Interview with Carole Smith, author of Have You Seen the New Forest Unicorn?

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Posted 10 months ago

You may be lucky enough to see the Unicorn, it may be hiding behind the Gorse by the Stone Water Trough at Wootton.

Maybe Willow was right… it may go to Setley Pond for a drink!

It could even be visiting the Trolls that live under Wootton Bridge.

Perhaps the Unicorn did visit Hincheslea, and saw the Hot Air Balloon?

And on a walk at Wilverley Plain or Longslade, you may be lucky enough to see the New Forest ponies grazing or playing: Drummer, Merlin, Peewee, Riley, Willow and Juliet.

If you go to the Deer Sanctuary at Bolderwood or to Pipers Wait you may even see The Monarch.

But on a dark clear night if you look up, the Unicorn may appear among the stars in the sky over The New Forest.

Drummer, Merlin, Peewee, Riley, Juliet and Willow will keep looking, will you join them?

The New Forest Ponies all roam free and wild within The New Forest, if you visit, please remember to look and to admire them, but never ever touch or feed them.

In short, what is Have You Seen the New Forest Unicorn? about?

The story is about 6 new forest foals and their adventures looking for the New Forest Unicorn.

What inspired you to write the book?

During lockdown when we were unable to see and cuddle our family as were the rest of the world, I spent a lot of time with my granddaughter and found it really upsetting being away from her. Pre-lockdown, she always wanted to watch the ponies as they walked past the house so I began to narrate stories over facetime to her.

What age group is it aimed at?

My idea is for the story to be suitable to be read to smaller children who will be able to associate with the story and the illustrations but also be interesting for older children to read.

What is your connection to The New Forest?

I have lived in The New Forest since 1985 when I met my husband. I have been fortunate to have owned and ridden horses and walk my dogs each day in the New Forest.

Are the places visited by the characters in The New Forest fictional?

The places that the characters visit are actual places that I either, walk or ride past most days.

Is this your first book?

Yes, I have never written a story, only reports when I was working.

What came first, the characters or the plot?

The plot came first as my granddaughter loves Unicorns and that gave me the idea to write the story.

How did you create the characters in the book?

All the main characters are based on ponies that I have both owned and known over the years.

Who is your favourite character in the book if you had to pick one?

I think it would be Merlin as he was the naughtiest and the one that stole my heart but also Peewee as he is so cheeky.

Is there scope to continue the story in future books?

Absolutely, I have lots of ideas as to where the characters can go in future.

How long did the book take you to write?

Originally it only took a matter of hours but I have rewritten it as I developed the story.

What was the writing process like?

Really rewarding, I love writing and never thought that at this time in life that I would embark on something completely new.

Did it involve much research?

Not really as I already ‘knew’ the characters and the places they were visiting.

What inspired you to write a children’s book specifically?

During lockdown I really missed the girls and wanted to write a story that I could read to my Granddaughters and then thought how lovely it would be if I could publish a book specifically for them.

Could you tell us more about your own interest in horses?

Since I was a small child, I used to love watching a tv programme called Folly Foot, Black Beauty was my favourite book and I used to beg my parents for riding lessons for birthdays and Christmas. I was always going to the local stables to help out and loved everything to do with horses.

I got my first pony when I was about 11, he was called Raffles and I spent all my time, whatever the weather with him. I have had quite a few horses over the years apart from a break of about 10 years when the children were small.

What do you love the most about The New Forest?

Everything. The forest is a constantly changing environment, there are always new things to observe throughout the seasons. It is steeped in history which I find very interesting, full of myths, legends and stories. The New Forest has over 40 miles of coastline, so you are never at a loss of what to do with spectacular views toward the Isle of wight. What’s not to love??

What are your hopes for the book?

Mainly, I hope people enjoy the story and the illustrations. I would love to write more stories about our characters and their adventures and introduce new characters who can visit so much more of this beautiful area.

And finally, what do you hope that readers will take away from the book?

A smile.