One of my current favorite mystery series is Mary Daheim’s Alpine series. Her major character is Emma Lord, the owner, publisher and editor of a small weekly newspaper, The Alpine Advocate. At the end of one of the books, Mary Daheim ‘interviews’ Emma Lord. It was great. What a wonderful way to explore a character.
Although I write children’s chapter books, not mysteries for adults, with this post, I’m following in Mary Daheim’s footsteps. I am interviewing my major character, Fred. Fred, an unusually talented horse, works at Happy Trails Riding Stable. He speaks Human, and in his off hours, writes a blog designed to help his fellow critters with everyday problems. Fred is the major character in four yet-to-be-published chapter books for six to nine-year olds; The Almost True Story of the Fredblog, The Mysterious Mr. X, New Adventures and The Big Storm.
I interviewed Fred in his stall at Happy Trails Riding Stable. In order to maintain privacy, Happy Trails and Dude Ranch co-owners Mr. Branson and Sandy Rhoads requested that no photos or drawings of Fred or Happy Trails be included in this interview. I agreed. Usually a horse of few words, Fred graciously talked about his life at Happy Trails and his special talents.
J: Fred, thank you for talking with us today.
Fred: My pleasure.
J: This is a remarkable place. Is this where you write the Fredblog?
Fred: Yes it is.
J: Can you tell us how the Fredblog came about?
Fred: After I was fired from my job at the Dude Ranch, I was sent to Happy Trails. I was scared. I just lost my home and my friends. I didn’t know if I could succeed at Happy Trails and I still wanted to help my friends.
J: I understand you were fired because you neglected your job to help your friends.
Fred: Yes, that’s true, but the fact that I spoke Human was also a factor. My boss, Mr. Branson, was concerned that the Dude Ranch guests might find out I could talk. If that happened, it would be really hard to keep the Dude Ranch operating.
J: How to you feel about Mr. Branson now?
Fred: We are good friends. My new boss, Sandy, is Mr. Branson’s business partner. I know I made mistakes at the Dude Ranch and I let Mr. Branson down. I was very young and I just didn’t know how to help my friends and still do my job. I’ve learned a lot since then. If Mr. Branson hadn’t sent me to Happy Trails, I might be stuck working at some carnival by now.
J: Tell us about the Fredblog.
Fred: Happy Trails has some remarkable critters. Sandy, of course, is a very understanding boss. On my first day, Sandy found out I could speak Human. She introduced me to Sam Bordercollie, her dog. He not only spoke Human, he was Sandy’s technology expert. An absolute genius. I was still looking for some way to help my critter friends with their everyday problems. I tried a few things that backfired, then Sam, Sandy and I hit upon the idea of my writing a blog. Sandy’s brother sends Sandy all sorts of computers and technology. Sam and Sandy set up the computer and Sam taught me how to use it. I write once a week, after trail duty. We’ve had a few glitches, but we’ve worked through it.
J: Has your ability to speak Human been a help or a hindrance?
Fred: A little of both, I guess. Early on, Sandy, Sam and I agreed we would keep our special talents a secret from the outside world and that has sometimes been a challenge. None of us wanted the Dude Ranch or Happy Trails to be swamped with people coming to see the talking dog or horse. You can’t run a ranch that way. What we all wanted, and still want, is to keep Happy Trails and the Dude Ranch the quiet, peaceful places they are. It’s our home.
On the other hand, both Sam and I have been able to let Sandy and Mr. Branson know when there is some danger they might not have yet seen or heard. Both dogs and horses have great senses of hearing and sight.
J: Is there anything you have learned from your experiences you want our readers to know?
Fred: When I was little, my dad used to tell me, “You can’t win a race if you don’t run.” That puzzled me for a while, but then dad was a racehorse. I came to understand that what he meant is you have to try things, even if they don’t work out the way you want them to. I think he was right.
My mom always told me you have to own up to your mistakes. I know she was right.
J: Fred, I see you have a trail ride to prepare for. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today.
Fred: You’re welcome, ma’m.