Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Writing, with Judy Andrekson

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On Writing, with Judy Andrekson

Judy Andrekson talks to Open Book about the animals of Hurricane Katrina, ice-cream with a reader, future projects and the final instalment in her True Horse Story series, Gunner: Hurricane Horse.

Open Book:

OBT: Tell us about your book, Gunner: Hurricane Horse, released this September.

Judy Andrekson:

Gunner: Hurricane Horse is the sixth and final book in my True Horse Story series. It’s the story of a world-class champion Paint horse and his spirited, competitive owner, Heather Lott-Goodwin. They’re at the top of their game when Hurricane Katrina strikes and when the storm is over, everything has changed. Gunner goes missing during the storm and his chances of survival, as a pampered show horse, are not good. Amazingly, several months later, he is found alive—barely—and a changed Heather goes to bring him home and nurse him back to health. Six months later, the pair is back in the ring at the World Champion Paint Horse Show, but now they’re just in it for fun. In Heather’s eyes, Gunner has nothing more to prove. He is a true champion!

OB:

What inspired you to write about Hurricane Katrina?

JA:

I think Hurricane Katrina touched everyone to some degree. The stories and images coming out of the region at that time were so horrific and amazing that they were hard to forget. For me, some of the most touching stories were of the animals that were left behind when their owners evacuated, and the rescue missions that tried to help them. It was a few weeks later when stories about the horses started coming out... terrible, sad stories and heroic rescue stories... and these really moved me. I read about Gunner’s plight when he made headlines at the World Champion Paint Horse Show. I knew, right away, that I wanted his story for the series.

OB:

Are your True Horse Stories purely non-fiction?

JA:

Each of the stories was researched very carefully and I conducted extensive interviews with as many of the people involved with the horses as I could, often over weeks or months. I would gather information on the life of the horse, the training they went through, specific information on the discipline they were used for and on the individual situations and events they participated in, as well as what was happening in the lives of their people in that time. For the sake of a good story, I may add a bit of dialogue or an emotional response or create a scene that may not be 100% accurate, but even these are always based on conversations and situations that were described to me by the people I interviewed. As much as possible, I stick to the facts and try to offer a genuinely true story. With the exception of Miskeen, these are, basically, completely autobiographical stories.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

JA:

If I could have it exactly as I wanted it...dreamy sigh.... A well equipped, cozy cabin with large windows and a covered deck on the edge of a sun-dappled forest, and a rolling, big-sky meadow out in front. No traffic noise—just the birds and the coyotes. My dogs snoozing close by. No phone, no deadlines, no pressure... just me and that place and the silence that brings a creative miracle from the core of a person.

The real-life version: Early morning, quiet bedroom/office, daughter still asleep, dogs walked and snoozing close by and enough self-discipline to make myself sit there and actually work for more than five minutes at a time.

OB:

What’s the best response you’ve ever had from a reader?

JA:

I’ve had so many excellent responses from readers. I’m always amazed and grateful. One of my favourites was from a young lady from BC who contacted me last year and told me how much she enjoyed horses and my books and then told me that her parents had agreed to alter the course of their summer vacation so that she could come and meet me. I could hardly believe that she would want to, or that they would do that, but they did, and we met over ice creams one sunny afternoon and had a really wonderful visit. She was such a sweetheart and it was so nice to know that my work was being enjoyed that much.

OB:

What is your next project?

JA:

I’m presently gathering stories from dog owners all over Canada about the most embarrassing, destructive, shocking, expensive, near-disastrous or funny thing their dogs have done. This started from a conversation among fellow dog-lovers at a local off-leash park and has begun to turn into one of the most fun projects I’ve taken on. People are sending me amazing and sometimes incredibly funny stories, and I think it should make a very entertaining book. Anyone with a story they’d like to share can contact me at writingzone@telus.net.

I am also dabbling with fiction... I always answer that when I’m asked this question, but have nothing much to show for it yet. It is an area of writing I am keen to break into eventually. It will happen!

I’ve turned much of my writing focus lately on a future career in editing. I am back to school and preparing to attempt the tests offered by the Editors’ Association of Canada.


Tundra author Judy Andrekson grew up in Nova Scotia with a pen in one hand and a lead rope in the other. At the age of twenty, she moved to Alberta, where she could pursue her great love of horses, and there she found her dream job managing a thoroughbred racing/breeding farm. By her thirties, Judy had also begun to write seriously. Now she combines both of her passions in her new series for young readers, True Horse Stories. Judy also works as an educational assistant. She, her husband, John, and their daughter, Kate, live in Sherwood Park, Alberta, along with a constantly changing assortment of animals.

For more information about Gunner: Hurricane Horse, please visit the Tundra Books website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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