Monday, September 20, 2010

GRAFFITI WALL: Anne Severn Williamson, GHOST HORSE HOLLOW

This is an exciting day for the GRAFFITI WALL: our first two-part splatter interview! And what a treat it will be. Anne Severn Williamson, author of The Holly King, has one of the most interesting and passion-filled lives I've ever encountered. Not to mention she is wholesomely sweet.

Anne lives on a small ranch in Montana, near the abandoned ghost town of Valentine. She, along with hubby, Jack, raise Kentucky Mountain Saddle and Mountain Pleasure horses. The Mountain Pleasure equines are listed as Critically Endangered with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. There may be fewer than 3000 of these special creatures left in existence. Within that group, they’ve chose to sustain a small collection of cremello and perlino horses, so most of their herd members have pale blue eyes and cream or light gold coats. Their stallion, Ellevar’s Ivory Steed, is the only perlino Mountain Pleasure stallion in the world. They also raise dairy goats. Their daughter attends the local school, which is nearly an hour away by bus. She is the only girl in her 8th grade class. Anne and Jack grew up back east, but moved three years ago to Montana, due to a hay shortage in Kentucky.
(Yeah, this is their backyard.)
How did you begin writing?

My mother was a writer and an English teacher, so our home was filled with books. I visited the public library a lot as a child and read material that was far beyond my grade level.  By the time I entered 2nd grade, I was reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s mythology, Time/Life anthropology texts, and the Encyclopedia Britannica just for fun.  After I read Julie of the Wolves in 3rd grade, I remember wanting to become a writer and an illustrator, so I started studying folktales, fairytales, and Native American lore with a passion. I poured over the works of famous illustrators, especially watercolor artists like Tasha Tudor and Andrew Wyeth.  I also had many dreams when I was a child of speaking about peace in front of large crowds. These dreams kept reoccurring throughout my adult life, so I began to accept that my future was somehow connected to public presentations. Many years and many roads later, I began writing down a series of adventures that I had invented to entertain my daughter while I was house cleaning. The past all came rushing back, including all the years that I had spent teaching children’s theater and writing plays for young performers.  By my mid-thirties, I was writing my first novel with gusto.

What is your favorite thing about writing and why? What do you find most challenging?

I love the adventures! Stories are so wonderful. I love my characters and truly want to meet them someday, perhaps on a movie set.  Their dialogue really entertains me. I spent many years choreographing dances. The process involved seeing movement and drama unfold in my imagination, so books pass through my mind just like a movie.  My favorite thing is writing dialogue. My most challenging problem is editing the first draft. I also love to structure the whole story on paper, like a symbolic drawing. To me, a saga or tale spins out like a sand painting or Medicine shield. I believe a good story brings healing to troubled spirits.

Did you have favorite fictional characters as a child? 

That is oddly a tough question, because I concentrated on the plots and all the characters in the books I loved to read. I related to lonely, more isolated characters, due to my childhood. I was very moved by The Island of the Blue Dolphins, A Wrinkle in Time, Anne of Green Gables, and The Secret Garden. All the young heroines were courageous survivors and outsiders.  I never could fit in. My mind was full of images and connections that seemed to separate me from my peers and most of the teachers that I encountered.  I liked strong, self-reliant heroes too, like Aragorn, Theseus, Danielle Boone, Spartacus, and Merlin.

Can you tell us a little bit about your book, The Fairy Lore of Ghost Horse Hollow?

The Fairy Lore is a nine-part adventure saga that takes place in the Appalachian wilderness during the aftermath of global climate chaos. It is a post-Apocalyptic novel series for MG/YA readers, but so far the adults love it!

The homesteaders of Ghost Horse Hollow live without any modern devices, including electricity and telephones. Their lifestyle resembles that of the early American pioneers; only the forest around Ghost Horse Hollow is full of Moonlight and Starlight fairies of all different sizes and personalities. The Fairylands surround the MacKennon’s enchanted farm, where the homesteaders raise gaited Mountain Horses. The Ghost Horse characters are real! We matched our own herd to the names of the fantasy mares and steeds in the adventures. It took us a many years to raise these horses from foals, but the concept of combining fantasy with reality was most enticing. It was worth it. The book series is dedicated to global conservation, so the Critically Endangered Mountain Pleasure horses fit right in to that theme.


Do you have the other books in the Ghost Horse Hollows series mapped out yet, and if you do can you give us a sneak peek. Just a peek?

Yes! Readers are in for a treat! I had a very vivid dream years ago, when we still lived in the backwoods of Kentucky, in which the titles of the book series appeared to me in bright colors on a white background. The colors matched the changing seasons in accordance with the ancient Celtic Wheel of the Year. There are eight seasonal celebrations on the Wheel of the Year, which helped farmers, herdsman, and hunters keep track of time. The first title was The Holly King, which appeared in my dream in dark, pine-green lettering. I wrote all the names down the next morning. Only two titles were a little unclear in my dream. I had to wait a year or two before I was certain what they should be. The dream-vision resulted in nine interlocking tales of time and magic, with each portion of the whole saga ending on one of the magical holidays. We celebrate these holidays in our modern world, perhaps unknowingly. For example, Book II is entitled The Snow Feast, after the Feast of Bridget or the Blessing of the Seeds. Bridget was the Celtic goddess of the hearth fire and sacred springs. Her name is the root of the term “Great Britain.” Today, this holiday is called Ground Hog’s Day. The ninth book ties the adventures together. I divided the tales into three triads, with the concept that three motion pictures might be possible in the future. The main characters are in every book, but the villains are seasonal. An example would be the Autumn Fairy Prince, who looks a bit like Professor Snape, only with flaming colors and decaying wings.

Have a favorite snack while writing? Do you snack at all? Coffee?

What a charming question! I love coffee with tons of cream. I am like a cat. I also love dark chocolate, fresh fruit, and brownies. When I lived in NYC for several years, my favorite snacks were David’s Macadamia Nut Chocolate Chip Cookies. I can’t get find them in Montana! I also love raw almonds. That came from my years of training as a ballet dancer. I was never naturally thin. I had to eat very little in order to compete. I am so glad that I am writing and not dancing professionally anymore!

Could you explain a little about your dream to create a Ghost Horse Hollow preserve?

This is the heart of my work. I hope and pray and wish for the series to take off so that I can create a replica of Ghost Horse Hollow as a teaching center for environmental awareness. The preserve would act as a family center for children and parents and tourists interested in conservation and fantasy. The center would include hiking trails, craft shops, restaurants, tea houses, and demonstration arenas for the Ghost Horses. The replica of the Hollow would be breathtaking with waterfalls, herb gardens, rose gardens, fairy palaces, and Indian villages. I see the preserve somewhat like a Dollywood, only with Nature and fairies as the main theme. I think a carousel of the Ghost Horses would be charming, but the center would not include big rides. The main objective would be to encourage quiet walks in the great outdoors. The Nature Center could generate many jobs as well. All the shops and restaurants would match the book series! Kids could see the characters come to life and pet the baby Ghost Horses in the pastures.  Adults could visit the fairy pub and listen to an outdoor concert of Celtic and Appalachian folk music. Imagine! Once a year, Riverdance could visit the Hollow. Imagine Christmas in the enchanted forest with the Holly King in full costume and the white horses in crimson harnesses!


You’ll be participating in the World Premiere In-store Signing Event for the book in Billings, Montana, on 25th of September. You must be so excited.

I am both excited and nervous. The first in-store signing for a new book is a little scary. I am super grateful for the opportunity. I even ordered a new dress out of a catalogue, which is very rare for me. Borders bookstore is hosting the reading and signing. In a way, I feel like I am coming out of the closet. It’s time to be more public and more assertive about my commitment to world conservation. The only thing about a book signing is that you never know how many people will actually show up. It is a bit like throwing a mystery party.

A Personal Note from Anne to you: 

I would like to add a note of encouragement, however, for every writer that is pursuing his or her dreams. Pathways have a gracious way of leading us home. The Hollow keeps getting more and more famous.  I may have brought my horses to the back door of the barn, but that was the best thing to do. I just had to trust my instincts. I think Great Spirit will lead everyone down the perfect trail.  That is the joy of living an authentic life.

Blessings to All! I truly enjoyed my first online interview with you, Sheri! I hope everyone will help me visualize the Ghost Horses galloping for our globe!

Website, Twitter, Blog


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Member of SCBWI & YAlitchat

Isn't she just a charm? Told you.

SPLATTER ALERT: Author Laurie Halse Anderson needs our help. Her wonderful book Speak (which is one of the reasons I started writing) is under attack, being boycotted. Please visit Lisa & Laura Roecker today and leave a comment. For every 25 comments they receive, they will donate a copy of Speak to a classroom or a library.

13 comments:

  1. Great interview! Sounds like a wonderful series. too.

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  2. I enjoyed not only getting majorly jealous of Anne's daily setting in Montana, but reading her answers. Writing does take us on adventures and have the power to heal. The book looks awesome!

    Marissa

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  3. Great interview. The book looks great. Good luck with your mission to save the horses and create a teaching center.

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  4. What an awesome sounding story! Thanks for sharing y'all.

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  5. Dark chocolate's my fav, too. I have to keep in the basement so I'm not tempted to eat it while writing.

    Great interview!

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  6. First, you life sounds like it's own fairytale and second, I love this: Pathways have a gracious way of leading us home. THX for sharing!

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  7. Great interview, guys! I love that pic - so serene.

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  8. Fantastic Interview!!! I'm headed over to Lila now to comment!!! That's amazing! What a great cause!!!

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  9. Sheri, again another super great interview!

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  10. wonderful interview! This book sounds awesome! thanks for introducing me to another great book and author!

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  11. wow- I love the works that inspired her and her vision of a real Ghost Horse Hallow sounds awesome! Great interview!

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  12. supercool, Sheri~ Montana just sounds magical, and I have GOT to read a Wrinkle in Time. Everybody cites it as inspirational... :D Thanks!

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