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Pony books go at gallop for author

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: June 29, 2012

  • SCHOOL CHAPTER: Victoria Eveleigh signs books for Park School pupils Gemma Foster and Grace Sanders. Picture: Paula Davies. Call 0844 4060 269. BNPD20120621E-002_C

  • FAMILY SUPPORT: Victoria Eveleigh with her husband Chris. Picture: Paula Davies. To order this photograph call 0844 4060 269 and quote Ref: BNPD20120621E-006_C

  • SCHOOL CHAPTER: Victoria Eveleigh, seated, with Park community School pupils Gemma Foster and Grace Sanders and Diana Keast, whose family used to own Lundy and who inspired Victoria to write her books. Picture: Paula Davies. To order this photograph call 0844 4060 269 and quote Ref: BNPD20120621E-002_C

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DURING the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001 Victoria and Chris Eveleigh chose to isolate themselves on their farm at Barbrook.

It was then that Victoria began work on what she calls: "The story I've always wanted to write".

Tortoise Publishing was born when Victoria self-published the first of the Exmoor Pony trilogy – the Katy books.

Most of the original 6,000 print run was sold through Westcountry bookshops and tack dealers.

The books have local appeal and are popular with tourists, and through the Exmoor Pony Centre and Society.

Being her own saleswoman and supplier was hard work and often Victoria wanted to give it all up.

Then by chance, at the beginning of 2011, her book Midnight on Lundy was chosen as book of the month on the influential website Lovereading4kids.co.uk

This success spurred her on to find a publisher.

The books are now being published by Orion, with new titles.

"I'm a better writer now" says Victoria, who has taken on the difficult task of rewriting her books.

She says the rewritten versions are "much better but with the same basic story", and keep the illustrations provided by her husband Chris.

references in the titles have been taken out, to make them more marketable, but the stories are still set on Exmoor and Lundy.

Katy's Pony is being translated for the French market.

Horse books are mostly read by girls, and in the Pony Club boys are outnumbered by girls 80-1.

Her current project is a new trilogy, with a boy called Joe as the main protagonist.

He is a member of the Pony Club and even has a go at winning the Prince Philip Cup.

There are also references to farriery, and carthorses, inspired by the horse-drawn tours business the Eveleighs used to run on the moors.

This new project is a full time job for Victoria.

Sometimes the writing is enjoyable but it can be really hard work. "It's all-consuming" says Chris.

A love of the countryside; a love of horses and a fascination with what makes people tick continue to inspire her.

She said: "It's amazing that people and horses connect so well."

She has no ambitions to be the next Jilly Cooper and is more than happy writing for children.

Chris agrees, saying that an interesting story works well for adults to share with children and "pass on the pleasure".

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