Several years ago, I ‘met’ Amanda Wills on social media. We both write pony stories and, as far as I can remember, she got in touch because she’d just self-published her first book and, as I’d started off self-publishing my books, she wanted some advice.
A while later, we met properly at a conference about horse and pony books that was held at Cambridge University. It was a wonderful occasion. We got on really well and joined up with several other authors, including (what a thrill!) my favourite author of all time, K M Peyton.
Now Amanda is an incredibly successful author and her Riverdale Pony Stories have a huge following, so I’m the one asking her for advice!
The good news is that there’s another Riverdale Pony Story coming out on 20th March, so I asked Amanda if she’d write something about the series and her new book for this website.
If you haven’t yet read any of Amanda’s Riverdale adventures, you’ve got a treat in store as you can start at the beginning with The Lost Pony of Riverdale and work your way through all seven (soon to be eight!) books. And if you’re already a fan you can pre-order her new story, The Mystery of Riverdale Tor from Amazon here.
Over to you, Amanda:
When I began writing my first book, The Lost Pony of Riverdale, back in the summer of 2012, I knew where it would be set even before I had nailed down the plot.
I could have set the story in the pretty corner of Kent where I live. But the craggy tors and vast, dramatic skies of Dartmoor were calling. It was always a done deal.
I first fell in love with Dartmoor when I was about seven, during a family holiday to Devon. As pony-mad as my heroine Poppy, I loved being so close to the wild Dartmoor ponies. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why my long-suffering parents weren’t prepared to smuggle one home in the boot of our estate car.
Every summer for years we went back to Devon, staying in a bed and breakfast on a working farm where the nearest thing to a pony was an ancient grey donkey who patiently put up with my attentions.
Little wonder that decades later I should decide to give Poppy an elderly donkey to look after in the Riverdale books!
Years passed, and visits to Dartmoor were few and far between until I met my husband, Adrian. He grew up in Plymouth, just a short drive from the south west reaches of the moor, and we spent many a happy hour walking across Dartmoor during trips to see his parents. Adrian even proposed to me on Dartmoor!
That was twenty years ago. Luckily our two teenage sons, Oliver and Thomas, love the place as much as we do. So many happy family memories have been made there.
So it was inevitable that Dartmoor my happy place became the setting for the Riverdale stories.
Readers sometimes ask if the locations in the books, such as Barrow Tor, Highwaymans Hill, Hickmans Wood and the village of Waterby, where Poppy and her best friend Scarlett live, are real.
But although real places such as Tavistock, Princetown and Okehampton get a mention, most of the locations for Poppys adventures are fictional, created from my imagination but inspired by the places on Dartmoor I have visited over the years.
The tumbledown Witch Cottage, for example, was based on a real cottage, Nuns Cross Farm, which stands high on the moor above Princetown.
The farmhouse was built in 1901 and is every bit as eerie and mesmerising as my fictional Witch Cottage.
My latest book, and the eighth in the series, The Mystery of Riverdale Tor, was inspired by one of the most famous books to be set on Dartmoor The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Poppy, like the great Sherlock Holmes, must turn detective and uncover the identity of a mysterious dog that has been terrorising the moor.
Dartmoor is the perfect setting for rollicking good adventure stories, with its abundance of old quarries, ancient woods, fast-flowing rivers, craggy tors and long-abandoned ancient settlements.
And although they are written 250 miles away in a corner of my dining room in leafy Kent, as soon as I begin a new Riverdale book I am instantly transported onto the windswept moor with the plaintive sound of curlews calling in the distance and herds of wild ponies on the horizon.”
You can visit Amandas website here: https://www.amandawills.co.uk/, find her on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/riverdaleseries/ or follow her on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/amandawillsauthor/?hl=en