Friday, 22 July 2011

Guest blogger - Meg Rosoff

I have a guest blogger - the wonderful Meg Rosoff (and I have a couple more guest bloggers waiting in the wings too). Meg is a prize winning author.  She's won  the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize 2004 for How We Live Now, and the CLIP Carnegie Medal in 2007 for Just in Case.  And she likes pony books.


Over to Meg...


I grew up in the wrong country. I know this because there weren’t enough pony books in America. By the time I turned eleven, I’d read eighteen Black Stallion books, twelve Marguerite Henrys, Black Beauty, Taffy’s Foal, Blaze Finds the Trail, and even (though reluctantly) a bunch of vaguely horsey cowboy books -- though I was decidedly not interested in anything other than the ponies. Desperate, I moved on to The Yearling (a deer book -- what a cheat), The Red Pony (too sad even to think about), Strider by Leon Tolstoy (I think it’s fair to say that I entirely missed the communist metaphor), Dapple Grey in Andrew Lang’s Red Fairy Book. All very literary, but not what I was after.



The pickings became increasingly slim as I moved up in my teens and then twenties. Anything by Molly Keane was likely to feature fox hunting. Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man was bliss. Later there was Hound Music by Rosalind Belben. And then I moved to England at the age of thirty-two and found myself in retro-pony book heaven. Despite my advanced age, I read all the books I’d missed growing up. KM Peyton and Ruby Ferguson were top favourites, but anything with a gymkhana and a handsome older brother kept me happy for days.

Then I ran out again. The Horse Whisperer? Surely not. Cormac McCarthy’s All The Pretty Horses wasn’t really about horses. I couldn’t face Jilly Cooper’s Riders, though I’m still tempted occasionally. Jane Smiley’s Horse Heaven was perfect, despite being about racing, but what I really wanted was an endless supply of pony books. For grown-ups.

So I did what any other self-respecting frustrated pony book lover would have done in my place. I wrote one. It was called Horse Therapy and it wasn’t very good (I’d never owned a horse, and hadn’t ridden in 25 years) but it had a certain energy and it probably made up in relationships what it lacked in yard-lore. And when I say relationships, I mean sex.

“I don’t think I can sell a pony book with quite so much sex in it,” said my new agent politely. So I threw it away and wrote another book. And then two more, and then my answer to Tess of the D’urbervilles, a pony book for teens and grown-ups called The Bride’s Farewell. My pony-loving friends loved it. My mother thought it would read better without all the pony rubbish.

I still hanker after pony stories. I read them secretly, hiding them from my uncomprehending husband and daughter like pony porn, and I’d still love to write them. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that Kathy Peyton has written all the books I wanted to write, and written them with more elegance, wit, and first hand knowledge than I’ll never have. Unable to better that, it’s back to more mundane subjects – adolescence, love, war, depression, family, identity – minus the pony. Which, if you ask me, doesn’t help the finished product at all.



Thank you Meg. I now want to read Horse Therapy.  If anyone out there hasn't read The Bride’s Farewell, I can highly recommend it.  Meg's latest book has moved away from horseworld.  It's called There is No Dog.



6 comments:

Christina Wilsdon said...

What fun. I can totally relate to the lack of enough decent pony/horse fiction growing up in the States when I was a kid. Now there's an abundance but most of it still lacks the essential pony-ness of the Brit lit.

Still, it's all there waiting to be secretly read by us grown-up horse-mad girls :)

haffyfan said...

I think i'd rather like to have a read of Horse therapy too!

I think you should give in to temptation and give Riders a go...or better still Polo, which in my opinion is far superior.

Wondermare said...

Has Meg come across the Jinny at Finmory books? A strong-willed female narrator and a wild Arabian mare. Perfect.

Goldielover said...

I had the best of both worlds growing up in Canada. The British pony books were easy to find, especially the Armada or Collins Seagull editions, as were the American authors such as Walter Farley and C.W. Anderson. There were definitely completely different styles on each side of the Atlantic, and I lapped up both. Still do.

Katherine Langrish said...

New to this site, but what a lovely one it is! As a horse and pony-mad child and teen myself, I can totally relate to Meg's post. Could I add 'My Friend Flicka', and the Silver Brumby books by Elaine Mitchell (do i have her name right?) - and have you all come across jane Smiley's two recent YA horsebooks - 'A Good Horse' and 'The Georges and the Jewels'? Also sheer bliss.

Jane Badger said...

Thank you! I agree with you about Jane Smiley's books - well, the first one, at least, which I think is a wonderful book. The second is still very good, but not quite I think up to the second. I love My Friend Flicka too. Am ashamed to say I only read it quite recently, despite having owned it for oooh.... decades.