Wednesday, November 16, 2022

The Life of Malé by Sabrina Ballentine - Book Tour

 The Life of Malé by Sabrina Ballentine


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Malé is a thoroughbred horse who starts his life on a racing yard in Oxfordshire, England. He tells us his story, in his own words, of how he enters training to become an eventer with his closest friend Joe by his side. They meet lots of horses along the way and learn from them all. Then, at the height of their careers, Joe becomes injured whilst competing, and their lives change dramatically, along with that of the people who surround them.

Whilst none of those people would want to harm their beloved horses, Malé's tale tells us how things might be from their point of view, giving cause to stop and examine our ways more closely and, perhaps, move things closer to how our horses might choose to have them, putting their welfare before our ambitions and needs.

Whilst Malé's life has its share of sadness, there is always cause for joy as he lends his owner his strength and speed, trying his best to please those who care for him.

And alongside Malé, those people are on their own journey to understanding, to becoming the kind of human a horse can place his trust in fully, so both can be the best they possibly can be.

Information about the Book

Title: The Life of Malé
Author: Sabrina Ballentine
Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Release Date: 10th November 2022
Genre: YA

Author Interview

What is your favourite thing about writing books?
After the settling in time, which can be seconds or days, the feeling of flow when the words appear on the page without me thinking about it. Then reading the latest words back and realising it came from another place, or it wouldn’t hang together so perfectly. From the heart, or from the character’s heart. Capturing that takes my breath away.

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
My favourite character is Malé, the horse, who is the main character and on whose life the story is based. He tries his best to please his human friends and yet questions why things are as they are for them all. He’s majestic, powerful, yet gentle. He loves his friends and would lay down his life for them. A horse it is a privilege to be around. He is based on my own horse in many ways, and he taught me the most important lessons of life.

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
Tea. Barry’s Tea. Hot and strong. Or water as it’s supposed to help clear the head.

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?

How did you research your book?
I began with my initial idea - to write a modern Black Beauty to encourage us all down the path of making life better for our animals, then found some information about the length of a book in this genre, (Young Adults/Older Teens). Then made a plan on a spreadsheet. I’m a Business Analyst by trade, so it seemed natural to plan it by weeks and number of words to aim for to get it done in a reasonable time, during lockdown, as no-one knew what was going on and how it would pan out. Previous travelling time became my writing time.

I had to research some of the timings and details for racing, as this is not my area of expertise, but my knowledge of horses and their care comes from a long lifetime of practical experience, study, horse ownership and research. That bit is way easier. The internet is a fantastic source of fact, if you know where to look.

Are you working on anything else at the moment?
The next book in the series which follows on after The Life of Malé. It’s currently called ‘Hill Farm Horses’ and follows Sophie’s journey in setting up a rehabilitation centre for broken horses. It’s about half way to completion.

I also write for a local internet radio station every week as a character called Ida Warner. Ida and Ethel and their guests have a lot of fun on the ranch in Nashville, Tennessee.. It gives me a deadline and keeps me writing. Used to have 2 of these, the other character was Delia Spankinthorpe. Delia was retired when we lost the show host to a stroke last year. Delia belongs to him.

I write as part of my day job, which is IT focused, but it’s still writing for a specific audience and sometimes requires me to be persuasive so all good practice.

There’s also a novel I need to write as it was given to me in a dream over 2 nights years ago, but my writing skills were not what they are now, so I abandoned the first attempt. Might need to get that one going again. Oh, and a screenplay set on a mobile home park for older people called ‘No Fool’. Kind of The Full Monty meets Butlins. Set in the 70s and it was great fun to write.

Author Information

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I was brought up on one of Europe’s largest housing estate in the 60s and 70s. The estate was a few miles out of town, and there were footpaths very close, so I spent a lot of time in the countryside, walking and talking to the horses in the fields round about.

From a school friend, I heard about a riding school a few miles away that I could get to on the bus (our family had no car) so I rang and booked a lesson. I was 9. I was hardly away from the place for the next 5 years, and ended up working there at weekends in return for rides. The horses and ponies were kept very simply and their needs catered for. Nothing fancy. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but that was the way to keep horses happy and healthy so that their time with people was beneficial to both.

I absorbed everything I could about horses and their care – the original horse mad girl, and entered the WH Smith ‘Own a Pony’ competition every year, but had no luck with that one. Sunday afternoons was time to call on my next-door neighbours – it was time for The Adventures of Black Beauty with Stacy Dorning (boy did I envy her), and their telly was colour. My mum brought 4 kids up on her own after my father died so food on the table and school uniforms came first. We’d sit on the floor side by side, glued to the screen to find out what Beauty was going to do this week.

It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I was able to own my own horse. I’d lived around the country in different places, but came home to the Midlands and the time was finally right. I bought a beautiful appaloosa gelding with a posh pedigree name. I called him Dave. He’s still with me and I love him more than ever. We had our issues and it turned out he has a genetic disease which makes his muscles painful and sore. There’s no cure, but I had to learn to manage his workload to keep him comfortable. My dreams of county level show jumping died when the lab results landed. I couldn’t put him through the pain of intense exercise like that. He taught me how to put him first, how to assess how he was feeling each time I turned up at the yard, and how to listen to him and only ask what he could manage there and then. This is his gift to me.

Sitting in the obligatory leaky caravan at the start of lockdown, I was discussing equine care with a friend and we agreed there is a lot of ignorance which results in poor care and suffering for horses. I suggested that someone should write the next Black Beauty so we can learn to put the horses first, after all, the barn is on fire in welfare terms. As soon as I said it, I knew I had to do it. At least try.

Lockdown gave me more time than I’d ever had in the working week, so I had no excuse and ‘The Life of Malé’ was born.

Being an Animal Advocate is a dream of mine as I can’t think of anything better to do with a life that help animals. If reading the book helps one owner rethink the way they keep their horse, then it will have been worthwhile.

Tour Schedule


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