Now I'd like to welcome Sonoma King author Gretchen Jones (a real Nevada cowgirl) for a few questions about the book, writing and, of course, horses.
Sonoma King is your first published book, how long did it take you to write, illustrate, and find a publisher?
It took about nine months to write and illustrate. We had over thirty rejections before it caught the eye of Capitol City Books. Then it took nine months or so to publish in book form.
Tell us about owning/training race horses. Are they often like Sonoma King--talented but unwilling to run in the beginning?
I raced both Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds on the Fair Circuit in Utah and raced in Denver, Colorado. Most horses are willing to run but the starting gate scares and excites them because they have to burst out at a full gallop and can only anticipate when the bell will ring. Stallions can sometimes be more difficult to train and run because quite often they have their mind on other things.
How is Arabian racing the same/different from Thoroughbred racing?
Arabian horses are raced at the same distance as Thoroughbreds. Since they have more stamina (they are called "hot bloods" because they have more red blood cells on the skin's surface then most other horses, thus can expel toxins quickly and recover faster. They also have a large, loose hanging wind pipe for greater air intake) they can run longer distances, but normally they run the same distance. Usually up to a mile.
Do you have a favorite horse that inspired the character Sonoma King?
I believe Sonoma King is a composite of most of my favorite horses. He has alot of try--my good horses do--and he is very loyal. I have had some that were very loyal and knew me even after I had been gone for a long period of time; they would whinny in recognition and run over to me. Horses are loyal to their friends and remember them even after years of seperation.
What were your favorite books as a child?
My first favorite books were by C.W. Anderson, Billy and Blaze. I also loved King of the Wind, The Black Stallion Series, Misty of Chincoteague--I guess all the books by Marguerite Henry. I always liked the well illustrated books. I am still not fond of cartoonish illustrations.
Suzanne Graves passed away. Can you tell us a bit about your friend and co-author? Did she get to see the book before she died?
We worked very hard on the book. Unfortunately she passed away before it was published. We did art shows together before we decided to write and illustrate children's books. We had a good time figuring out our plots. She was excellent at editing because she had been a teacher. We both knew little boys and girls dream of horses and the activities they do.
Sonoma King returns in a sequel. Tell us about the next book.
In the next book Robin and Sonoma King are invited to race in the prestigious Ascot Cup in England. They fly to England and get ready to race. There is lots of adventure in this book as well. Researching it was alot of fun and makes a person delve into other parts of the world.
Tell us about your life with horses now. Do you still ride/train?
Yes, I still train and show my Arabians in reining, pleasure and cow horse classes. I usually train for cow work on a flag and I also use sheep to teach my horses how to watch, stop, and turn them. Emily (horse pictured above with Gretchen) and I showed for years in those classes. She isn't too fast down the fence or on the circle but she is a super cutting horse. Unfortunately, there are few shows for Arabian cutting horses so she is mostly ridden on trails. Emily is great over/through any obstacle because she grew up on the Hat Ranch in northern Arizona. This is part of the Al Marah Arabian Ranch.
Thanks so much, Gretchen--best of luck with your horses and we'll look forward to more Sonoma King adventures.