A way with words
Stacy Gregg writes about the latest addition to her stable of bestselling equestrian fiction, a tale inspired by the horses of Iceland.
Ialways say that if you actually enjoy writing, then you aren’t doing it right. A book is hard slog. Except not any more. Something strange has happened to me at book 23. Suddenly it’s easy.
“As far as I can see,” my friend Nicky Pellegrino, also a novelist, huffed at me one day at Sea Breeze cafe as we worked side by side on our books, “all you seem to do is go to the gym and drink wine and have beauty treatments and somehow, miraculously, a book keeps turning up.”
It’s true. I did two books this year. There was a picture book, Mini Whinny: Happy Birthday to Me!, my first attempt at the genre. It featured a roguish, troublesome miniature pony, but the book itself was frightfully well behaved. It turned up on time and I loved collaborating with Ruth Paul, who illustrated it and is a genius.
The second book was a novel, The Fire Stallion, and it was even more amenable than the picture book. It was a teacher’s pet, always there with its hand up, waiting for me to call on it.
Admittedly, there was a bit of a glitch at the research phase when it dawned on me that since The Fire Stallion was set in Iceland, I needed to go to Iceland. And then it further dawned on me that I couldn’t do this in December as I’d planned to because there are only two hours of daylight in Iceland at that time of year. You cannot research what you cannot see. And the deadline was looming.
Never mind. I struggled through, sitting next to Nicky at the Sea Breeze having races to see who could get to 1000 words first. Loser buys coffee. This was a good wicket for a while, until Nicky realised I could type faster than she.
I’ve written the bulk of all my novels in cafes. I’m an ex-journalist and I think, for me the environment is a ’Nam flashback to the pressure of a newsroom – if I don’t hammer the keyboard like hell, I’ll have the subeditor at my desk at any moment screaming for copy because they are holding the front page for me.
Iended up going to Iceland in March. By then I was right smack up against my deadline, but at least I had daylight. rode horses. I ate reindeer. I drew the line at eating fermented shark and puffin, which they catch in giant butterfly nets and taste a bit like muttonbird, apparently.
Thingvellir, less than two hours from Reykjavik, is the setting for all that is “beyond the wall” in Game of Thrones.
I stood there on the law rock in the valley where the Viking tribes had once met for their AGMs and I felt my character Brunhilda, who is a kick-ass, sword-wielding 13-year-old, growing more powerful inside me.
Bru and me. We got on pretty well, I think. She is the favourite of all of my heroines and I loved my year with her. Bru is ambitious. She wants to conquer the world. She’ll soon get her chance.
Stacy Gregg’s The Fire Stallion (HarperCollins) is out on October 1.
Nicky Pellegrino said to me, “All you seem to do is go to the gym and drink wine … and somehow, miraculously, a book keeps turning up.”
Icelandic horses, which Stacy Gregg, below, rode as part ofher latest book’s research.