One of the best parts about being a writer is doing research. For my White Giraffe series, I went to Zimbabwe, the Bazaruto Islands in Mozambique, Cape Town and the deserts of Namibia. For my Laura Marlin mysteries, I went to St Ives in Cornwall, the Caribbean, St Petersburg in Russia and the Kentucky Derby in the US. And for the One Dollar Horse series, I got to go to the Badminton and Burghley Horse Trials. Now I’m writing The Glory, a novel about a long-distance horse race across the US. So naturally I had to drive 1,800 miles across the US, stopping for four days en route at a ranch in Wyoming, where I rode a palomino mustang through the Big Horn Mountains. It was pure heaven.
People often ask writers where they write, perhaps because they feel that the location itself should be inspiring. Most days, I’m happy as long as my Bengal cat, Max, is beside me. Of course, it’s fun to go somewhere exotic from time to time. Max was with me in St Ives when I wrote Dead Man’s Cove looking out over the ocean. And recently I went to the French Alps to a cabin in the middle of nowhere to finish my new horse book, The Glory. This was my view.
The Obituary Writer, my first adult novel, is out in paperback now. Part thriller, part romance, it is set in London and Cornwall and is about 38-year-old obituary writer Nick Donaghue, whose life is derailed after he is caught up in one of Britain’s worst ever train crashes. For me, at least, it’s a novel about faith, hope and true love.
What a treat. Children’s author St John brings her masterful story-telling to the adult market … Engaging, original and charming.
If you’re wondering what inspired me to write the One Dollar Horse series then the answer is Morning Star. Growing up in Africa I was desperate for a horse. When I was 11 we moved to a farm called Rainbow’s End and my dad promised me the first foal born to his mare Cassandra. That foal was Morning Star and when I was growing up he was my best friend. I had him for 22 years and still miss him. Now I live in London and can’t have a horse so writing The One Dollar Horse was my way of riding at Badminton vicariously!
I get so many letters from children asking for advice on writing that I thought I’d summarise a few tips in a blog. Grown-ups usually ask me how I manage to stay disciplined when I work at home. I tell them it’s easy. I have cat food to buy and that’s a powerful motivator. Meanwhile my Bengal cat, Max, pictured here, just relaxes and let’s me take the strain.
I recently returned from Zimbabwe, where my birthday present from my sister was a visit to Imire, an amazing wildlife sanctuary near Marondera. My sister and I spent an hour walking with eight-year-old rhinos which had been hand-reared from birth. It was bliss.
Here’s an encounter with an elephant. She is the matriarch of a buffalo herd and has rejected all attempts to place her with her own species. It was a privilege to meet her but a little scary. She’s boisterous and temperamental and has a habit of swinging her tusks about. But like the rhino, she has long-lashed, gentle eyes. Unforgettable.