By Denise Deby –
Tudor Robins’ new novel has the makings of a great summer read: an escape to a wild island, a scruffy horse in need of care, and two teens, each emerging from personal loss, finding something together.
Appaloosa Summer follows on the heels of Robins’ 2013 young adult novel, Objects in Mirror. Both feature young horse riders dealing with challenging circumstances. In Objects in Mirror, fifteen-year-old Grace looks after a malnourished horse while coming to grips with her own eating disorder. In Appaloosa Summer, sixteen-year-old Meg copes with the loss of a beloved horse by moving from the city to an island in the St. Lawrence where she meets Jared, whose father has recently died.
“The horse elements are really easy for me to write, and they’re really fun for me to write,” says Robins, an accomplished rider. Her McKellar Park neighbourhood, although unnamed, also features in Appaloosa Summer.
“The city in the story is Ottawa,” says Robins. “In my mind I always picture this neighbourhood… I imagine that the characters have access to running paths and bike paths and the river and all those kind of things.”
“Appaloosa Summer was inspired by Wolfe Island, which is a place where we spent a lot of time,” adds Robins. “In a way it kind of does parallel my own experience, in that I lived in Ottawa, in this neighbourhood; I horseback rode here in a formal way, and then in the summer I would go to Wolfe Island – we had friends there who had horses – and we would ride bareback, gallop across the field, and take them swimming in the river. There’s a lot of moments like that with Meg, the main character.”
Robins soon realized the characters and story had potential to grow. “I sat down and in about six weeks I wrote the sequel; it’s a first draft, but it definitely is coming. And this summer I may try to write the third one.”
Although she had an interested publisher, Robins decided to self-publish Appaloosa Summer. “It’s great, because you can get your books out a lot more quickly than in traditional publishing, but there’s a lot of work to do.” Having that control has allowed Robins to try new things, such as releasing a free, deleted chapter and collaborating with equestrian groups to promote the book. “And the difference in royalties is huge, although it’s still not a get-rich-quick scheme.”
Robins is also working on a young adult book about a skier, an adult novel, and several other book ideas. In addition, she leads writing workshops and contests including the Ottawa Public Library’s 2014 Awesome Authors contest and participated in the “I Love Horses” competition for Ottawa Horse Day on June 7.
Appaloosa Summer will launch as an e-book on June 15, and as a print book on June 27 at Stone Heron Gallery on Wolfe Island. Both versions will be available on Amazon.ca and Robins’ website at tudorrobins.ca.
This excerpt is from a chapter that was taken out of Robins’ book during the last round of edits, “but I still loved it so much I decided I had to do something with it,” says Robins. She’s given KT permission to publish part of it here:
I haven’t had a shower since coming here.
Instead, every day, as soon as I finish my run, I walk straight over to the clothesline, hang my running t-shirt, shorts, socks and sports bra on it, and dodge thistles as I head to the river in my bare feet and underwear; a ratty old towel slung around my shoulders.
There’s a sweet moment as I slip into the silky river water that makes everything worthwhile – rolling out of bed so early, on muscles only half-awake – it’s worth it, because without them I wouldn’t get this fleeting feeling as the river takes the weight of my body, and the water flows through my hair, and I twist and float like an otter.
I use the biodegradable shampoo and conditioner stashed on the swimming raft, and pull a wide-toothed comb through my hair, and that’s me; ready to start the day.
I wade back out with my hair dripping down my back, and the air on my wet skin is almost as refreshing as the original plunge into the river.
Every single day I do this, there’s a second when I think, one of these days you’re going to get caught. A few times, an early morning fisherman, with his boat in too close, has forced me to plunge in with my sports bra still on but, other than that, I don’t honestly believe anybody is ever going to rumble down our long driveway so early in the morning.
Today, though, is my day off. And thanks to the heat wave breaking, and a cooler night, I did manage to sleep in a bit. So it’s later than usual and, just as I’m thinking, one of these days … I take the step that brings the driveway into view, and sitting there is Jared’s pick-up truck. Crap.
I’m happy to see him, of course. It’s haying weather, and he’s been out in the fields from sun-up to sun-down. I’ve ridden Salem out, more than once, pretending it’s to condition her – giving him a casual wave – feeling a rush of relief at the sight of the new tractor, with its protective roll bar, working perfectly: Jared safe and sound.
Read the rest of the deleted chapter online at tudorrobins.ca.