Author Interview: Soraya Nicholas

Pony DetectivesI would like to welcome author Soraya Nicholas to my blog. Soraya is the author of the recently released children’s books Pony Detectives and Gymkhana Hijinks, the first two books in the new Starlight Stable series.

This is a wonderful series for young readers, particularly if they are horse crazy. Set in the Australian bush, this is a lovely addition to all those horse stories that young readers just love.

Poppy has always wanted her own pony, and her dream finally comes true when her aunt and uncle present her with the most gorgeous pony, Crystal. But joining Poppy at her aunt and uncle’s stables are two other girls who have also been gifted their own ponies. These girls form a wonderful friendship, take care of their ponies and even set out to solve the mystery of the horses that have disappeared from neighbouring properties.

You can find my full review of Pony Detectives here.


Meet Soraya.

Soraya is pictured here with her own horse, Finn. 

I recently had the chance to meet and work with Soraya when she visited the school’s library and conducted a writing workshop with some lucky students. Soraya shared with us some of her writing tips, her inspiration for her stories and the publishing process. She has graciously offered to answer a few more of my questions so that I can share them with my readers here.    

Hi Soraya. Welcome to my blog and thanks for answering my questions. Firstly, describe Starlight Stables in five words or less.

Horses, friendship, fun, adventure & Australia!

What do you love most about horses or riding?

I love the freedom of being out riding, especially trail riding, just being in nature and enjoying the bond with my horse. I also love the fact that most horses are so gentle despite their huge size, and the bond you can create with a horse is so incredibly special. Now as a mum, it’s amazing to see my young kids developing those bonds with their ponies.

What is your writing process? How do you like to set up your writing area?

Because writing is my full-time job rather than a hobby, I have to write every single day. I work at my desk on my laptop, with my current Pinterest board on my big desktop screen. When I’m writing my adult fiction, I usually have a playlist to listen to, but when I’m working on Starlight Stables I usually prefer silence for some reason. If I get bored at my desk, I’ll move to our dining table which is nice and sunny. I often find it hard to get started each day, so I’ll set my timer for 15 minutes, then build up to writing for 30 minute sessions. When the timer goes off I muck around for a few minutes on Facebook or get something to eat, then set it again!

Gymkhana HijinksYou used to work as a journalist, which do you prefer writing – fact or fiction?

I love writing fiction because I only have to rely on myself to get the work done, and I love coming up with lots of ideas for stories! When I was a journalist, I was always having to do interviews and coordinate with other people during the day, and I like that with fiction I can set my own hours and just get lost in my own story ideas.

You have also written a number of books for adults, is it different writing a book for adults than it was writing Starlight Stables?
Yes, I write women’s fiction/romance under the name Soraya Lane as well. I find contemporary adult fiction much easier to write, and when I’m working on an adult novel I generally write a minimum of 2,000 words each day. When I’m writing for younger readers, I find the writing a lot slower and harder, especially when it comes to writing dialogue, and I generally only write 1,000 words per day. I guess it’s just harder to get into the headspace of a 12 yr old girl, whereas my adult fiction characters are a similar age to me, often with similar motivations. But I love writing for girls – it’s tough to get the words on the page some days but it’s great fun being in my Starlight Stables “world”!

Your description of the Australian bush is pretty realistic, have you spent time riding in the Aussie bush on your own horse?

I live in New Zealand but I did do a lot of wonderful riding in Australia growing up. All our family holidays have always been in Australia, mainly different parts of Queensland, so it was very natural for me to write about riding in the bush and across Australian farms. I do know what it’s like to have a snake slither onto the trail during a ride, to be cantering through the bush and to jump a fallen Blue Gum trunk!

Bush BoltsThe covers are really beautiful and both the girls and horses match the descriptions of your characters so well. Did you have any say in the covers and what was the process of creating such beautiful covers?

The covers are beautiful and you’re right, they do perfectly match the characters! I was so fortunate to be involved in the process, and my publisher cast the characters to suit my descriptions, and I had the final say in which girls were used. The horses were also carefully chosen. The cover shoots took place in Melbourne over two days, and I had a wonderful time there with the girls – every moment was truly like a scene from the books! We even had a mob of kangaroos appear in one of the paddocks behind where we were shooting, and that was very special.

What made you choose to publish with an Australian publisher? Was that a particular choice or just something that happened?

My agent had sent the first book in the series out to a number of great publishers in different countries, and Penguin Australia were the first to make an offer. I was thrilled to work with the team in Australia, and it meant I was able to set the books in Australia specifically for the local market.

Saving StarlightBooks three and four of Starlight Stables are due for release in August 2016. What can readers expect from these upcoming titles? What is in store for Poppy, Milly and Katie?

Yes, we have books 3 & 4 scheduled for release on the 1st August which is very exciting. In Bush Bolts, we meet Poppy’s best friend from home Sarah, and see how this changes the dynamic of the friendships she has with Milly and Katie. The girls experience a terrifying bush fire first hand, and part of the book will keep my readers on the edge of their seats to see what happens to the girls, their ponies, and the local wildlife. Then in Saving Starlight, we see Poppy and her friends fighting hard to not only save their beloved ponies, but Starlight Stables too. 

Thanks Soraya. It was a pleasure getting to know you a little better and thank you for sharing with us this insight into the world of your writing.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog! I’m thrilled to be part of this interview, and it was great to meet you in person when I was in one of my favourite places in the world recently! The books are available in all bookstores throughout Australia 🙂

That’s right. You can find more information about Soraya on her website and find more details about the Starlight Stable series on the publisher’s website. Books three and four in the Starlight Stable series will be released in August, so keep your eye out for these fantastic new books.