We wanted to do something together that explored not only our love of fantasy fiction, but was a dad/daughter project we could really sink our teeth into. We spent hours brainstorming, especially the different types of equine life, and building the world together.
3. The story starts with a tragic event. Why did you choose to place such a huge challenge in front of your main character? What is your goal?
Marc: I’m afraid this is my fault. S. J. didn’t want this beginning, saying it was too ‘mean’ – I wanted something powerful and gripping that really launched a reader into the story with perhaps one of the worst experiences anyone could imagine, certainly a terrible loss of the dream of being an equestrienne. The opening scene is a car crash in which Zaranna loses both legs at the knee.
S.J.: We wanted to write about a character who can overcome despite her disability–which is itself a difficult, often negative word. Zaranna is a fighter and a dreamer. She overcomes huge physical and emotional challenges in this story.
Marc: Just to add, there’s a positive hidden inside ‘disability’, which is the word ‘ability’. As S. J. said to me, this should not mean there’s a lack or something wrong. Each person is unique and gifted with their own special qualities. Sometimes we don’t see them as we ought to; we maybe see only the outside or the apparent challenges a person may have. Yet traumatic experiences such as Zaranna has, change and scar us as people. Good can come out of grief and loss, but we didn’t want to minimise her struggles. Just learning to walk on her artificial legs is a result of months of physiotherapy and recovery.
In our tale, this trauma is also a trigger-point for Zaranna to start to discover some of the abilities hidden inside of her as a person.
4. Tell us a bit about the writing process. When and where did you write, who called the shots in the first draft, who pushed the editing? Were there tough moments, especially when deciding on the fate of some characters?
S.J.: The plot was my idea, but my dad developed it into something much better than I had originally planned. I love the book, and plan on rereading it as soon as possible. I was a very picky editor, and kept on editing the book before we were actually ready to edit.
Marc: The writing part was mostly up to me but S.J. kept a beady eye on proceedings, reading every chapter or section before it was finished (and after!) and making suggestions for plot, characters and the world. The main plot and story ARC was entirely her idea, and we did disagree as I said, especially over the opening chapters and what happens to Zaranna there.
I get up at 5am every morning to write. I worked off the outline, a mindmap of the world and the character sketches we worked on together.
5. What was the most fun moment you shared while working on The Horse Dreamer together?
S.J.: Making up jokes to add to the story.
Marc: Figuring out how to turn Equinox into a reality was fun, but the best was to hear S.J. chortling away while she was editing.
6. Practical stuff – what’s your muse food? Did you fight over chocolate or berries while writing?
Marc: Coffee, coffee and … coffee. Has to be Ethiopian coffee or I’d never write a word.
S.J.: Chocolate donuts!
7. Who is your favourite character and why?
S.J.: Zaranna is my favourite because she’s strong and confident, and like me in the way that she likes horses.
Marc: I love the crustiness of Illume the Stars, the Dragon, whose ill-humour and fieriness disguise a soft heart, but my favourite has to be Whiz and his wisecracks.
8. How did it feel to type ‘the end’?
S.J.: A bit sad to finish … but I’m looking forward to writing the second book in the series. I already have lots of ideas as to what will happen.
Marc: Great satisfaction. This is a story I’ve grown to love. I think it takes the reader on an emotional rollercoaster but without giving away too much, S. J. and I are both suckers for a happy ending.
9. Any plans for the future? Message for the readers?
S.J.: I’m working on buying my own horse. And we can all learn from Zaranna never to give up, no matter how difficult our circumstances.
Marc: What S. J. said. I believe one of the greatest powers of the human condition is the potential to overcome. It may take courage of an extraordinary kind, but we believe and pray you will find that courage in your life.
Here are a couple of quotes:
“I’m a Human,” she put in.
“Human? How mind-numbingly disappointing,” said the Dragon.
“You look very pretty,” said Whiz. “Especially with the kitchen knife slipped into your waistband and the metal kebab skewers in your hair.”
Without further ado, Shuzug majestically and masterfully whipped out what appeared to be a flaming mallet, the head of which approximated the dimensions of a double-decker London bus, and whanged the Pegasus with a report like a derelict building being dynamited.
Thank you, S.J. and Marc! I hope you inspire parents and children to read your book and learn lots of positive things from it! And readers, don’t forget to review the book and recommend it to your friends!