Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Mara Dabrishus, Author & Equestrian

Originally from Texas USA, author and equestrian Mara Dabrishus now resides in the Buckeye State, Ohio! Mara’s new book Stay the Distance is recommended reading for every horse-lover!

Mara grew up in the Arkansas Ozarks, spending a good two decades there before she started to move around for school and work. After Mara received her Masters in Library Science from UNC, she moved up to Pittsburgh and finally Cleveland, where she is a librarian at a small college. This year Mara is doing a bunch of big life events, like getting married and buying a house, so onward and upward!

Welcome Mara!

Congratulations on your new book, your upcoming wedding, and a new home!

When was your first encounter with a horse?
Besides my trusty rocking horse that I absolutely adored as a tiny child, I have absolutely no memory of my first horse encounter. I do, however, have photographic evidence of me when I was quite little sitting in front of my aunt on her Thoroughbred, an ex-racehorse named Cody. That could have been the first time. I didn’t have horses growing up, and for the longest time the extent of my experience was staring at them in awestruck wonder--movies, TV shows, parades, as we passed them on the highway on family vacations. Of course, I read about them voraciously. I took lessons off and on, but I had the worst luck! Barns sold to developers, people moved away, and I eventually stopped looking for that horse connection until my twenties when I absolutely had to have horses in my life again. I’ve been riding dressage for nearly seven years and love every second I’m learning in the saddle.   

What is the premise for Stay the Distance?
July Carter’s world is perfect from the back of a horse. From the ground, everything is a complete mess: her jockey mom ran off for California years ago, her dad always seems more interested in the horses than in her, and the horse July wants for herself will never be hers. Even though the New York racing circuit has taught her not to get attached, July can’t help connecting with Kali, a hopeless filly that refuses to run when it counts. When bankruptcy rumors start swirling around the barn, the future is murkier than ever. July can’t stand losing one more thing, and Beck, the barn owner’s son, knows more about the rumors than anyone else. July will get the truth, even if she has to pry it out of him, for Kali’s sake and her own.

Can you share an excerpt from Stay the Distance?
Yup! You can read the whole first chapter here:

Are your scenarios based upon your own personal experience?
For Stay the Distance, I found myself pulling a lot from my dressage lessons. July as a character became this multifaceted horse girl: an exercise rider galloping racehorses, but with a dressage background. I find that knowing those little details really helps a horse book come alive and connect the reader to the story.

Where do you like to write?
Generally, I’m not picky. Most of the time I like to curl up on my sofa, listen to music, and tap away on my laptop. Usually there’s a cat trying to help, so that makes things interesting.

How do you maintain thoughts and ideas?
I feel so scattered just thinking about this question! I don’t know how good I am at organizing and maintaining ideas. My process, if you want to call it that, looks a bit like this:

1. The Notes and Voice Memos apps on my iPhone for when I am driving or standing in the produce section of the grocery store when the idea hits.

2. Dropbox. I have a whole folder of Word documents, each assigned to an idea.

3. Pinterest. I’m a librarian, and I like to hoard research. I have boards dedicated to each idea in my Dropbox folder. When I eventually get around to putting the idea to use, there’s plenty of information to form a story’s foundation.

What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading Appaloosa Summer by Tudor Robins. She’s a lovely writer who really gets into those moments with horses without feeling clinical or overloaded with horse jargon, so you really feel the emotional connection.

What are you currently writing?
I have two projects right now, both young adult books amidst horse racing. The first— working title is Finding Daylight (you heard it here first!)— is about a girl trying to juggle life and her burgeoning career as an apprentice jockey. The second is an untitled beginning for a series of books I want to write that is inspired by the North American Racing Academy, which is a jockey school in Kentucky. I’m expecting Finding Daylight to be released at the end of the year, but the series has a while to go yet.   

Do you have a favorite horse movie/novel?
I have a soft spot for The Man from Snowy River, to the point that the sequel does not exist for me. I could play the theme song on the piano as a kid, and I’m pretty sure that movie was the basis for my need to visit Australia a few years ago. It’s not a perfect movie by any stretch, but how can anyone not love that downhill ride? As far as books go, I adore Kim Ablon Whitney’s The Perfect Distance for the way it blends horses and young adult themes. No surprise, I pick a YA book.

What does horsemanship mean to you?
Whenever I think of horsemanship I think of that connection between horse and rider. The communication and understanding going back and forth between two very different individuals because the trust is so strong is such an amazing thing to experience. I think it’s that feeling that always has people climbing back onto a horse even after they might have every reason to walk away. I don’t own a horse, but I keep coming back and getting on, because that’s just what I need to do.

Connect with Mara…

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