Happy Sunday, everyone! Today, I'm thrilled to have Christine back on the blog. You might remember her from her review of Horse Training with Bilger or her previous Spotlight Sunday post focusing on her blog, Equus Education. This time, Christine took the time out of her busy schedule to sit down and answer a few questions for us.
WD: Introduce yourself.
CM: My name is Christine Meunier. I’m an equine author and educator who lives in North East Victoria, Australia. I’m a horse addict and have always wanted to own and work with horses. I was blessed enough to receive my first horse at age 14 after having leased him for 6 months. His name was Pride; I learned a lot with him!
WD: How did you first get involved in the horse industry?
CM: I first was a horse owner. My parents leased one for me at age thirteen. This involved them paying a monthly fee and looking after his health care and he was all mine! If the partnership didn’t work out, then we would just stop leasing him. As it turned out, I loved him and my parents bought him for me. He was a 9 year old Quarter Horse x Arabian palomino gelding named Pride and just beautiful.
Work wise, once I finished my schooling I enrolled in a two year course that focused on horse breeding. This course provided me with three lots of work experience in the thoroughbred breeding industry. The last place I did work experience offered me a job and things started from there.
WD: Do you ride? If so, tell us a little about your horse(s) and what you do.
CM: Not at this stage, but I do love it! I rode every weekend when I first got Pride and after finishing my schooling, he came with me to where I studied horses. Then I rode as often as I could – on weekends, after classes. I love dressage but still have a lot to learn. I enjoy jumping but haven’t gone much over 2 feet! I really enjoyed just getting out and going on a trail ride, too. Now that my gelding has passed on (at the ripe age of 26) I haven’t had opportunity to ride. I find I have my hands full however, as I have 2 children under 3 to look after!
WD: Tell us about your business/blog. What do you do? How did you get started?
CM: Business-wise I create products that focus on horses and can be sold to others for use or enjoyment. This all tends to come under the name of Equus Education. Products include horse educational products (http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Christine-Meunier/), equine fiction that is educational as well as entertaining (https://www.amazon.com/Christine-Meunier/e/B00D5SE2FS/) and horse courses, such as the Equine Passive Streams Course (https://www.udemy.com/equine-passive-income-streams/?couponCode=EPISEE – discounted link). All of these items have been made with a view for passive income – I create the product once, but it can be sold many times. In this way it has the potential to be low maintenance for me whilst I raise my family.
My blog and passion is Equus Education (http://equus-blog.com/). This originally gained momentum due to my careers teacher at high school telling me there was no future in working with horses. He felt it was a phase that all girls went through. I started the blog, focusing on varying horse careers. I wanted to show other people who may have had the same opposition, that you can earn money with horses – practically anywhere around the world. Originally I wanted to showcase 100 different horse careers. Today there are over 170 that have been explored. The blog looks at different careers, qualifications you can get with horses and where you can study these, free horse resources that can help in business or career development and profiles people who are working with horses and making a living from it.
WD: You mentioned that you also write books for equestrians. Tell us a little bit about your various works.
CM: My debut novel Horse Country – A World of Horses (http://www.horsecountrybook.com/) took 10 years to write! It was created based on a lot of my experiences as a stud hand, studying horses overseas, working as an instructor and as a stable hand at another riding school. It details four women and their journey through study and work in the horse industry.
Shortly after the release of Horse Country, I got an idea for a children’s series, the Free Rein series (http://www.freereinseries.com/). This focuses around 3 horse crazy girls in Australia who are 10 years of age. Each book contains a moral and a particular aspect of horse care. It’s aimed at 8 – 12 year olds. There are currently 6 books in the series, with the last having been released in 2016.
A dream I had resulted in the characters for my horse romance, B and B and the first half of this book practically wrote itself.
Recently I pondered the idea of writing a series for adults, too. I wanted to focus it on the thoroughbred breeding world where my horse career started. And so the Thoroughbred Breeders series was born after a few weeks of contemplation. I released the first two books New Blood and No Hoof, No Horse at the end of 2016. Thankfully, what started out as an idea for 1 book quickly grew into 5! I have just finished and released the fourth book Breakover on April 17 of this year and am working on the next in the series.
I have also been working on E and E, the next generation of characters from B and B. All of my horse books for adults can be found at the Horse Country website.
WD: When did you first begin writing? What was it about writing that drew you to it in the first place?
CM: I think in high school. I loved English and when we had to compose stories in class. Although back then, most of the time it was about my favourite comedy group, rather than horses! As I started working in the thoroughbred breeding industry I would make note of events that happened that amused me and tell my parents. My mother would often say, ‘you should write a book!’ In time I wrote down things that happened, or a phrase that amused me and I felt I could use. And over a 10 year span, Horse Country formed. I self published with some help from my mother and after that, I was hooked!
WD: You're an avid reader, as well, and often post reviews on your blog. What are some of your favorite literary equestrian tropes? Your least favorite?
CM: Hmm… now that’s a hard one! I think my all time favourite horse book – although it doesn’t have much of an equestrian focus! – is the Sliver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell. It captured my imagination as a young girl and I still love to read it although I know many of the words by heart! More recently, I have been rapt with a trilogy by Amy Elizabeth, starting with Cut and Run.
I’m not sure I can identify a least favourite horse book. I can say that some things in particular make me cringe, however – incorrect horse facts, people writing ‘confirmation’ instead of ‘conformation’ and just unlikely horse scenarios. I try to make my books educational and realistic. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a good fantasy horse book! I also tend to shy away from horse novels that focus more on promiscuity than much else – Polo by Jilly Cooper comes to mind and even the Horse Whisperer disappointed me.
That is the wonderful thing about books however, there’s something to suit every taste!
WD: As an author/reviewer, do you have any tips or advice for other authors who want to write about horses?
CM: Write what you know! There’s nothing more frustrating to a horse person, than to read a horse story – one that has a great plot – and find glaring errors regarding the horse information. If you don’t know it, find someone who does that can guide you. Try to be yourself too, rather than copy the idea of someone else’s book or series.
If you self publish, be sure to take the time to get your book formatted and edited well. Books that are distracting to read can truly take away from a good storyline.
I have just recently started a resource specifically for budding horse book authors. It’s all free information! You can head along to the equine authors blog to check out the latest articles or follow @equineauthors on Twitter.
WD: As an entrepreneur, both in respect to your blog and your books, what is the most difficult aspect of running a business for you?
CM: I think the biggest challenge is time! I love some of the tools online that can help to organise things for you. I can schedule blog posts in advance; as soon as they’re published they automatically get promoted across my social networks of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Tumblr. This saves me a lot of time!
I have so much I want to do but I need to prioritise and make sure I’m spending time with my family and continuing the projects I’m already working on. As time permits, then I get to enjoy reading, write another book or start another project as I have recently done with Equine Authors.
WD: How do you define success for yourself in business? In your writing?
CM: I think the simplest form is if I’m enjoying it and it happens to bring in some money, then it’s successful. I didn’t start it to earn an income; I did it because it’s a passion of mine. If in the future however it turns into a viable income, I’d love that!
With regards to my books, I have been curious about the popularity of the series in comparison to standalone novels. I am rapt to find that after people have read the first couple of books in my series, that they go on to read the others. A successful day for me is when someone buys all the books in the series to read! It’s nice to see that people want to read more after the first book – this feels like success.
WD: From both an author's perspective and an entrepreneur's, how do you deal with your inner critic?
CM: It can be so easy to become negative because something didn’t turn out the way you want or hasn’t been as well received as you’d hoped. If I am feeling critical about something, I have found the best way to get past this is to be productive. Create something else to add to my list of resources. Using my energy to be productive – and then potentially earn from this – is much better than sitting around feeling sorry for myself!
WD: What is your biggest dream/goal? How has it changed or evolved over the years? How far have you progressed towards achieving it?
CM: My goal has always been to own land and horses. At first I wanted to run a stud, then a riding school; now it’s an agistment (boarding/livery) property that I desire! My husband and I are currently shopping for a 100 acre (40 hectare) property to set up for horse agistment. The desire is to focus on sustainable horse keeping and to have other people’s horses on it, paying for the property!
The progression feels slow, but I know things all happen in God’s perfect timing. We have saved for the land and are ready to buy but currently the area we are searching in is short on 100 acre blocks! I now have an equine science degree behind me and have researched sustainable horse keeping, so feel that this has been another form of progress. Once we have the land, I anticipate it’ll be a year before it’s set up for paying clients and another year before we’ll be able to build our dream home and move there.
Here are all the ways you can keep up with Christine in all her various endeavors:
Christine Meunier is an equine author and educator. She loves all things horses! You can find her educational and entertaining horse novels over at http://www.horscountrybook.com/ and http://www.freereinseries.com/ Interested in pursuing a horse career? Then head on over to Equus Education at http://equus-blog.com/ to find out about the 170+ horse careers and courses she has explored so far.