Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Judy Andrekson

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Ten Questions with Judy Andrekson

Judy Andrekson talks about the newest book in her series, True Horse Stories.

OBT:

Tell us about your book, Brigadier: Gentle Hero.

JA:

Brigadier: Gentle Hero is the true story of a horse that worked with the Toronto Mounted Police Unit for several years. He was a gentle giant and greatly loved by the men and women who worked with him or knew him. He had a special fondness for children and a fearless, willing heart – a heart that touched almost anyone who had the privilege of meeting him. Sadly, Brigadier took the brunt of a deliberate hit and run one cold winter evening, saving his rider’s life, but losing his own. The story is not about the sadness of that tragic event, however, but about the life of this extraordinary horse, and about the friendships and love that his life was all about.

OBT:

How did you research your book?

JA:

I had the incredible cooperation of the entire Toronto Mounted Police Unit, headed by Staff Inspector William Wardle, during my research. Everyone I spoke to was enthusiastic, helpful, and openly expressed their love for, and memories of, this remarkable horse. Most of the research took place via email, along with a few phone interviews. And, of course, the Internet was vital… I was able to retrieve dozens of news articles and bits of political information from the time of Brig’s death, along with general information about the training, competitions and working life of the average police horse.

OBT:

What was it about Brigadier that made him so well-loved?

JA:

Brigadier had an innate gentleness that touched everyone who knew him. He seemed to truly enjoy the company of humans and could make staunch British men laugh, tough police officers cry, and children squeal with joy. His big, brave heart just seemed to shine through more than average. He was wonderful!

OBT:

Brigadier was killed when he was hit by a car. Can you tell us what happened to the driver of the car, or would that be giving too much of the story away?

JA:

The driver was charged and fined…a mere slap on the wrist. But this launched a huge movement to increase the protection of animals under Canada’s criminal code… at present there is no law to protect animals (except cows) from deliberate acts of violence, including service animals. ‘Brigadier’s Law’ was created to try to deal with this problem, and now, several years later, politicians are still fighting to have this proposal made into law.

OBT:

Stories about horses are very popular with children and adults. Why do you think readers are drawn to stories about horses?

JA:

Horses touch something deep in us. Their beauty is inspiring, even to those who don’t ride. Their power is awesome, but their gentleness and willingness to bend to us is even greater. They are social animals, like us, so inter-species friendships are possible and do happen. Horses can be incredibly affectionate and sensitive. I think most people, even if they never touch a horse, or ride, are drawn to the power, beauty and romance that is horse, and horse stories are so often about that horse/human bond that is so attractive to us. Even just looking at them makes us feel good. What’s not to love?

OBT:

Do you have a specific readership in mind when you write?

JA:

This series is aimed at children about 8 to 12 years old, particularly those horse-hungry pre-teen girls out there, but when I write, I don’t really write to any particular audience. I simply want to write a good story and hope it will be enjoyed by anyone who likes non-fiction animal stories. These were always a favorite of mine, in childhood and as an adult, so I guess, in a sense, I’m writing for myself first.

OBT:

Which books made a great impression on you when you were a child?

JA:

I was a real reader as a kid. Black Beauty, of course (the best horse story ever written, I think), along with dozens of other horse stories, Watership Down and the Plague Dogs (both of these stories moved me deeply), the Anne of Green Gables series (wonderful!), I Am David, the Madeline L’Engle books (A Wrinkle in Time, Wind In The Door, Swiftly Tilting Planet…). I loved all the classics – Heidi, Tom Sawyer, Old Yeller, The Old Man and the Sea, The Red Pony… I could name dozens of these. They were all wonderful friends.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

JA:

I am currently reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini… and LOVING it! Also, I read to my daughter, who is blind, and we are reading No Language But A Cry… an older story, but very touching. I’m also reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield – it’s wonderful.

OBT:

Do you have any advice for writers who are trying to get published?

JA:

Stick with it. It’s so easy to get discouraged, but if writing is what your heart is telling you to do, then do it. Work on improving the technical end, but go with the ‘heart’ part first. It’s time to be brave!

OBT:

What is your next project?

JA:

That’s a little bit up in the air at the moment. My current next book in this series has run into some problems that are out of my control… so I’m waiting to see what happens with it. Hopefully, the series will continue. Besides this, I am working on a fiction project that I hope to submit for consideration in the next couple of months. And I am always busy with smaller, freelance work… this pays the bills!

For more information about Judy Andrekson’s Brigadier: Gentle Hero, visit the Tundra Books website at www.tundrabooks.com.

Author photo by John Andrekson

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