Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Judy Andrekson

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Ten Questions with Judy Andrekson

Judy Andrekson grew up in Nova Scotia with a pen in one hand and a lead rope in the other. At twenty, she moved from Nova Scotia to Alberta, where she found her dream job managing a thoroughbred racing and breeding farm. By her thirties, she began to write seriously, and she combines her passions in her series for young readers, True Horse Stories (Tundra Books). The latest book in the series is Fosta: Marathon Master.

OB:

Tell us about your book, Fosta: Marathon Master.

JA:

Fosta: Marathon Master is the fourth book in my True Horse Stories series, published by Tundra Books. It's the story of a courageous and affectionate little Australian horse that excels in the sport of endurance racing, and makes his mark in the 400 km Shahzada, not just once, but ten times! Despite several obstacles in his life – being rejected at birth and raised by a foster mother, his small size, an accident that leaves him with a career-threatening phobia, and a near-fatal snake bite – he proves himself to be one the most consistent endurance horses in Australian history.

OB:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote your book?

JA:

The entire series, including Fosta, is aimed at the horse-hungry 8 to 12 year old market, although I have been selling to every age group, including adults. I think the fact that these are true stories opens up the market a bit, as so many people seem to enjoy reading a good non-fiction animal story.

OB:

How old were you when you got your first horse, and what was he/she like?

JA:

My first horse was a little chestnut Arabian named Red Knight. Red lived at a neighbor’s farm near where I lived as a child, and we were wonderful friends, although I had never ridden him. I spent countless hours visiting him, playing with him and fantasizing about riding and owning him, but never got the chance. When I was thirteen, my parents decided to move and I was very sad to leave my friend. We ended up on a small hobby farm and six months later, Red was in our new pasture! He was a friendly but feisty old gelding and taught me more about horses than any horse since. He lived with us until well into his old age.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

JA:

I write my rough drafts on paper, and love to work outdoors when the weather permits. Being in a quiet, sunny place with my dogs playing nearby is ideal. Once I head for the computer, I need a window, a view, some natural light. I am easily distracted by… everything: the household chores I should be doing, the emails I should be answering, the clock that needs resetting. Somehow, having a view of the outside world helps keep me focused.

OB:

What was your first publication?

JA:

My very first publication was in the local newspaper when I was about thirteen. I took on the job of 4-H reporter and wrote a monthly article for the paper. Luckily, there was a very patient and kind editor who made suggestions and guided my writing from grade 7 garble to decent articles.

My first ‘official’ publication as a ‘real’ writer (I have since redefined this, but that’s how it felt at the time) was an article in Canadian Gardening (1999) called Kate’s World: Gardening for the Blind.

OB:

What are you reading right now?

JA:

I have three books on the go right now:
A Language Older Than Words by Derrick Jensen.
The Reconstruction by Claudia Casper.
And I am reading Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s List to my daughter, Kate, who is blind.

OB:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

JA:

Only three? Oh, that’s hard!

I’m going to start with an amazing non-fiction book by Daryl Benson simply called Canada. Stunningly beautiful!
Then some Canadian writing talent. Anything by Alice Munro. My personal favorite is Runaway: Stories by Alice Munro.
We have to include some Robert Munsch – I have too many favorites here. The Dark or Mud Puddle or Love You Forever… all of them. Better make this a collection of Robert Munsch.

I wish I could include more… Canada has so many fantastic writers. It’s hard to choose.

OB:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

JA:

I had two conflicting pieces of advice that, when combined, created the perfect recipe for success.

First, to write what I know and love, and to write this for myself first, not worrying about the audience who would eventually read it, not writing ‘to’ someone else. Just writing the story I needed to write, to me, for me. I spent a lot of time and effort writing ‘to’ children or other audiences, unsuccessfully, before this advice hit home.

Second, when approaching a publisher, think money, not writing. You have to approach it as a business first. The more you understand the market and can convince a publisher (in the query letter, before they start reading your manuscript) that your story has sales potential within that market, the better your chances of getting read and, hopefully, accepted.

I began the Horse Stories series from a passionate place, writing because I wanted to tell stories about animals. I had an audience in mind, but I wrote for myself first – for the horse-crazy twelve year old in me.

When it came time to approach a publisher, I did a lot of research into the market and made this the focus of my query letter. It paid off, with two of the three major publishers I had sent a query to interested in seeing the work I was proposing.

It’s sort of a tricky balance, but definitely the most useful advice I have received.

OB:

Describe the most memorable response you’ve received from a reader.

JA:

Any time a reader lets me know how much they enjoyed one of my stories, I’m delighted, but a couple of responses stand out as extra special.

One was from a busy, professional mom who told me she does not have time for recreational reading and really doesn’t enjoy reading because she does so much of it in her job. She was reading my book, Little Squire, to her daughter though, and told me later that she loved my writing style and had truly enjoyed the reading experience and the story and was looking forward to more. That was great!

Another was from a little girl who approached me at a book signing and hung out with me for about a half an hour, telling me about her horse and how much she enjoyed my stories. She reminded me of me at that age, and I loved her. She was hungry for everything horses and it was fun to be a part of what she’s craving.

OB:

What is your next project?

JA:

I’m working on book #6 in the series, about a legendary bucking horse named Grated Coconut. I am also hoping to try my hand at fiction and currently have a children’s story and an adult novel in progress.

Besides my own writing, I am also working with several other writers on their projects, which is an activity I find extremely valuable, for my own development as a writer as much as theirs. This is becoming a very prominent and important part of my writing career.

Read more about Fosta: Marathon Master at the Tundra Books website.

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