The Story Behind Santa and the Saddler

Ticking Clocks and Horsey Stock

Santa and the Saddler by Cathryn HeinSanta and the Saddler is the first story I’ve ever started where I had pretty much nothing but the title in my head. All I knew was that I wanted to write a Christmas themed story, I wanted it set in Levenham (also the setting for Rocking Horse Hill, Summer and the Groomsman, and Wayward Heart) and that the heroine would be a saddler. The rest… no idea!

Basically I winged it. I sat at the computer, opened a blank page and waited to see where it took me. What happened next was huge fun. The words poured out, characters started to take life, and I discovered and fell madly in love with my hero Danny. Then Beth came along and what a joy she turned out to be. These two were just made for each other, which made their romance very cute and sweet.

Their backgrounds are quite different though. Danny comes from a large, loving family who have farmed around Mount Pitt for generations (Mount Pitt is the district’s other extinct volcano, although much more eroded than Rocking Horse Hill and vaguely inspired by Mount Burr in South Australia). Beth is an only child whose parents’ marriage deteriorated after they moved from Australia to England, causing her to feel isolated and lonely. Danny sees immediately that Levenham is the home and community she needs. It’s convincing Beth of the fact, but with Beth determined to return to her mum and job in Sydney once her grandparents come home, he doesn’t have much time to do it in. Nothing like a ticking clock to stir things up.

O’Brien’s saddlery is a very (very!) loose amalgam of the saddleries where I used to buy more horse paraphernalia growing up in Mount Gambier. Unlike in Santa and the Saddler, I’m sure there was no shenanigans going on in their rear workshops, and if there was I don’t want to know about it. I have fond and innocent memories of these places and want them to stay that way.

Beauty, the model horse.

Beauty – the best and most beautiful horse in my statuette collection growing up. We had many imaginary adventures together!

If you love horses or perhaps even just bush clothing and boots, saddleries are marvellous places and make a wonderful setting for a story. They practically shout ‘country’. The deliciously earthy scent of leather is very evocative and my nose still twitches happily when I walk into one. These days, they’re colourful places too with all the bright rugs, saddlecloths, tack and clothes. Some of the larger ones have collections of Breyer statuettes that would have made my horse-mad heart go crazy as a young girl. As an older girl too. When you’re horse-mad, some things just never wear off.

A bit like Christmas, really.

Read more on the inspiration for Levenham and its volcanoes and surrounds in The Story Behind Rocking Horse Hill, The Story Behind Summer and the Groomsman and The Story Behind Wayward Heart.