Thursday, April 4, 2013

Carmel Rowley, Author

Residing in Toowoomba, Queensland, Carmel Rowley is a world-renowned author. She is the author of the acclaimed fiction series Daughters of the Wind, including Tails Carried High, Voices of the Wind and Winds of Time. She has also written a children's book, Danika and Yatimah from Egypt to the Outback. Carmel is an avid equestrian and Arabian Horse breeder for over thirty-seven years...
Welcome Carmel!  

When was your first encounter with a horse?

My childhood, especially after the age of seven, was a time of great change for me; horses slipped into my consciousness and became my refuge, comfort and a source of enormous pleasure. I can remember during my earliest school years how I made up stories about horses in my head and would often tell my friends about them at playtime.

In those early years I lived in the inner city of Melbourne, barely thirty minutes by tram to the middle of the city. This environment was not conducive to meeting horses but I do remember going to Melbourne Royal Show for the first time and being enthralled by all the animals and especially the different breeds of horses paraded in the daily spectacle of the Grand Parade. I think something was triggered that day, a type of recognition of how horses possessed a special bond with human beings.  

What is your favorite breed of horse?

When I think back, the first breed of horse/pony I adored was the Shetland pony. I always vowed that I was going to have a Shetland pony stud farm. I have no idea why I chose that particular breed but it’s a curious memory with no answer.

To be honest I’m a horse lover, I love all horses whatever the breed. In saying this I can remember asking my husband if we were to breed horses what sort of horse should we breed? His reply was the horse must be good looking. There was no competition; it had to be an Arabian horse. Not only are Arabian horses beautiful but they were bred to live closely with their owners. They also possess an uncanny intelligence. There are many books written about the history of the Arabian breed but I feel there’s no doubt the Bedouin bred into the Arabian horse some extraordinary characteristics. The horse was vitally important to these desert nomads, so tolerance, speed and an amicable and ungrudging temperament were essential to survival.

The decision to breed Arabian horses was made in 1973 with the purchase of several partbred Arabians and in 1975 we purchased our first purebred.

My husband and I have bred Arabian horses for over thirty seven years and we've learnt a lot about life from this incredible experience. The Arabian horse world is one of extremes and I firmly believe that extremes in life are dangerous. Whether it’s observing the serious climatic conditions of Mother Nature, or breeding horses we as breeders must make time to learn what is best for our world and for the horses we profess to love.

Over the years we have made some true friends but we have also witnessed some of the horrors, especially the lack of empathy and the sociopathic behavior in the way human beings treat horses and the people who love them. I feel it was these behaviors which eventually saw us step away from the show ring and to take our own road. We decided to own and love our Arabian horses for the lifestyle, and to enjoy living with them day by day.  All these experiences became the catalyst for writing my first novel - book one in my Daughters of the Wind series, Tails Carried High.

Do you have a favorite riding experience?

I have lots of experiences, some that were not funny at the time but became funny with time. Others remain very clear in my mind as watershed moments in my life, so it is difficult to choose. The one below says a lot about me doing things my way and not worrying about what other people say.

In the late 1970’s my husband and I purchased a purebred Arabian colt specifically to be gelded as my riding horse. Silvan was grey, 15 hands with white socks and a blaze. I was never a fan of lots of white so I don’t know what came over us when we purchased this colt. He was broken to both saddle and harness and we showed him in both disciplines.
It had been a number of years since I had ridden in any horse shows, so my first open adult riding class was a pretty big event. I have to mention that purebred Arabians do not compete in the Australian hack show ring. (A Hack in Australia is a show horse, ridden in competition, in a range of sizes) This type of show horse is generally reserved for elegant thoroughbreds that were not fast enough to be successful racehorses.

As in true Carmel Rowley style I ignored tradition and worked hard at fine tuning my riding and training Silvan. To say Silvan stood out on the day is an understatement. His gleaming silver coat, snow white stockings and blaze, his jaunty, high tail carriage and bright happy face flew against everything that identified the serious English style, show hack.

The day was a great success, I won my riding class and we came third in Silvan’s very large Galloway class. I remember at least thirty horses in the class. For a purebred Arabian to achieve this placing was a credit to Silvan and his heritage. The judge was full of praise and as she tied the ribbon around Silvan’s neck she told me she had a soft spot for the Arab. She said Arabian owners should fly in face of the constabulary, get out into the hack ring in force and give the thoroughbreds a run for their money.

How do you maintain thoughts and ideas for writing?

Once I have an idea, and begin to write, the story then takes over. I write most of my stories and novels by hand then transfer them to the computer using this as a second draft.

I would love to say that I’m organized and plan my ideas, write them down and plot out the story line in every detail but I don’t. I do make notes in case I forget a particular idea, but most of the time my thoughts and ideas are all stewing around in my head. Often the characters take control and when I finish a chapter sometimes I’m amazed at how it turns out. It can be totally different to where I was heading in the first place, and this new idea can take me on a track to include a new direction that can make the story much better. My characters are very alive for me and already I am missing the characters in my Daughters of the Wind series. Writing about Egypt in book three was as if I could open my back door and the desert sand would whip up around my ankles and the hot sun, burn my face.
When I was writing Tails Carried High, I had come to a pivotal point in the story and it was supposed to be the end but this voice in my head kept saying, it’s not finished. It took months for the rest of the story to fall into place and even longer to work out how it would unfold, and finish. When the idea came to me it burst like a firecracker in my head. I was mucking out the stables at the time. (I always get my best ideas cleaning stables) I dropped the stable fork screaming to my husband that I’ve got it; I worked it out, and sprinted up the hill to write it down. The exhilaration of that particular idea coming to me still makes me excited. Many who have read Tails tell me they would never have guessed the ending.

I use my life experiences, people, nature – landscapes, my horses and emotions for inspiration. These days it feels as if everything around me has a story to tell. I've written short stories based on a photograph or artwork. At a local Swap Meet I saw the most amazing antique travel chest with a tarnished lock. As soon as I touched it, I knew I had to write about it. This story is not finished but it will be fun to do so. Even occurrences like a horse spooking at the same tree every day inspires me.
At present I’m just beginning to get back to writing after releasing Winds of Time. Wind’s was a big book to write (465 pages) and I felt quite burnt out once it was released, so I took a much needed a break to concentrate on marketing.
I have my second Danika and Yatimah children’s book unfolding. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever sort it out. I’m thrilled to now be working on the story, plus there’s a partly finished adult mystery I’m looking forward to completing.

What is the first book that you remember reading?

I can’t really remember the very first book I read but I can recall two books that had an impact on me as a child.

The first was I Can Jump Puddles by Alan Marshall a story of the author’s childhood. Despite his crippling poliomyelitis, he plays climbs, fights, swims, rides and thoroughly enjoys his world living in Australian countryside early last century surrounded by rough-riders, Bushmen, farmers and tellers of tall stories. I was in hospital with a serious illness when I read this book.

The second book was Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. A touching story filled with lessons about life and combining memories and experiences told by Black Beauty himself. Every time I read this story I learn something new and writing this has prompted me to take it down from my bookcase and read it again. The story shows the cruelty some humans inflict on animals, as well as the kindness. This is an everlasting classic, loved by anyone who loves animals.

Who is your favorite author?

I read such a variety of books and have many favorites. I’m as bad with authors as I am with horses sometimes loving so many it’s hard to choose just one favorite. In saying this; the author that jumps straight into my head is Barbara Erskine. When I read her Midnight is a Lonely Place for the first time we had guests staying and I was so enthralled and “in” this book I’m ashamed to say that I virtually ignored my guests.

Barbara writes vivid, romantic and scary stories about angry spirits.  I’m convinced we – the human race have barely touched the surface when it comes to knowing about life and death.

If your books were being made into a movie do you already have actors in mind for each role? What bands/singers would you put on the soundtrack?

I can’t count how many people have said to me how much they would love to see the Daughters of the Wind series made into a mini-series for television or a series of movies. In fact a psychic did tell me that a series of movies would be made of my books. Who am I to argue? I’m more than happy to take it on board and believe.

When I think about which actors might play the two main character roles of Marc and Jessikah I firstly think about their individual characteristics.

Jessikah -
“… John caught his breath at the slender girl standing on his front porch. She had thick, copper-colored hair falling past her shoulders. Her upward tilting eyes were an ice blue, and until she gave him an uncertain smile, they appeared unapproachable.”

Marc -
“… It was impossible to guess his age, maybe late twenties. He stood over six feet in height, with long, slender limbs and a sinewy strength. A narrow face with dark eyebrows frowned in concern for her welfare. His straight dark hair was short, with a wayward lock at the front that fell over one of his pale grey-green eyes.”

I did ask some friends who are into the DOW series and we came up with Joanne Froggatt from Downton Abbey or maybe the lovely young Australian actress Isabel Lucas as Jessikah. She does have to have an English accent. I also thought for Emma, Jessikah’s grandmother, another main character, Lisa Niemi Swayze there is some similarities between Joanne and Lisa regarding facial structure and I’m a huge fan of both actors.

Marc is far more difficult as he has to have an Australia accent and that’s often hard for overseas actors to get right. I actually think Liam Hemsworth, although he is a few years younger than what Marc is in the book he does come very close in my mind’s eye. I guess the casting director would have to have some ideas on the subject as well.

Music for the soundtrack is a whole different ball game! Tails Carried High is set in 1996 and the top song for that year was the Macarena. I’m smiling as I type this trying to imagine Jessikah doing the Macarena and somehow the image doesn't seem to be working.
I do have a favorite song that I feel sums up Jessikah's journey of discovery and the song is Dreams by The Cranberries. The words are perfect. Jessikah falling in love with Marc, oops, now I’ve told you; also Jessikah falling in love with the Arabian horse. Some of the lyrics from Dreams by the Cranberries…

‘… Oh, my life is changing every day,
You have my heart so don't hurt me.
You're what I couldn't find.
So understanding and so kind;
You're everything to me.
And oh, my dreams,
It's never quite as it seems,
'Cause you're a dream to me …’
In Winds of Time (book 3) Marcus and Ellore, Jessikah’s great grandparents, dance together at a farewell party to Moon River  before they sail from Egypt to France. In my mind they are so alive; I see the joy on their faces because they are back in love after the struggles of WWII. This is such a romantic song and one I adore.

What are 10 random facts about yourself?
  1. I adore my husband. Books and horses come together in second place.
  2. I love clothes and fashion – pretty dresses, vintage fashion and dressing up.
  3. I have a strong attachment to the environment, the soil, and the trees. Could be from my Irish heritage. (Carmel O’Sullivan Rowley)
  4. Books and writing are my lifeline, the feel, and the connection to the author’s words.
  5. I insist on honesty and integrity.
  6. My life is a journey of learning to be the best person possible.
  7. Through age comes wisdom and I’m definitely wiser these days. I strive to be generous and love the concept of ‘paying it forward’ and what you put out you get back.
  8. True friends are as important to me as breathing; they are food for my heart and soul. These friends tell me I’m resourceful and I know I’m very determined.
  9. I also love art and I’m artistic. When I have time, I draw and especially love to sculpt. Art Deco is a favorite era and I enjoy photography and painting ceramic plates.
  10. Animals are a natural extension of my life.
  11. Should I admit to being vain? Even in middle age? My husband does say I’m high maintenance but he says it with love.


Carmel Rowley Author said...

Thank you Gina it's such a privilege to be featured on you blog.

Patrice Shaw said...

Wonderful interview. I am privileged to have worked with Carmel. Her warmth and honesty are evident in her story telling.

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