Sweetbriars – Book 1 – Leaving The City by Hollie Anne Marsh
Q) For the readers, can you provide a synopsis of your new novel?
Sweetbriars – Leaving The City
It tells the story of Cate Sullivan and her new friends Violet and Tabby, at the wonderful Sweetbriars horse farm in the English countryside. It is a ‘coming of age’ story which features ‘growing up’ themes around three fun, relatable, but also different twelve-year-old girls.
A Tale of Sweetbriars.
Welcome to the yard! Come and meet the girls… Cate, Tabby and Violet and their beautiful horses.
Cate is uprooted from life as she has known it. Along with her family and her gorgeous palomino show horse Odette, she moves to a charming farm deep in the English countryside.
Cate is torn. Upon moving to horse heaven, she had to leave behind her best friend Beth and her beloved horse-riding instructor Bridget. On the other hand, she has fallen in love with Sweetbriars, the farm her family has bought to make their dreams come true.
Setting up an equestrian centre at Sweetbriars is fun to Cate but settling into a new school and having a stern Pony Club riding instructor that teaches dressage is less so. At school, Cate makes friends with Violet, who is confident and wacky, and through Pony Club she gets to know Tabby, who is sweet and popular. The girls’ lives will be intertwined in ways they could never have imagined thanks to their shared passion for horses and Cate’s determination to make Sweetbriars a success.
Will Cate ever settle into living in the countryside?
Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?
A) I wrote the manuscript for Sweetbriars almost fifteen years ago in Australia. I remember sending the manuscript to a literary agency for an appraisal, and they wrote back to me encouraging me to take more writing classes! I was encouraged at school to pursue a career in writing as my teacher thought I had some talent – but school English is a little different to studying writing at University or through specialist courses.
My dream was to create a new Saddle Club series as I loved these types of books… books with fun, addictive characters that love horses, and evolve as the series progresses.
I did go on to study writing more formally… but as part of a business degree where I had some ‘free’ subjects and somehow was able to choose creative writing subjects. Which I enjoyed a lot and did well in. After finishing my studies, I went into a career in marketing working for international companies / brands.
A year and a half ago I had a baby and I hadn’t forgotten my book dream… so I dug out the manuscript and worked on it a few hours each day, whilst I was at home with my baby.
My last professional job was not creative at all, so doing something creative was enjoyable and a welcome change.
As I’d lived in England for almost ten years I changed the book to be set in the stunning countryside of Devon – where my Oldenburg foal was bred. The book is based on the many experiences I had whilst enjoying horse life in the UK – competing in dressage competitions, exploring bridleways and spectating at big horse shows. Also growing up riding ponies, going to Pony Club and having so many fun adventures with my friends.
Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?
A) Well there are a lot! I actual like to read a lot of motivational / spiritual books and find I can read the late Wayne W. Dwyer and Esther Hicks books over and over. For some time, I was loving Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, as at the time I was living a similar kind of life… taking a year off to travel and I had some unique and wonderful experiences. Since living in Barcelona I discovered The Cathedral Of The Sea by Ildefonso Falcones – a classic and what an incredible storyteller. For people that have visited Barcelona and loved it, I highly recommend this book. That was probably the best last book I read – although Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is almost as amazing. I have a wide and varied reading taste and I think enjoy most genres of books if they are good!
Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?
A) The Saddle Club followed by The Baby Sitters Club – I was totally addicted to these books… they were like T.V. in a book. I used to trade the books with my friends once we were finished and we would talk about the characters and stories for hours, finding common ground between our lives and theirs! Ha ha.
I also adored more classic books such as Flambards by K.M. Peyton and Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.
Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?
A) Getting great reviews. That is an incredible feeling as a debut author. Totally surreal at first.
Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?
A) Our family of four – my partner, baby boy and horse Frieda. I’ve taken time out from my professional career and a good part of it has been spent finishing this book. My partner has been supportive, believing in me and my baby boy inspires me with his pure love of life. As for Frieda, the best way for me to clear my head and feel ‘at home’ is by sitting on a horse. Feeling that partnership with such a special animal, in nature, has always been grounding for me.