Interview with author Catherine Hapka

Meet the latest Star Stable author: Catherine Hapka! Catherine has written more than one hundred books, including the Saddle Club and Free Rein book series. She has three horses in her backyard and has a soft spot for Appaloosas.

Hi Cathy! Tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been a horse girl? How has horses influenced your life?

I’ve loved horses for as long as I can remember. My parents refused to let me keep a horse in our backyard, so I had to make do with reading every book I could find about them. I was always very excited and grateful on the rare occasions I got to ride. 

Even though I wasn’t able to get directly involved with horses until well into adulthood, my interest in them actually helped me to get started as a published writer! My very first job after college was as an assistant to the editor of a very popular series called The Saddle Club (some readers may be familiar with the popular TV series that aired from 2001–2009). I got to know the series’ creator, and after I left that job she asked if I wanted to try ghostwriting for the series. I did, of course, and the result was my very first published book!

I eventually moved out of the city and was finally able to fulfil my lifelong dream of riding and owning horses. These days, many years later, I’m lucky enough to have three horses of my very own right here on my little farm.

How long have you been an author? When and how did your love for writing start?

I’ve always loved to read, which led me to want to write, and I wrote lots of short stories as a kid. Those interests led me to be an English and Communications major at university, which led to a job in children’s publishing in New York City. That was where I was lucky enough to get a chance to start writing when I was still in my 20s. After a few years I was able to quit my “day job” as an editor and focus exclusively on writing.

Had you played Star Stable Online before you started writing this book?

I’m sad to say that I hadn’t. I love playing it now, though! It’s the perfect substitute when I’m not able to go out and ride in real life.

What was the biggest challenge with writing a book for an already established universe?

That IS a challenge, but it’s one I’ve always enjoyed. Over the years I’ve written for various established book series, I’ve created book series based on movies, TV shows, and other media, and also written lots of novelizations and spin-offs. You could say I’m used to immersing myself in an existing world and figuring out how to tell new and interesting stories there.

For Star Stable Online, it was exciting to turn the physical world in the game into something that would work for books. It has been a lot of fun figuring out how to use the existing locations and settings in new ways, and even to include some of the familiar SSO characters, like the Moorlands and the Bobcat Girls.

But I suppose the biggest challenge is trying to come up with stories that will appeal to fans of the game as well as to horse lovers everywhere. I hope I’ve succeeded in that!

The New Horse, out now in Sweden!

How did you come up with the characters for Moorland Stables?

I thought about all the different kinds of horse-loving girls out there, and how their love of horses and riding might bring them together to have interesting adventures in this type of setting. The SSO team was also very helpful with their input on the types of characters they wanted to see represented in the series. We were all in agreement in being very much interested in inclusivity and showing that horses are for EVERYONE – every age, ethnicity, body type, etc.

Oh, and as for the characters’ names? That part was easy – I used the SSO name lists, just like I did when creating my avatar for the game!

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere, really, but mostly I find it by reading what others have written. My own horses (and those at the stable where I take lessons) are also BIG inspirations for the horses in the books! For instance, my Thoroughbred gelding, Jack (Editor’s Note: Jack can be seen see with Cathy in the picture above!), can be mischievous and is an escape artist – just like Copper!

What does your writing process look like?

I have an office in my house, with a big desk, a comfortable chair, and a view out into the garden. All my writing is done on my desktop computer – I can’t type on a laptop! Unlike some writers I don’t really have a process, other than just sitting down and making myself start typing. That’s usually all it takes. (On the days when I just can’t get going, I’ve learned it’s best to stop, do something else, and try again the next day. Fortunately that doesn’t happen too often.) I credit those early years in New York, when I had to meet deadlines by writing when I could, coming home from work and writing evenings and weekends, which taught me to just get it done. In fact, those days make my current schedule seem quite easy in comparison!

Keep your eyes peeled for the second Moorland Stables book – The Horse Thief! More information to come soon.

Do you have any tips for other aspiring writers out there?

I always have the same advice: READ. Read anything you enjoy, whether that’s fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, comic books, cereal boxes, blogs – anything you read will help you become a better writer. If you dream of writing in a particular genre, whether that’s children’s books, mysteries, historical fiction, fantasy, or anything else, it helps to read a lot of recent books in that genre (and also the classics).

My other favorite bit of advice is:

Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Write as often as you can, and keep at it. Even if it doesn’t come out the way you want it to, just write it down. You can always fix it later. Nobody’s first drafts are perfect – many aren’t even close! And really, the only way to get better at writing is to write.

Catherine Hapka

You want to learn even more about Catherine? Visit her on Twitter or Instagram!