Take a few minutes to get to know another one of our fabulous PA authors, Christine Kendall! She’ll be speaking at Fall Philly (on Sunday!!), and Laura Parnum took some time to chat with her about the process of researching her debut YA novel, riding chance. Take it away, Laura and Christine….
LP: Hi, Christine. Congratulations on the well-earned acclaim you have received from your debut novel, Riding Chance. I just finished reading your book, and in addition to finding it a heartwarming narrative full of hope and perseverance, I also enjoyed learning about the Work to Ride Program in Fairmount Park.
I understand that you were inspired to write this book when you heard about the Work to Ride Program in Philadelphia. Did you do a lot of research about the program up front, or did you delve into the plot and do your research along the way?
CK: I found a photo of a young boy from the Work to Ride Program on a polo pony in a Ralph Lauren Magazine that hit me like a ton of bricks. It was the most magnificent image I had ever seen. That photo inspired the story. So, in terms of the writing process, I started with a plot and then did research about horses and the game of polo.
LP: How much time did you spend with the Work to Ride Program? Did you spend a lot of time getting to know the program organizers and participants? And, of course, did you try mucking the stalls?
CK: I got up on a horse but, no, I didn’t muck any stalls. I actually didn’t spend any time with the Work to Ride program organizers or participants although I went to the stables to see what it looked like. I needed details about how stables smell, how horses respond to insects, etc. My goal was not to tell the story of the Work to Ride program. I was simply fascinated by an image and moved to create a character.
LP: To what extent did you try to keep the Work to Ride program true to life in the book, and how much of it was fictionalized?
CK: Basically everything was fictionalized. Work to Ride was just the source of my inspiration.
LP: You’ve included a lot of details and terminology about horses and the game of polo. Did you speak with experts or did you mostly research these topics through books and other media?
CK: I didn’t know anything about horses or polo when I began writing but I found people who were knowledgeable about one or both topics. Besides reading a ton of books and articles, I interviewed people who work with horses including a neighbor who gives horseback riding lessons. I also attended several polo matches and had the opportunity to speak with a polo player.
CK: What advice can you give aspiring authors about the process of researching for a novel?
CK: I was extremely naive in that I didn’t realize how much research I would need to do, but I’m happy to say I enjoyed it. Research is much more than reading. It includes site visits, interviews, and maybe even re-enactments. I would advise aspiring authors to choose a topic that they’re really interested in so they can delight in the work. And after they’ve done all of their research, they’ll have to be very discerning about how much of what they’ve learned actually makes it into the book.
LP: Thanks so much, Christine. I’m looking forward to seeing you at the Fall Philly/PA Author Day event.