By Victoria Hardesty: Author of Action and Adventure with Arabian Horses
Author Masterminds Member
My name is Victoria Hardesty, and I live in Pinon Hills, California on a 7.5-acre Arabian horse ranch. Since I was two years old, I’ve loved horses and had two grandfathers in the same town that I could con into taking me to the park for pony rides. I was addicted to the “Eau de Equine” at an early age. Due to my family circumstances, I didn’t get my first horse until I was in my 30s.
I bought my first book at age four with my birthday money—a bright, shiny copy of Black Beauty. That was the same year I started school.
I can’t tell you how many times I read The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. I read my Black Beauty into tatters. When other girls were out riding horses, I sat and read about them and dreamed.
I met Nancy during my first year of high school. I was 14, and she was 16. Over the next several years, she lived with my family, and I lived with her in her apartment, or she lived with me in mine.
Marriages took us in different directions. We’d call each other, sometimes with a lapse of a year or two, and pick up the conversation as though we’d spoken the day before. We had that kind of friendship. She could tell me anything, and I could do the same with her. We sympathized with each other, praised and celebrated each other’s successes, and shared each other’s sorrows. Our secrets have always been safe between us.
During this part of my life, I was finally able to afford a horse of my own. My neighbor had Arabians and taught me a lot about them and how to care for a horse.
My husband and I bought an orphaned four-month-old purebred colt. I discovered a new truth. Arabian horses are like potato chips because you can never have just one! At one time, I believe I owned 22 of them.
We ran our own training/breeding/show barn for a few years. Since I worked full time, we had a trainer and groundsman, the vet on call, and an excellent farrier. Weekends were around the circus at my barn or a show somewhere. We always had a passel of kids around the barn working with their horses.
That is where the name of our series originated. Every young person who loves their horse believes their horse is the smartest, most beautiful, most talented horse on the planet. That horse is their personal “Wonder Horse,” as my husband used to kid them. He stopped using the horse names when he talked to the young people at the barn. He’d ask them how Wonder Horse was doing. Each kid knew precisely what horse he meant.
August 1, 2011, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer. Nancy had a severe bout with illness a couple of years before I did. She and I kept in touch during our illnesses.
She called me one day in February 2012. She told me later she didn’t want to ask how I felt that day because she already knew what my answer would be. She’d thought about it for a while and just asked me, “Why don’t we write a book together?”
I loved writing. I’d been harboring a book in the back of my mind for 20 years. Her question set me back in my recliner and popped my eyes wide open. Collaborate on a book? We chattered like magpies for several hours that day, and I forgot I felt like poop.
Nancy and I talked three or four times a week for three months. We decided on the main character, supporting characters, the plot, the end we wanted. We talked about how the people looked and what they did for a living. We talked about how they dressed and what cars they drove. At the end of the three months, we knew those characters intimately.
Nancy and I talked it over. Since I type close to 100 words per minute and she does a pretty respectable 45 or 50, I would do the typing. I’d set down at my computer with morning coffee and began banging out chapters. I emailed them to her, and we saved a few hours three times a week to review, edit, and discuss each chapter. Thirty-day later, I put in the final period on a 98,000-word book.
The challenging work just began with that final period. We spent the better part of the next five years editing the book. We hired a professional editor who sent us back to school to learn how to construct a marketable novel for today.
When we were finally happy with our story, we began attempting the traditional method of publication. We contacted literary agents in our genre by the score. We polished up our query letter and shipped it out again and again.
In the end, we both could have wallpapered our homes with the rejection letters, and those didn’t count the ones that fell off the planet into a black hole somewhere.
Then we remembered the editor we hired had recommended a small independent publisher who came with an excellent reputation, and, best of all, he worked directly with authors. Nancy and I tweaked our query letter one final time, re-read the entire manuscript to each other, and put it to rest in a drawer for a month.
We dug it out of the drawer and talked to each other. Finally, I told her, “Look, the worst that can happen is he can say no.” I didn’t mean that because we were talking about our “baby!” We’d lived and breathed life into it for five years.
I remember hitting the Send button on my keyboard at 11:30 a.m. Neither Nancy nor I expected to hear back for at least a week or two, so we went on to discuss what we wanted to do with the second book in our series—as though we had a series to discuss at that point.
I checked my email later that afternoon. There was an email from Publication Consultants! I was almost afraid to open it. It had to be another rejection. It was the publisher asking us for the complete manuscript! I was shaking so badly I had a hard time calling Nancy to give her the news. Our husbands needed to tie our toes to rocks to keep our feet on the ground.
Of course, my shaking finger hit the Send button that evening. Our contract was in the mail at 6:30 a.m. the following morning. Since our publisher is in Alaska, I had to calculate the time difference. That meant he shipped the contract to us at 5:30 a.m. his time. I’ve since asked him several times if he ever sleeps.
We began to learn more about the publishing business. We learned about assigning codes to our work for the genre. We learned about writing the flyleaf or back cover text that tells about our story without giving up the ending so people can read it and be enticed to read the entire book. We learned about galley proofs and how to make corrections to our manuscript in book form, etc., and much more.
But holding our first book in our hands and reading the cover with our name as the author is a high like no other. I don’t think much else will give anyone the same degree of satisfaction, unless it is the first review where someone says they liked our book, and it brought them to tears reading it.
I’m Victoria Hardesty was first published with Readers and Writers Book Club: https://readersandwritersbookclub.com.