The Story Behind The Horseman’s Promise

he Horsemans Promise by Cathryn HeinWrite What You Love

I was born horse mad and my reading has always reflected this. Mary O’Hara’s My Friend Flicka trilogy was followed by every single book in Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series, and the utter bliss of National Velvet and International Velvet. I can still remember clutching those books to my chest and sighing theatrically as my own romantic horsey dreams swirled in my head.

So it comes as no surprise that I wanted to write a book where horses featured in the plot. I’ve written on and off since I was a teenager, and always nurtured a secret ambition of being a novelist. Over the years I’d started many manuscripts, each time determined to reach my dream of becoming a published author, but I never managed to produce more than 10,000 words. Life, work, and love were wonderful distractions, plus I knew nothing about the craft of writing, nor did I have any comprehension of the time and dedication writing a novel takes.  Mind you, I soon learned once I finally knuckled down to the job!

Mysty and me 2 (Promises)The Horseman’s Promise (originally titled Promises) came about thanks to a girlfriend who had read all my novels up to that point. I started off writing rural-set love stories and she adored them, but back then publishers weren’t particularly interested in the genre. Frustrated, I tried an urban-set romance and she hated it, as in deep loathing type hated it, and truth be told so did I. My heart wasn’t in the story and it showed. She urged me to go back to what I wrote best. So off I went brainstorming another rural book, and this time I was going to write what I adored most – a romance in which horses featured heavily.

And so The Horseman’s Promise was born.

While I don’t share Sophie’s (heroine of The Horseman’s Promise) past, some of the events in the book are drawn from my own experiences with horses. For example, there’s a scene early on where a horse bolts. That happened on my very first work day at a local racehorse trainer’s yard and I was terrified, until I remembered my father’s (an ex jockey) advice on what to do in that situation.

Some of the horses in The Horseman’s Promise have characters similar to those I’ve owned. I can’t remember the exact horse, but Rowdy’s penchant for turning his rump and sulking comes from a horse I either owned or worked with. Knowing what a crack-up she was it was probably my beloved first horse Mysty. She may have had four legs and couldn’t talk, but I swear that horse was a little bit human.

Harrington – Aaron and Sophie’s home town in The Horseman’s Promise – is very (and I mean very) loosely based on my home town of Mount Gambier. Like Mount Gambier, Harrington is located in South Australia’s south east, but Harrington is smaller and doesn’t have a crater lake that turns an exquisite shade of blue every summer like the Mount’s famous Blue Lake. What the two towns do share, besides the weather, is an economy based on agriculture and timber production, and an old cemetery built on one of the most prime pieces of land you can imagine. I don’t know what Mount Gambier’s forefathers were thinking when they started to bury their dead on the side of the Blue Lake crater, but I’m guessing they weren’t property developers. I’m glad though. The view from Lake Terrace Cemetery is stunning and I don’t mind sharing such scenery with ghosts.

Mysty and me (Promises)The Horseman’s Promise isn’t only about horses. At its heart lies a story about forgiveness and hope. It’s about characters who find love when the past should dictate such joy to be impossible. A story featuring a damaged heroine who discovers an inner strength no one believes she possesses, and a hero who finds atonement for an act he believes can never be forgiven.

Most of all it’s a story I loved writing and one I hope readers enjoy too.