AF: How long have you been a writer?

I’ve been a writer at heart since I was old enough to climb a tree with a spiral notebook and pencil in hand. I grew up on a ranch with lots of animals and related chores, very few television channels, no neighbors, and an active imagination. Without that quiet space where my mind could wander, wonder, and imagine, I might not be a writer today. Though a corporate career eventually detoured me for many years, I buckled down to pursue writing as a career when my now-16-year-old son was a toddler. When I visit schools, I tell kids that the secret to creativity is to turn off screens and allow their minds to play, whether through writing, drawing, making up songs, or making something. Magic happens in quiet times.

AF: What inspired you to write this book?

The simple answer could be traced back to my childhood and the animals I mentioned earlier. My family raised and showed quarter horses, so our stable was an extension of my home. I worked with many horses over those years, training for and competing in horse shows. I had an especially close bond with a few that still make me misty-eyed when I think of them. I know firsthand how close the animal-human bond can be. When I learned about William “Doc” Key and his horse Beautiful Jim Key in 2006, I was naturally smitten. But I wasn’t only wowed by the claims that Jim (the horse) could calculate math problems, compete in spelling contests, identify printed words and names, and perform even more amazing feats. The more I researched, the more awed I was by Doc, a formerly enslaved man, who, despite racial prejudice, became a successful businessman. With the help of his very smart horse, he helped advance the emerging humane movement by proving the power of kindness. Perhaps that’s what inspired me most—the kindness.

AF: How long have you lived in Austin?

I was actually born in Austin, though our family ranch was north of the city.

AF: Tell us about your family.

If we were chatting in person, I’d pull out my phone to proudly show off my handsome sons. They are the greatest light in my life and my proudest accomplishments. I love how individual they are, with unique talents and tastes. My eldest is now an engineer and my youngest is a high school sophomore with his sights set on an outdoorsy, nature-centered career. It is so interesting to reflect back on their childhoods and how, early on, they exhibited traits that have evolved into natural talents. I feel honored to be their mom. My husband is a career law-enforcement officer and possibly the most patient and personable man I know. Indeed, my cup runneth over.

AF: What do you like most about Austin?

Goodness, what’s not to love?  Austin has it all—culture, arts, scholarly endeavors, endless recreational opportunities. If not for August heat, mosquitoes and relentless traffic, Austin would be perfect.

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