Seems like only a couple of years ago I embarked on writing a book that would really entertain my girls, then about 8 and 11. The late Johnny Ryan and I had kicked around an idea years before about a TV show that would feature a Mr Ed type talking horse only the horse would be a precious Hollywood Diva: think Kim Kardashian with the wit of Joan Rivers. After seeing how much my girls (like most) loved horses – Saddle Club was a regular on TV here – I decided that it would be fun to match the diva with a young teenage girl from the outback who was a natural rider. If I put both of them in a snooty riding academy it gave me a great fish-out-of-water story. So that was the origin for the first book of what became a trilogy. Charlotte, the girl from the outback who has lost her mother and been raised by her dad is great with horses but naive when it comes to two-legged animals, especially girls her age. She gets an invite to the Junior Olympic Equestrian Squad (JOES) where the only horse left to pair with is a lazy, chestnut mare, Leila. Turns out Leila is a Hollywood star horse who has been nag-napped by a couple of bumbling LA crims who lose track of her. The next revelation is that Leila can talk although she refuses to divulge this to anybody but Charlotte. Charlotte and Leila are a thousand furlongs apart but they strike a deal: if Leila gets off her lazy rump and allows Charlotte to train her so they make the final JOES squad, Charlotte will call Leila’s Hollywood producer and tell him where to find Leila. Predictably the two learn to love and respect one another and in the end Leila has to decide if she really wants to leave her best friend – some things fame and money can’t buy. As a sub-plot there’s a hot young guy, Todd, in the neighbouring boys’ riding academy who all the bitchy young things have set their designer caps for but who actually likes Charlotte, and his stallion fancies Leila. The book provided me with plenty of opportunity for gags about selfishness and stardom and a lot of heart on the nature of true friendship. Of course I had to de-adult my natural instinct, and Leila’s desire had to be pizza instead of champagne and other ‘stuff” but there was still room for fun like when Leila quips that “all the hot male horses turn out to be geldings” or comments that she made big butts cool long before J-Lo. After the first book the heroes get together in the second to blow the cover on an illegal logging operation and in the third and final book of the series, Charlotte heads to Hollywood to act as a stunt rider for Leila on her return to the big screen. My girls always complained to me that the books they were expected to read at school were ‘worthy’ and `boring’. Hopefully these have heart without being worthy, and are anything but boring.
My daughters are ten years older now and both of them tutor girls who are the age they were when I wrote the books. I was chuffed to find that the girls they tutor have not only read the books but become devotees. The books are still available as print on demand (Random House were the original publishers) and great bookshops like Barefoot Books in Busselton West Australia, sing their praises but I would love to keep them out there, so please if you’re looking for a tween read for girls, ask your local Australian bookshop to order them in, or if you are oversees or have access to ebooks give them a go in that format. https://www.booktopia.com.au/search.ep?keywords=charlotte+and+the+starlet&productType=917504 and https://www.booktopia.com.au/search.ep?pn=1&productType=917504&keywords=charlotte+and+the+starlet&list=8
By the way, I have long thought this would make a fabulous film and have often managed to get a long way down the road on it but not pulled it off. If you are a producer or studio looking for a great project, it is no longer under option so get in touch.