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.

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Stacy Gregg

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.

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