Friday, January 26, 2018

Sonrise Stable | First Lines and Author Interview!

Last fall, I virtually met author Vicki Watson. Since then, I've been able to read and review her entire Sonrise Stable series. I'm in my mid-twenties, but I still love reading a good, solid Christian children's series. And that is exactly what the Sonrise Stable books were for me. I loved that I could hand them over to my younger sisters without any worries about a bad influence coming across the pages.

All of that being said, I've got a whole herd of first lines for y'all today, as we're going to flip open the first pages of each book in this series!! :) But don't stop there. Continue reading for a thoughtful interview with Vicki!

"There's Grandma's house!" Rosie's mother was the 
only other person in the car,
 so there was no need for this announcement.

Add book one to your Goodreads here. Find my review here.
Get your own eBook for free here!

As the pickup truck traveled down the freeway, 
Carrie turned and searched for Bandit's 
head through the small window in 
the stock trailer behind them.

Add book two to your Goodreads here. Find my review here.

"Eohippus was the first horse. He lived 
sixty million years ago." Emily paused and 
smiled broadly as she pointed to a small 
creature on her 4-H poster.

Add book three to your Goodreads here. Find my review here.
Note for those concerned: this book features discussions about evolution and refuting its common claims.

The straw felt soft beneath me as I lay 
on my side and stretched my legs.

Add book four to your Goodreads here. Find my review here.

Rosie beamed with pride as she led her 
brown-and-white foal out of the back of the trailer.

Add book five to your Goodreads here. Find my review here.

"Help! He's running away with me!" 
Rosie's arms flapped wildly.

Add book six to your Goodreads here. Find my review here.

Rosie leaned over the side of the bed 
and pressed one hand against the hardwood floor.

Add book seven to your Goodreads here. Find my review here.

"How about this one?" Rosie led the way 
to the next pen at the livestock auction barn.

Add book eight to your Goodreads here. Find my review here.

I encourage you all to keep reading through Vicki's testimony. It blessed me to read her answers!
Before I share the interview though, wanted to slip in a mention of the lovely other bloggers I do First Line Fridays with over at Hoarding Books! Hop over and connect with your first line!

Also, feel free to comment here!
What is your favorite animal to see featured in a book?
What is a first line from your current read (or the book closest to you)?
How do you identify with Vicki?

Interview with Vicki
(follow Vicki on Goodreads!)

Me: When did you decide to write the Sonrise Stable books?
Vicki: When my mother died in 2006, I began to contemplate what kind of long-term impact our lives have - whether anything we do lives on after us - here or in eternity. At that time, I was approaching fifty. Suddenly, the brevity of life filled me with a sense of urgency to accomplish something worthwhile. I wasn't sure what that "something" might be. It had never been a life-long dream to write a book. 

An idea came to me one day about a girl and her pony, and how I could use a story about them to make the Gospel message real to kids. I immediately rejected it, reasoning that I didn't know how to write a book, and even if I did write the story, no one would read it. The problem was, the idea would not leave me alone! For months, I couldn't get it out of my mind. Finally, to relieve myself of that mental torment, I sat down and wrote what I thought would be a short story for a picture book. The funny thing was, after writing those thoughts, I got another idea, and then another. It quickly turned into a chapter book, which became Rosie and Scamper, the first in the Sonrise Stable series.

Me: What was your inspiration for this series?
I homeschooled my daughters through high school. One of my most satisfying experiences was teaching them each how to read. As they became voracious readers, it was important to me to monitor what they were putting into their hearts and minds. I scrutinized the books they selected and was often dismayed at the content, even sometimes from Christian publishers. What I found particularly troublesome was the increasingly child-centric focus that often depicted children as smarter than the parents and able to function relatively independently from them. The books frequently had one or both parents missing, children disrespecting their elders, and siblings not getting along with each other. I really wasn't interested in having my daughters read such warped representations of family life.

I guess that was a negative inspiration, however, once I started writing, I was determined not to write books that followed that trend. I've often thought of my books as a mixture of Black Beauty, The Waltons, and a bit of Grandma's Attic, with me being the grandmother. God set up the family structure for a reason. I think kids today would be comforted in knowing that they don't have to solve all their problems on their own. That doesn't mean that adults dominate the Sonrise Stable series. The main characters are children, but they manage to get along with their siblings and respect their parents and grandmother - at least most of the time - as did my own daughters.

Me: Which Sonrise Stable book is closest to your heart? Why?
Vicki: There are parts of each book that stick out to me, but if I had to pick one, it would be Operation Christmas Spirit. Although there are many picture books about Christmas, there are few chapter books, and not many of those have a spiritual focus. After resolving to write a Christmas book, I felt a terrible weight descend on me. To write a meaningful and accurate story about the birth of our Savior seemed like such a daunting task, that my mind went blank for a long time. Then one day I read a short story by Pearl S. Buck, Christmas Day in the Morning. I cried at the emotions it stirred in me. And with that as a jumpstart, I began to write. 

Me: I loved how you included so many details in the family's life--like ASL, horse rescue, and camp life. When (and how) did you decide to add these into your series?
Vicki: As I look back, it's interesting to see how God prepared me over the years to write these books. I was painfully shy when I was younger. I did a lot of thinking and very little talking. I had extensive conversations in my head, with me coming up with the words everyone said. Not surprisingly, dialog is one of the easiest things for me to write!

As a horse lover from as far back as I can remember, horses have been an important part of my life. Some of my happiest childhood memories involved horses. My daughters and I share many memories of 4-H, county fairs, horse shows, and trail rides together. Many of those experiences found their way into the books. My oldest daughter is in fact a nurse. And my middle daughter is an ASL interpreter. My youngest, who was only about thirteen when the first book was written, did stay involved with horses longer than the other two. She did not become a horse trainer - however she would make a good one. She is currently studying engineering in college and still owns the horse Scamper was based on.

Years ago, I attended a Sermon on the Mount presentation by horse trainer and counselor, Lew Sterrett. He demonstrated how the relationship between a horse and its master is similar to our relationship with God. That opened my eyes to seeing spiritual lessons in my own dealings with horses. Sterrett's presentations was aimed at an adult audience. I realized that I could use my own experiences with horses to bring similar lessons down to a level that young people could understand. At that time, writing a book hadn't occurred to me, but my daughters and I started the Christian Cowgirl Club, a day camp for neighborhood girls.  In those camps, the girls learned to ride and take care of horses, and I passed on some of the spiritual lessons connected to horses, that I was learning myself.

Me: I'd love for my readers to "get to know you" a little better. What are three of your favorite things to do?
Vicki: I am down to one pony, Toby, which my eight-year-old foster daughter and I purchased at an Amish auction this summer. We enjoy driving him around in the pony cart. I enjoy having children over to help take care of the pony and learn how to harness him for driving.

I used to be a jogger, but now enjoy walking, hiking, and biking. I work as a freelance web designer and computer programmer. I love that combination of logic and creativity, and it allows me to work from home on my own schedule. I wouldn't call myself a nerd though. I definitely view the computer as a creative tool rather than an entertainment device. My mind is like an idea factory. Sometimes I feel bombarded with all the ideas I have for projects - more than I'll ever be able to accomplish in this lifetime.

Me: Would you please share your salvation testimony with us?
Vicki: I grew up in the 70's, when the women's liberation movement was really taking off. It all sounded great to me at the time. In a class of about one hundred at the public high school I attended, there was only one student that I would have identified as a Christian. She never witnessed to me, but the fact that she was willing to be different stuck in my mind. It was an atmosphere where what was wrong was made to seem good, and what was good was made to seem wrong.

I attended a liberal, mainline denominational church - because my mom made me, but the gospel was never clearly or strongly presented. I didn't see anything different in the lives of the people who attended there. I went through the membership class at age eleven or twelve because that was the thing to do in that church. I thought I would feel something different after joining the church, but I didn't. If anyone had asked whether I was a Christian, I would have said yes, but there was no certainty. That experience left me feeling empty and confused. Was that all there was to Christianity? 

Ironically, the few people in my life who I was reasonably sure were Christians, never spoke to me about it. Outwardly, I was a kind, sensitive person, so I guess they equated that with Christianity. Inside, however, I felt lost and unloved. I floundered my way through my early to mid-twenties, half-heartedly seeking God, but never fully committing to him. Looking back, I realize that God had His hand on me from a young age, and it was His steering and nudging that kept me from going too far astray. 

At twenty-seven, I was married and expecting my first child. In the months before her birth, I resolved to read all the way through the Bible, for the first time in my life. I didn't understand most of it, but I made it all the way through Revelation before she arrived. God used that baby girl to finally break down the barrier that surrounded my heart. That might sound strange, but it makes sense. After all, He showed His love for all of us in a similar way - by sending a baby Boy to Bethlehem. 

Suddenly, my whole world was different. Things that had seemed right to me before, I knew were wrong. I had a fire and passion for God and His word. I began reading my Bible, not because of some resolution I had made, but because I wanted to - and it was beginning to make sense!

Soon after that, I went back to the church I'd grown up in, excited to tell those people that there was more to Christianity. I begged the pastor to start a Bible study, but he refused. He actually told me that my experience was just emotion and it would pass. Thirty years later, that fire for God and His word has only grown stronger.

I've often wondered why no one witnessed to me when I was younger. I was a lost and lonely girl, seeking a true relationship with God. If someone had reached out to me then, it might have kept me from making some costly mistakes in my life. That's part of the reason why the books in the Sonrise Stable series have explicitly Christian messages. As a young person, I was aching to know truth, and no one would share it with me. I don't want to make that same mistake. As an author, I don't have anything better to offer young readers than the eternal truths found in God's word.

Me: Who is your favorite author to read?
Vicki: After I became a Christian, since I attended a church that oddly enough, didn't have Bible studies, I began studying on my own. For the next fifteen years, I devoured commentary after commentary. During that time, I read very little fiction, other than what I read to my daughters. I remember, in particular, reading  The Genesis Record by Henry Morris. That book opened my eyes to the truth of creation versus evolution. 

After fifteen years, I finally commentaried myself out. The problem then was that I couldn't find many good Christian fiction writers. I think there's a huge need in this area. I remember scaring myself silly, late one night, reading Frank Peretti's, This Present Darkness. Many people criticize the Left Behind series, however those books were a huge influence on me. They may or may not be correct in their interpretation of end-time events, and their literary quality can be debated, however the series filled me with a sense of urgency to witness to people.

These days my reading consists primarily of weighty tomes on php, javascript, html, css, and other equally exciting topics!

Me: Thank you so much, Vicki! I loved reading the answers to your questions and get to know you better! Your books have been a blessing, and I pray that God will continue to use them in the lives of many young readers!


Nicole Santana said...

Happy Friday!

Over on my blog I am showcasing Naomi Rawlings's novel Love's Bright Tomorrow. Here I will share the first line from the novel I am currently reading, Mary and Bright by Shannon Graupman.

"Mary Bradford's heart raced as she sat on the edge of her king sized bed -- her gaze affixed on the single white sheet of paper resting on the nightstand."

Iola said...

Girls and ponies ... we either had one, or wanted one! This sounds like a lovely series.

I'm sharing the first line from Aint Misbehaving by Marji Laine on my blog. I'm currently reading My Sister's Prayer by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould. It's the middle book in a trilogy and I really shouldn't have read the third book first, because it did ruin some of the big-picture suspense. Here's the first line:

The cry for help came as I was coasting toward the bicycle rack at the far end of the story.

Anonymous said...

Thank You for this interview. Those books sound interesting. I do like to read youth books once in a while.

Unknown said...

Wonderful interview. Thanks!

Anneliese Dalaba said...

The first line on my blog is from a novel by Michelle Griep, The Captive Heart. Here, I will share the first line of Chapter 5 from the book I'm currently reading, The Captivating Lady Charlotte by Carolyn Miller "It was entirely possible that the excitement of last month's come-out ball was about to be surpassed."

Have a wonderful weekend!

Becky said...

Happy Friday! (What's left!) My first lines (sorry, but I included the 2nd) is from These Healing Hills by Ann H. Gabhart:

"Francine Howard stepped off the bus into another world. She should have been prepared."

englishmysteriesblog said...

These stories remind me of the American Girls books I used to read years ago. :) Have you read those? I highly recommend them! Happy Saturday!

Vicki Watson said...

Thank you, Amanda, for including this on your blog. The only thing harder than writing books is marketing them! Regarding American Girls books, I received an email from a young reader who said that she liked the Sonrise Stable books better than the American Girl ones. Feedback like that is a great motivator to keep writing! :)

MeezCarrie said...

looks like a great series!

My current first line is from Cathy Gohlke's Until We Find Home: "Lightning crackled, splitting the night sky over Paris, illuminating letters painted on the bookstore window across the street: La Maison des Amis des Livres."

Amanda Tero said...

@ Nicole – sounds like some fun reading!

@ Iola – haha! I’m with you on reading out-of-order. I’ve made that mistake quite a few times, myself.

@ Marilyn – thanks for stopping by

@ Kimberli – thanks!

@ Anneliese – I need to read another book by Griep. I really enjoyed the one I read (Bleakly Manor). AND I need to read Carolyn Miller.

@ Becky – sometimes you’ve just gotta include more than one. ;) And yes, those two definitely have to be shared together.

@ English Mysteries – Yes, I have read the American Girls books, and loved them!

@ Vicki – you’re welcome! I can definitely sympathize with the marketing.

@ Carrie – loved that one!

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