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Following Dreams

"Author, Jessica Burkhart"

Taylor:  You are the author of the Canterwood Crest series, so could you tell me a little bit about the books?

Jessica: The Canterwood Crest series follows a 12 year old girl named Sasha Silver from her tiny home town to a big boarding school where she gets to take her horse, Charm. Sasha has to bond with Charm to make it through the school and a pack of mean girls. There are 12 books and they all follow Sasha through her journey at Canterwood.

 

Taylor:  What was it like to get your first book deal?

Jessica:  It was so exciting! It was at the end of the day and I figured my agent wasn’t going to call because it was after business hours. I was washing my face and I heard her ringtone. I wear contacts and glasses and I didn’t have on either! I ran out of the bathroom and soap was streaming down my eyes, and I was bumping into furniture while trying to find my phone. When I found it, my agent said, “Jessica, I have something very cool to tell you. We sold your books and they want three more books.”  I just started screaming because I couldn’t believe it!


Taylor: How long have you been writing books?

Jessica: I’ve been writing books since I was 19. That’s when I first wrote “Take the Reins” which is the first in the Canterwood Crest series. I started writing magazine articles when I was about 14. I wrote short pieces and then that eventually grew into writing longer pieces like a book.


Taylor:  Do you write more than one book at a time?

Jessica: Right now I am writing one book, doing edits on another, and working on copy edits on a third.  I’m often in different processes for several books all at one time.


Jessica and her editor


Taylor: What was the inspiration for the series?

Jessica: I grew up around horses and I started riding when I was about four or five years old. I used to groom horses, take riding lessons, and muck out stalls. Unfortunately, I had to have a spinal fusion when I was thirteen for scoliosis. I couldn’t ride anymore. It took me six years to finally go back to horses.


Taylor: Tell me a little bit about the drama in the book. Was that based on reality or was that fictional?

Jessica: That was purely inspirational. I was lucky enough not to have a ton of drama at the stables when I was younger. I take a lot of the drama from TV and movies. Sometimes I will walk through a store and watch how different groups of girls interact with each other.  I take all of those experiences and make them into a story for my books.


Taylor:  Where is your favorite place to write?

Jessica: My bedroom! I love sprawling out on my bed with coffee or tea and a big comfy blanket. I like it quiet; no TV or music when I’m writing.

 

Taylor: When you were 12, did you want to ride horses when you grew up?

Jessica:  Yes.  I thought that I would be a rider, own a stable, or be a vet.

 

Taylor: What would you say is your favorite childhood memory?

Jessica:  I would sneak out early in the morning at about 4 or 5 o’clock and go to the back pasture behind my house. I would get on my horse, ride her bare back without a saddle or a bridle, and ride up and down the field.


Jessica and Blue

Taylor: Do you remember having any peer pressure as a girl?

Jessica: Absolutely! When I was about 11, I would wear my paddock boots to school. I did it because I wanted to be able to rush home and go straight to the stable and start riding. I remember seeing the girls who wore their cute skirts and flirted with the boys. I can remember thinking, “I just want to go home and ride.” I thought that maybe I should wear the skirts and go to school and be like those girls. I tried it and I didn’t like it because it wasn’t me. No matter how much of a dork I might have looked like, I wore my boots proudly to school.


Taylor:  What school did you go to and what did you study?

Jessica: I went to Florida State University and I studied English Literature. I was able to read a ton of great books.


Taylor: What’s next for the series and what do you think is going to happen after this series?

Jessica: Right now I’m working on the eighth book. After the series, I hope it might be extended to more than 12 books.  If not, I will continue to write and hopefully begin to write an adult novel.


Taylor: If there are any girls that want to be authors when they grow up, what advice would you give them and what studies should they focus on?

Jessica: They should start writing now! You’re never too young to get published. It’s not about how old you are. It’s about how well you write and how dedicated you are. Go to a local library and check out a bunch of books on writing and read them. Read everything you can get your hands on!  Reading is one of the best ways to become a good writer.


Jessica's visit to a Lake City, Florida school


Taylor: You’re going to be speaking to girls from around the world. Do you have anything you would like to say to encourage them?

Jessica: Go for it no matter what! I thought I would never be able to write a book because I had only written short, tiny articles. Go for it and don’t be afraid to try it. Be prepared for failure, but that is part of the process. I have an entire box full of rejection letters and that’s not even counting the hundreds and hundreds of e-mail rejections. I didn’t quit. No matter how much rejection you may face, you just can’t stop!

 


Click to play a "shout out" from Jessica.

 

Click here for the
Official Canterwood Crest series Website

 

 
 
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