Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Talking to Yogi Breisner and the BBC

Seems this week it's all happening. So often being a writer can be a solitary existence from whence we only peep out occasionally in a binge week of excitement, usually around the release of a new novel. So only once a year, twice if we’re really lucky. Alas, on this occasion there is no new novel (it is in the works though), but this week has thrown up a couple of fireworks in my usually placid life.

For some time now I’ve been thinking about some of Aspen Valley’s equine characters and their problems and quirks that Jack is having to sort out in the new book. I have a fair idea of helping problematic horses from my own experience, but I am no racing trainer, so last week I woke up with the bright idea of asking Yogi Breisner for his advice. Now, for those of you who don’t know who Yogi is, he is the British Eventing team’s chef de quippe (the same team that won the team silver in the 2012 Olympics), also renowned in British jump racing for helping problematic jumpers (not the knitted reindeer sort you received from your doting aunt at Christmas) at all the biggest yards.

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So, before I had a chance to think twice about approaching such an esteemed figure in the equestrian world I pinged the British Eventing Federation a call and lo and behold, Yogi said yes! Once I’d got over the shock of this, I then had the task of detailing the Aspen Valley horses’ problems. And you can’t imagine how stupid I felt describing these fictional scenarios to Yogi Breisner, but he was awfully nice about the whole thing. I think Peace Offering and Ta’ Qali can rest assured they are in capable hands. He talked me through the problems I’d plucked out of my imagination, treating them with as much as seriousness as if they were real life, told me what the possible causes of said problems could be (both physical and psychological) then went through the various solutions. It was a wonderfully enlightening conversation, not just for me the writer, but for me the horsewoman, and I almost wished I’d invented more complications for Aspen Valley horses just to hear how this master of horses might solve them. He was wonderfully helpful and told me to call again if ever I needed more help (I shall remember that!).

But the fun wasn’t too end there. While still on a high and with all notes jotted down, I went for my daily exercise around Ely. On crossing at the traffic lights on one of Ely’s busier roads, I noticed someone had broken down right in the middle of the road and the poor girl was panicking. I was faced with a choice: Do I mind my own business and finish my walk before it gets dark? Or do I go over and help her?

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I chose the latter and with the help of two other passersby we pushed her car out of traffic and helped her ring her dad. Now, I don’t know about you, but I believe in karma, i.e. you get what you give, and when I returned home I found an email waiting for me from the BBC asking me to appear on a radio programme they had going out the following week (can one ‘appear’ on a non-visual medium?). Well! I’ve never seen karma work so quickly!
I’d done a small bit for radio back when I was doing my Adult Education course in Norwich. Back then I was asked to contribute a few encouraging words to listeners thinking about embarking on further education, but that was for a much more obscure radio station and wasn’t recorded live. In fact, they only used a couple of quotes from me recorded in a telephone interview.
This time was just a teensy bit different. For starters, this was the BBC. Not only that, it was live, I was to sit in a proper recording studio (I don’t do well in small enclosed spaces, especially when I’m nervous), and be on a panel that included Sue Moorcroft, who is one of my favourite romance authors (I still consult her book Writing Romantic or Erotic Fiction with every new novel I write to brush up on my skillset). So, nervous as hell, more than a little starstruck, somewhat overawed by the whole BBC set-up, I was ushered into my seat and had a microphone put in front of me and away we went!

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The show – an hour long – was an Arts and Culture programme in which Sue, another lovely author Cathy Sharp, and I got to chat with our host Jeremy Sallis about writing romance. In particular love in later life.
That last point is unfortunately where I came unstuck as you will hear in the following podcast. As I tried to extricate the knot from my tongue, I could feel my face burning up in embarrassment. It wasn’t my finest moment and didn’t help my fight against the panic attack that constantly threatened, but overall, doing the show was a great experience, even if a little nerve-wracking!
Here is the podcast, available for the next four weeks. The romance writers ‘slot’ is around the 2h10m mark.


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