I’m always intrigued by the story behind the story or what it was that made an author write a particular book. In this behind-the-scenes guest post, author Corinne Joy Brown talks about the books that inspired her love of horses and the goal of writing Finding Home.
A Message Hidden Between the Lines
by Corinne Joy Brown
When I was growing up in the Fifties, I loved to read horse stories. Among my favorites were the “Black Stallion” series by writer Walter Farley. First published in 1941, Farley’s best-selling novel for young readers is the triumphant tale of a boy and a wild horse and their first meeting on an ill-fated ship, leading to their adventures on a desert island and their eventual rescue. That series went on to a total of 18 books, to be continued by Steven Farley, the author’s son. I read most of them.
But even more than these books, and those by Marguerite Henry, another writer of horse stories in the era, were the works of Will James, an honest-to-goodness cowboy of the (then) modern West, whose incredible story of “Smoky the Cow Horse” burned its way into my heart and soul. If that sounds over-dramatic, I tried to reread that book recently as an adult and found it so painful and brutal, I wondered how, as a young person, I could accept the sad story of Smokey’s life. But I did.
Even more indelible then the aforementioned horse stories was “Black Beauty,” a book I read as a child over and over until it fell apart. I learned only as an adult that the result of this moving tale of a poorly treated carriage horse, written by Anna Sewell in England in 1854, became the most popular book in America following its publication and, as a direct result, the American Humane Society was founded in 1877 committed to ensuring the safety, welfare and well-being of animals and children.
It is said that “Black Beauty broke all records for sales and is the sixth best seller in the English language. By telling the story of a horse’s life in the form of an autobiography and describing the world through its eyes in the first person, Sewell broke new literary ground.” Sewell said she wrote the book in order to induce kindness, sympathy and understanding for the treatment of horses. Its publication resulted in the abolishment of several cruel practices, including the now- obsolete bearing reins, used to hold a horse’s head up high.
I set out to write “Finding Home” with Ginny McDonald because I am deeply concerned about the plight of America’s wild horses, sadly competing for open lands with thousands of cattle that most stockmen would prefer were using these millions of public, grassy acres. Fossil excavations prove that wild horses have been in North America since before the Ice Age, and returned in the 16th century with the Spanish Colonial conquest. The story of the wild horse is a part of America, and deserves to be understood as part of our heritage. The mustang needs to be protected. I believe it will take the next generation to see that they are. My fondest wish is that our book might help change the world like “Black Beauty” did.