If I was an eighteenth century lady and you and I were wearing petticoats and chatting over tea and scones, I'd probably refer to Chris Platt as accomplished.
Since I'm wearing jeans and typing this while munching on a microwaved veggie burger, I'll say instead that Chris is pretty awesome.
She's broken barriers as one of the first female jockeys in Oregon, can often be found shooting bows, and has a black belt in a hard-style karate discipline called "Shotokan." She's played the drums since she was a kid and is currently taking a break after playing for 12 or so years in a bagpipe band. She's also run a couple of marathons, and even had a pot-bellied pig that lived in her house for a while.
Somewhere in there, Chris has found time to author more than a dozen books for young readers, including the popular horse novels Willow King, its sequel Race the Wind, and many titles in the Thoroughbred series.
This month, she published Wind Dancer, and we at Peachtree couldn't be more excited about it! It's the story of a neglected horse who helps a girl named Ali get through to her brother, a young man suffering from PTSD after his tour in Afghanistan.
Chris dropped by the blog to chat about her new book, writing professionally, and her (ADORABLE) horses.
Chris Platt on the Daily Life of a Writer
Aside from writing, how do you spend your days?
|Chris shooting her bow|
I’m a crazy-busy person. A usual day for me is getting up around 8:30, feeding my 4 horses and cleaning stalls, taking care of the cats and parrot, and feeding all the neighbor cats that hang out in my yard. (I’m the only one in the neighborhood who doesn’t have a dog. lol)
I’ll go for a run 2-4 times a week, or the gym, karate, or horseback riding.
I live on an acre of land, and have another 5-acre parcel, so I do a TON of weeding and cleaning outside, plus building fences, painting, roofing, etc.
I also have a part-time job in a mall, so I squeeze work days in there, too. I have friends and elderly people that I help out doing odd chores and errands. I’m currently sewing a quilt for my 91-year-old grandma. Gotta squeeze time in for the hubby and doing some fun things. We love to go to the movies.
I do my writing on the back end of the day, and don’t get to bed until about 1 or 2 am.
If you could invite any 3 people (living or dead) to a dinner party, who would you pick?
One would be my grandmother. She’s 91 and one of my favorite people in the world. Her cancer just came back and we don’t know how much longer she has. I’m going back to see her in a few days. I just want to spend every minute I have with her talking, enjoying her.
Another would be God. Lots of questions to ask.
And just for fun a favorite author, Ray Bradbury, or an actor like Russell Crowe.
|Chris as a jockey!|
Tell us a little about your career as a jockey.
I’ve been riding since I was two. My uncle used to take me out to a field of ponies and put me on one of them and slap it on the rear end. I’d hang on to the mane and we’d go jetting off across the pasture. That came to an abrupt halt when my mom found out. Ha, ha!
As far as the jockeying… when I was 16 I started helping someone out at the racetrack in Salem, Oregon. He let me get on a few of his horses and gallop them around the track. A few of the more experienced exercise riders took me under their wings and taught me how to do things correctly. I galloped horses in the morning workouts for a few years and then got approved for a jockey’s license.
There were only a few women riders at that time. Some of the male jockeys used to give the girls a hard time: cutting them off in a race, or slapping them across the seat of their pants with a whip as they rode past. I didn’t have much trouble with them.
I spent 5 years on the track, and loved every minute of it, but eventually, you’ve gotta eat. Ha, ha! I got tired of the constant diet and always having to weigh in. You needed to weight about 103-108 lbs. I naturally weighed about 120 lbs at that time. When I turned 21, I moved to Reno, Nevada, and that was the end of my jockey career.
|Storm Chaser & Trip|
Tell us about your horses!
I’m down to only 4 horses now: 2 black and white paints that are beautiful, and a cute little miniature mare and her baby. I used to have 8 horses. I don’t know how I did it. It’s a lot of work.
You’ve lived such an interesting life so far, do you ever put your own experiences into your books?
Yes, all the time. I use a lot of things that happened to me during my years of owning and working with horses. Sometimes I model characters after people I’ve known. I don’t use the exact person, but I’ll take many of his/her characteristics and toss in a few of other people’s that I’ve known. It adds a lot to the book when you use real life experiences.
|Chris signing copies of Star Gazer|
What is your favorite part about being a writer? What is your least favorite part?
Favorite part is getting to create characters and the world they live in. Getting to see my book in a book store. Talking to fans.
My least favorite part is deadlines. Ugh!
Have you always wanted to be a writer? When did you start writing?
From the time I was about 11 or 12, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I started out writing poems and then moved to short stories and eventually books.
Do you have anything in common with your characters?
Yes. My values and viewpoints go into many of my characters. I think every writer has a character in their book that has same point-of-view as themselves. I think they’re fibbing if they tell you they don’t. lol.
Whom, of all the characters you've written about, would you most like to meet?
Probably Katie, my main character from my first book, Willow King. She was born with a slight handicap and had to overcome a lot of things. She was a strong character. I think I’d also like to meet Camela, from the sequel, Race the Wind. She was a blind girl and a real pill. She was very smart, but also a bit mischievous. In the book, she uses her cane to trip people that she doesn’t like, or who are mean to her or others. Then she sits there looking all innocent. Nobody suspects that it was her.
Of my horse books, Willow King and Race the Wind were probably my favorites. They were loosely based on a real racehorse I used to ride and a great trainer I worked for.
But my favorite book is the one I’ve been trying to write for years now, in between writing horse books. It’s a coming of age book about 4 teenage girls growing up in a small town. One can’t wait to grow up and leave, another discovers her roots, and how deeply they’re buried in the town, another is trying to hold her family together and the last is trying to prevent changes that will drive them all apart.
Maybe I can finish it this summer. J
Chris Platt on Her Writing Process
Were there any authors who inspired you to write?
Yes, when I was young, I LOVED to read Marguerite Henry’s horse books (Misty of Chincoteague, King of the Wind) and Walter Farley (Black Stallion, Man O’ War). When I was in my teens, my favorite English teacher helped me discovered Ray Bradbury and his science fiction books (R is for Rocket, S is for Space, Martian Chronicals). They taught me to love books.
Where do you get your ideas from?
I’m not really sure “where” they come from. Mostly they pop into my head when I’m jogging, or as I go about my day. Things just kind of come to me, and then I flesh out the idea.
Where do you do your writing? Do you have one place where you feel most inspired?
I do most of my writing in my work office at my house. I have a room that is set up just for me and my writing. But I do a lot of my plotting in my head while I’m jogging. I’ve always been a runner. I love to run long distance. That’s my quiet time that I reserve just for myself. I make lists in my head, think about things I have to do, and plot books. (I know, I’m a crazy person. lol)
How do you get your creative thoughts flowing?
Like I said, a lot of things come to me while I’m running, but I don’t say to myself, “Hey, I need an idea, so I’m going to go for a run.” When it’s time to write, I write. I have a degree in Journalism. I know a lot of people like to get inspiration from special routines or such, but I’m trained to park my behind in the chair and write. No time for waiting around for things to happen or to “feel” like it. I make things happen by sitting down in the writer’s chair and writing.
What part of a story comes to you first?
The basic plot. I just get a loose idea of a plot line: “Girl rescues abused horses.” Then I flesh it out a bit: “Girl lost her beloved horse a few years earlier and vows to never love another horse.” Then throw in the idea of the girl having a brother who returned from the war with PTSD, and parents who bring home the abused horses for the girl to care for, and there you have it... Wind Dancer.
Are you a meticulous plot planner or do you just let the story flow?
I’m what’s known as a “pantster.” I fly by the seat of my pants, writing as I go. lol. It’s a crazy process and probably not the best, but I HATE doing a synopsis, or chapter outlines. When I wrote for the Ashleigh Thoroughbred series, I had to write a chapter-by-chapter outline. I hated it, but I have to admit, it definitely made writing the book soooo much easier.
Do you ever get writer's block? How do you overcome?
I don’t let myself have writer’s block. I just sit down and write. If I read it later, and don’t like what I’ve written, I can always change it. Never be afraid to change things and make your work better.
How do you know that a story’s finished?
When it feels like all the loose ends are wrapped up and there’s nothing more to say.
How do you go about revising your writing?
I’m one of those writers who writes a few pages, then goes back over those to make sure everything looks good. Or, if I find something that’s wrong, I fix it then and there. Then I continue on writing the next few pages. I’m a really busy person, with a gazillion things I’m doing all at once. So, sometimes I will go days or weeks without writing anything. (I probably shouldn’t admit that. lol) When I get back to writing, I need to go over a chapter or two and refresh my memory before I continue on with the book. When I get to the end of the book, I may or may not go over it, depending on how many times I’ve re-read and re-written it as I go.
Do you have any advice/resources (books, blogs, etc.) for aspiring authors?
Yes… If you truly want to be an author, don’t EVER give up! Keep writing until you get it right. Every author has a book or two under their bed that will never see the light of day. Learn to take criticism. Too many writers have very thin skin and quit when someone points out their weaknesses. Listen, learn, and grow. Get into a GOOD critique group.
As far as books on writing… Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation & Conflict is the best. Also anything from the Reader’s Digest books on writing series is good.
Christ Platt on Wind Dancer
Are all of your stories about horses? Why do you write about them?
Yes, so far, all of my books are about horses. I love horses and I loved reading about them when I was growing up. They made me happy. I want to write books like the ones I read as a child. I hope they’ll make others happy.
Do you think of the horses in your stories as characters? Do they need the same kind of development?
Yes, the horses all have a distinct personality, just like they do in real life. They often will develop right along with the human character.
Tell us about the inspiration for Wind Dancer.
Wind Dancer was another story that came to me when I was jogging. I pull crazy ideas out of the air and say, “What if?”
I have a friend who came home from the war with PTSD, and he doesn’t think he has it. I wanted to put a character that has some of those issues in the story in hopes that it will help others learn to deal with it.
The story deals with some serious issues. Did you have to do a lot of research on PTSD?
Yes, there’s a lot of stuff on the internet that explains what PTSD is. But I also used a lot of the behaviors of my friend, and what his family went through with him.
There are several ways this book could be used in the classroom. The first one is intertainment value for those who love to read. The second it to teach kids about caring for animals, and for our friends and members of our families. The third is to approach the subject of PTSD and make kids aware of what it is, and some of the warning signs, and where to get help if needed.
What do you hope your readers get out of this book?
I hope that they learn a little about being aware of what’s going on around you; about caring for people and animals; about friendships, about PTSD, and I hope that they enjoy the story and find value through either entertainment or gaining of knowledge.
Thanks so much to Chris for spending time with us this morning!
Leave a comment about your own favorite horse memories, and one of you will win a copy of Wind Dancer!
You can pick up your own copy of Wind Dancer at your local bookstore and visit Chris' website to see the rest of her fabulous work.
Psst! Follow the Wind Dancer blog tour here!