Lauren St John (The One Dollar Horse) Pony Club Q&A
Unique Pony Club Question & Answer with Lauren St John, author of 'The One Dollar Horse'
1. In The One Dollar Horse, teenager Casey Blue finds a dollar bill which will go on to change her life. Have you had any events in your life that have hinged on a chance happening?
Dozens. I managed to get a publishing deal for my first book in seven days, starting on a Tuesday, purely through a series of chance events.
2. You have written books set in Africa and Cornwall in the past. What made you want to set The One Dollar Horse in inner-city London?
The thing I find hardest about living in London is not being able to have a horse. When I first came to live in the UK, I found it so agonising being without horses that I’d have to turn off the television if horses were on it. I still run up to police horses in the street. I suppose I could relate to the idea of someone living in a place where a life with horses seemed an impossible dream.
3. Your first job was teaching horse riding - have horses always been a passion of yours?
I’ve been obsessed with horses for as long as I can remember- since I was born I think. When I was growing up in Zimbabwe, we lived on a farm where we were able to have eight horses. I was there when my black horse, Morning Star, was born in a rainstorm and I had him for twenty-two years. As a child, I worshipped the ground he walked on and thought of him as my best friend.
4. When you were 17, you spent a year working as a veterinary nurse. What made you become a writer rather than a vet?
I loved being a veterinary nurse but I found it difficult to cope with people wanting to have healthy animals put down so they could get new puppies and kittens for Christmas. I quit for that reason, went back to Africa and my mom pretty much forced me to go to college to study journalism. It was one of the best things she ever did.
5. In The One Dollar Horse Casey’s dad says to her ‘Anything can happen to a girl like you, anything you dream of…if it’s in your heart and you work hard enough and believe enough, you can accomplish anything.’ Have you got any ambitions or dreams that you are still working towards?
My Mum was a big believer that you could be anything or do anything you dreamed of and she encouraged my sister and I to believe the same. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my life and feel extremely blessed. My dreams now are to write lots more books and to work with the wildlife charity, Born Free, to have a sanctuary for wild animals in Africa.
6. Casey calls her horse Storm Warning; is the horse based on a real horse you have owned or known?
The horse isn’t based on one I’ve owned but he is based on the hundreds of horses – especially race horses – that end up unwanted, mistreated or in knacker’s yards each year. A single country sent 400 racehorses to the knacker’s yard last year. I find that horrifying. To me, every horse is precious and deserving of love. They are the most sensitive, intelligent animals and I would like to rescue all of them. I called the horse in my book Storm Warning because I just love the name.
7. Is Casey Blue – or any elements of her - based on anyone you know, or even on yourself as a teenager?
All my characters, whether they’re young or old, boys or girls, have little bits of me or people I know in them, but none are actually based on real people. That said, Mrs Smith is a kind of composite of three of the people I most admire.
8. What does an average day involve for you?
I spend a ridiculous amount of time playing with my cats or making excursions to the French deli for chocolate brownies. In between, I write.
9. Who was your favourite author as a child, and who do you read today?
My favourite horse books when I was growing up were the Jinny at Finmory series by Patricia Leitch. I still think they’re completely awesome. I also loved the Black Stallion series and things like National Velvet. Now I read thrillers and classics and children’s books like Journey to the River Sea.
10. Will you be watching the eventing at the London Olympics this summer?
Definitely. I love the Olympics. I have tickets to the dressage final, so I’m thrilled about that. When I was a child my dream was to win a gold medal for eventing so I’m still praying that I might somehow get a ticket to that.