By LIZ CRUMBLY
“Maggie looked up, startled to see girls coming out of the stalls and curiously making their way toward her. Ms. Cavalieri opened the stall door with the Bella nameplate. “Oh!” This made perfect sense now; they were all looking at the wrong pony, and so she said, ‘My pony’s name is Stormy, Ms. Cavalieri.’
With an arched eyebrow Ms. Cavalieri looked over her shoulder and said, ‘Your pony doesn’t like to be called Stormy, she likes to go by Bella. Her full name is Bella Tempesta, which means beautiful storm, but Bella is fine with her.”
Confused yet? So is Maggie Thompson.
That’s a quote from Amber Cavalier Spiler’s first novel, “The Secret of Blackwatch,” and when her protagonist, Maggie, finds herself in possession of a new pony, she (along with Spiler’s readers) is confounded by the fact that her riding instructor seems to know so much about the little mare already.
The author does a lovely job of introducing little clues throughout the novel that form a larger picture in the end. Let’s just say Spiler’s Blackwatch horses turn out to have abilities and characteristics beyond those of the garden-variety equine.
Spiler says these developments reflect the mystic draw humans feel to equines in real life.
“To me, it ‘s really about the magic horses bring to our lives,” she explained. “That was important to me because I grew up a horse girl.”
How Blackwatch began
Her childhood love of equines, mixed with her rapt attention to her father’s fanciful stories, sparked Spiler’s desire to write the Blackwatch series. She had a white pony as a child growing up on an Ocala, Fla., farm, and her father often constructed stories about the pony sprouting wings and flying. These tales stuck with Spiler who repeated them to her daughters later on.
The stories began to take on a life of their own as Spiler inserted her own embellishments, and a few years ago, she and her daughters got into the habit of writing together every Friday morning at a Chick-fil-A near their home in Hoschton, Ga. “The Secret of Blackwatch” was published in 2014 with a follow up last year called “The Secret of the New Rider.”
Both Spiler’s daughters have ridden, and one of them still shows regularly. Spiler herself spent countless hours at Mary Rivers’ barn in Florida growing up. She participated in a variety of disciplines, and after a hiatus in her 20s, she returned to riding. Given her equestrian knowledge, one of her sticking points while writing was that her descriptions of clothing, tack, handling and riding be as realistic as possible. It’s these details that Spiler feels make her Blackwatch books appealing to riders of all ages.
Spiler also knew she wanted a distinctive look when it came to cover art.
“I wanted the cover to match my story,” she explains.
“The Secret of Blackwatch” features a portrait of a grey horse, a folded set of riding gloves and a riding crop all lying on a desk. The Blackwatch Stables coat of arms, bearing its namesake navy and hunter plaid, overlays the image. The artwork was produced by a family member who describes as a “computer genius;” the cover of the second book looks similar with a few new elements.
Spiler has a third book in the works now; which her horse-obsessed fans (adults and young riders, alike) are, no doubt, awaiting anxiously. The first two Blackwatch books are available for purchase at blackwatchstablesseries.com.