Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lessons in French: GIVEAWAY #2

Copyright SourcebooksToday is Day Two of the LESSONS IN FRENCH giveaway. As mentioned in the comments section of yesterday's post, here are a few answers from Laura Kinsale about her animals.

Laura Kinsale, a huge welcome to my blog. This is quite an honor. I've been an admirer of your work for many years, but getting to know you on Twitter these past few weeks has been quite fun. Since you're doing a major blog tour and talking everywhere about your writing life and your books, I'm taking a different tack here, a glimpse into the person behind the scenes of those marvelous stories.

KS: When did you first fall in love with horses and riding? Who was your first pony? And do tell me more about Firedrake.

LK: Oh, wow, a question about horses. Nobody in my real life ever asks me about my riding, unless I happen to be paying them. OK, well, that's not quite true, as I have barn friends now, but it was [only me] for years and years—I'm the only horsey person in my family.

But I was so horse-crazy my parents were happy for me to have lessons. I think my first lesson was at the age of 6. They didn't put me on any pony! It was a horse, and I swear I still remember him—a big bay, and it was a looong way to look down.

I took lessons off and on up until my teen years, this and that barn, which isn't really a good way to learn. Then I went on to other things, but when I got my first job, as soon as I could figure out the money, I bought my first horse. This was around the same time I started writing.

I was "into" dressage and I had to board him nearly an hour away to get some (bad, in hindsight) dressage instruction. I used to think about my characters during that 2 hours a day back and forth in the car. They were my first two characters, Tess and Gryf, and they were so real to me they might as well have been sitting in the seat next to me.

OK, OK, I can feel myself starting to run on and get boring here. Sorry! Don't ask me about horses! [KS: Boring? No way. It's always interesting to read about the early influences in a writer's life. Carry on, please.]

What I love about riding, and dressage in particular, is that it is totally absorbing, both mentally and physically. When you are riding dressage, you do nothing but ride; you don't think about the guy who cut you off on the highway or your sales ranking on Amazon. You are paying attention to every step, every change in balance, the feel in the reins. Besides the occasional leap 15 feet across the arena, on a day like today when the snow on the roof is melting and coming off in sudden "sliders" that sound like a cannon going off against the metal walls.

It's good for a writer to do very physical things. I believe this more and more.

KS: Despite having ridden for so many, many years, did you find you had to do research on horses, riding techniques, equipment, etc. for your books?

LK: About the most fun I ever had was taking a course in carraige driving at Gleneagles, Scotland. It was just a blast, and quite different in certain ways from riding. (When on a horse, you are the pivot in the center. Driving a carriage, everything is out in front of you, a very very different feel.)

I drove a half-thoroughbred, half-Clydesdale mare. Her name was Folly. The instructor gave her name that lovely nothern British pronunciation: "foley." They said she didn't like to be ridden, but just she loved to pull a carriage.

By the end of the week I was doing courses between traffic cones. Carriage horses always wear blinkers up beside their eyes, so they don't spook at things in their peripheral vision. When Folly would come trotting through those cones, you could see her looking from side to side, as if to say, "Where next? What needle do we thread next? This is fun!"

And of course...Folly the mare gave her name to Folie in MY SWEET FOLLY, and then a number of years later Folly the heroine gifted the name on to my first Great Pyrenees dog, Miss Folly.

KS: Dogs are your other love. Have you always had a dog growing up? And why the Great Pyrenees? (Just because they're cuddly and cute?)

LK: No, I just longed for a dog growing up. I've had a series of dogs as an adult. My father originally got some Pyrs as livestock guardians for a flock of angora goats. [KS: Oh, so that part of Ventoux's bio is truth and not fabrication.] He ended up breeding one litter.

I had been thinking of getting another dog for awhile. I happened to be there the day they were born, and then again a few weeks later when I was the only person around in a huge rainstorm, I helped the mother save the puppies from a minor flood. I went down to check on her at the barn, and she was piling them up on a dirt mound surrounded by water. Together we got them under cover. I was a goner then.

And there is nothing on earth cuter than a Pyrenees pup. (For about 10 minutes—they grow VERY fast.) And they are not dogs for everyone. They are large and while generally kind-tempered, but can be dog aggressive—they are bred to guard against predators, after all—and they like to roam. So while I love the breed, I'm not an advocate for widespread ownership unless people educate themselves.

KS: Er, Ventoux channeling Walter Matthau? (Heh!) How did that come about?

LK: LOL. It's something about his eyes. Sometimes he just get this expression, sort of solemn and exasperated, like Oscar in The Odd Couple.

KS: I'm a bit, ahem, disappointed that there's nary a sign of a real bull or a hedgehog on your site or in your life. You write about Hubert so convincingly, I thought you had first-hand knowledge.

LK: I do have a bit of first-hand knowledge, but when I went home for Christmas, hoping to video some of my father's bulls, it turned out they'd just been sold. Now there are new ones, but the word is they are so young they wouldn't do for Hubert. They are Herefords anyway. Hubert is a Shorthorn. We must stick to accuracy!

KS: Laura, thank you very much for a stellar interview here. We'll continue with more questions tomorrow, including a lightning round.

Copyright SourcebooksLaura has kindly consented to respond to comments today, too. So keep your comments coming to be entered into the four-book drawing of LESSONS IN FRENCH.

Do you own dogs and/or horses? Have you always had a dog or a horse in your life? What about other pets? And if you don't own pets, do you think you will or not in the future?

And in the comments to yesterday's blog, Laura Kinsale asked a question of her readers: "What animal that I haven't used yet should be the mascot in my next book with an English setting?"


Helen said...

Great interview ladies
I have never owned a horse but have never been without a dog or 2 or 3 that I have at the moment. They are so part of my family 2 of them are inside and 1 prefers being outside. Tootsie and Brandy are sitting at my feet while I type this they are never too far away from me.

Quick question are you writting another book at the moment Laura?

Thanks Keira I really am challenged on the PC sometimes

Have Fun

Keira Soleore said...

Helen, welcome to the blog.

I wasn't aware that some dogs prefer living outdoors. Having grown up in cold, snowy or rainy places, I simply thought the owners made the decision for all the pets and had them be indoors for expediency sake, even if they had fenced-in yards.

And hey, you have your own feet warmers that move with you wherever you go. How wonderful! :)

I'll let Laura answer your question. But I have a special treat in a similar vein for tomorrow's blog. So be sure to come back to read.

Helen said...

Blocker is a very big dog and doesn't like being inside at all and as for feet warmers it is great in winter but here at the moment it is so hot amd humid even they are feeling the heat and are sprawled out trying to keep cool LOL.

I will be sure to visit tomorrow as well

have Fun

Keira Soleore said...

True. While we shiver, you're sveltering. Though I must say this summer has been good so far, far fewer fires and other dangers of dry, hot weather.

Anonymous said...

I just got in from a harrowing trip to the barn in blizzard conditions--it wasn't supposed to be this bad according to the weather! V will miss his dog park today, too bad to go back out. So he's now standing outside at the door in the snow, barking as if he wants to come in. When I go open the door for him, he runs to his bone and starts flipping it, demanding I come outside and play in the snow with him.

Helen, I'm writing, but I don't want to get into details on what because I'm not sure yet if it will gel.

Laura Kinsale said...

Opps, previous comment was mine, I saved too soon.

Keira Soleore said...

Laura, O Noes! Just yesterday, you wrote it was slushy and walkable, and today it's turned stormy and scary. Poor V. With four legs and low center of gravity, for him, it's all fun. He can't understand why you don't wish to join in.

Laura Kinsale said...

Yes, it's been a rough winter so far. A lot more snow than usual.

SonomaLass said...

Growing up, my family always had cats. We occasionally had a dog, but none that I really bonded with. As an adult I've remained a cat person; we always have at least three as pets. The one exception is my son's dog, who still lives with me and is a devoted and undemanding companion. While I never planned to have a dog, he's a great member of the family.

I never really got into horses or riding, aside from a pre-teen literary fascination with horse books -- National Velvet, Misty of Chincoteague, Black Beauty and anything by Walter Farley. My partner did, but he's happy to be out of the expense and commitment of owning horses.

But I love horses and dogs as characters in books! They are the companions and can often add interest to the story. As long as it's not that tired old device of signifying maternal potential by showing how great the heroine is with animals.

Calila1988 said...

I had mice, iguanas, and dogs growing up...though not all at once. Currently petless but I really want a dog again so thats something to look forward too. =)

MaxineCH said...

Nice to get a different perspective on a writer's life. I especially liked the comment about writers needing a physical activity!!
I grew up on a farm on the Prairies, so had lots of animals around. The horse I rode was mostly a working horse.

Now I live in the city and after visiting my sister's farm, I found out my two boys are little "townies." So we get by with two Havanese pups, Aki and Kiba, named after Ninja anime characters.

I agree, I'd never be without a dog. They keep the spaces of your heart filled.

Spav said...

I've never had any pet. My house is small and the animal would suffer, but I've always wanted a dog. Maybe I'll get one in the future.