Book Spotlight with Author Q&A; Turning on a Dime by Maggie Dana

Turning on a Dime: A time travel adventure for MG/tween readers. Two girls from two different centuries and the horse that brings them together.

Teenage equestrian Samantha DeVries wants to be the first African American to ride in the Olympics. Her father, a successful trainer, pushes Sam to excel, while Sam’s academic mother tries to instill a sense of heritage in her headstrong daughter who’d rather be riding horses than studying history. But Sam’s beliefs and her carefully constructed world shatter like a jelly jar when she travels through a time portal and lands in the canopy bed of an 1860s Southern belle.

Even more surprised by Sam’s unexpected arrival is Caroline Chandler. She’s a tomboy who wears breeches beneath her crinoline and rides horses bareback, much to the dismay of her critical mother.
But neither girl has time to fret over petticoats and prejudice. The Civil War is raging, and soldiers from both sides are stealing horses. At risk is Pandora, Caroline’s beloved mare. Without her, Sam’s future Olympic horse, Nugget, might not exist in the present.
Neither will Sam if the slave catchers grab her.

1. Was there a specific moment or idea that inspired writing Turning on a Dime?

This story has been cantering around inside my head for so long, I can’t even remember how I came up with it. But I was nervous about writing it. I mean, where did I get off, a middle-aged Englishwoman putting herself into the head of a contemporary black American teenager?

So I resisted the story for a long time, like 6 or 7 years, until it couldn’t be contained any longer. To keep myself on track, I kept repeating . . . “girls are girls, no matter what color they are and some of them love horses.” This, I could wrap my head around. So I built the story with these two girls (one black, one white, from two different centuries) and their mutual love of horses . . . and of adventure. They’re both gutsy and brave, full of angst, and often vulnerable—just like any other teenager, modern or otherwise. Then I tossed in time travel and away we went!

2. Do you see bits of yourself, your family, your friends, or your life in your characters that surprise you?

Writers invariably put some of their own attributes (good and not so good). Like me, both girls in Turning on a Dime love horses and they’re strong-willed and stubborn, but unlike me they’re positively brilliant on horseback (far better than I ever was). I think authors also endow their characters with traits they wish they (the authors) had. I wish I was half as brave as Sam and Caroline and could ride horses as well as they do.

3. Did you always want to write, did your characters or a particular story just need to be written, or were you brought to writing in a completely different path?

Like many kids I wrote (and illustrated) a story about my dog in grade school, then I wrote essays in high school, but I didn’t really get into writing seriously until the late 1970s when I worked as a secretary at a children’s publisher (Weekly Reader). My boss had very little work to give me which meant that I sat, bored out of my mind, in front of a typewriter (yes, it was that long ago) with nothing to do. When I begged him for work he just told me to ‘look busy.’ He didn’t care what I did.

“Write letters, a shopping list,” my boss said. “Write a book.”

So I did.

On Weekly Reader’s time, their typewriter, and their paper. And then, sweet irony, I sold it to them, and my first book, The Golden Horse of Willow Farm, was published by Weekly Reader in 1981.

A year later, after I left Weekly Reader to become a book designer and typesetter, I wrote another children’s book and I sold that to them as well. Armed with visions of future glory, I got an agent and kept on writing whenever I had a free moment (while bringing up kids, building a house, and working full time), and while I’ve enjoyed quite a bit of success, I also have a bottom drawer filled with rejected manuscripts to prove that you can’t always rest on your laurels. You have to keep learning and growing as a writer.

4. Do you have any set writing routine or rituals, or do you work as inspiration strikes? 

I write when the muse (or whatever it is) strikes. Some days I manage a whole bunch of words; other days, I get nothing written down except a reminder to buy paper towels next time I go shopping. Normally, I need perfect quiet at home, but sometimes I can write a whole load of great stuff while in my daughter’s busy kitchen with teenage kids and their friends (and dogs and cats) rushing around, to say nothing of the ducks, chickens, and horses outside that require feeding and attention …  and playing with!

5. What do you do when you are not writing?

Most of the time if I’m not actually writing, I’m thinking about writing—composing scenes, drumming up plots, and inventing new characters for Timber Ridge Riders, my horsey series for middle-grade/tween readers. This, of course, can be done while I’m outside pulling weeds and waging war on the shrubbery, or mucking stalls at my daughter’s barn and feeding her chickens. On rainy days, I indulge myself with fabric, making quilts and tote bags in my tiny sewing room. Oh, and I read a lot, too.

6. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Yes … and it’s a H-U-G-E thank you for buying my books and reviewing them, and for emailing to ask when the next one is coming out. One of my young readers wrote to tell me that she’d started volunteering at a therapeutic riding center, inspired by Holly—one of my Timber Ridge characters—who was once in a wheelchair.

About Maggie:
MAGGIE DANA’s first riding lesson, at the age of five, was less than wonderful. In fact, she hated it so much, she didn’t try again for another three years. But all it took was the right instructor and the right horse and she was hooked for life.
Her new riding stable was slap bang in the middle of Pinewood Studios, home of England’s movie industry. So while learning to groom horses, clean tack, and muck stalls, Maggie also got to see the stars in action. Some even spoke to her.
In addition to writing books for young horse lovers, Maggie also writes women’s fiction, and her new book, TURNING ON A DIME, is a time travel book for MG/tween readers about horses, the Civil War, and two girls from two different centuries. Born and raised near London, Maggie now makes her home on the Connecticut shoreline where she divides her time between hanging out with the family's horses and writing her next book in the Timber Ridge Riders series.

Want to know more? Here is where you can find out more about Maggie and Turning on a Dime.

Buy Links for Turning on a Dime:
Amazon US (ebook and print)

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