Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Interview with Alison Hart, Author of the Racing to Freedom Trilogy

Hey, reader guys, 'tis I, the CARLMAN, and I'm very excited to post this interview with Alison Hart, author of the fan-tastic Racing to Freedom trilogy. I really, really, really enjoyed these books! They are historical fiction at its best. Now, I know some of you may groan at the word "history," but let me tell you, that's where you find some of the most exciting stories. And these three books are exciting! Kept me on the edge of my seat, they did! Since my review was so long ago, let me do a quick repeat of what I said earlier:

Gabriel's Horses--Gabriel and his Pa keep the horses at Woodville Farms. Mister Giles, the owner, enters his horses in the Lexington races but there are Rebel raiders who also want them. How can a poor boy stop bad men with guns?

Gabriel's' Triumph--Mr. Giles is so impressed by Gabe's ability to ride that he makes Gabe a jockey. Gabe is so good that he gets his freedom. In this book, Mr. Giles enters Gabe and his best horse in the races in Saratoga Springs, New York, the finest race track in the country. But some people don't want a poor boy from Kentucky winning this race and will do anything--anything--to stop him.

Gabriel's Journey--Gabriel decides that being a winning jockey is not enough and joins the Union Army to fight for the freedom his people crave. He's too young to be a soldier but he can use his skill with horses to help the black cavalry. His unit is called out to fight before they're ready and sent to the Battle of Saltville, Virginia. The Confederates hate black soldiers and will have no mercy on them--and the worst part is that Gabe's Pa is one of those soldiers!

You owe it to yourselves to read them! Well, let me stop talking and let's hear Ms. Hart:
Why do you think it's cool for boys to read?
Reading is an adventure! In my novels, boys can battle a blizzard (Anna’s Blizzard), survive a steamboat explosion (Emma’s River), and fall off a cliff and fight in a Civil War battle (Gabriel’s Journey).

Why is it cool for boys to write?
Because they can create their own adventures! When I write a story, I can go anywhere—back in time or forward to the future—be anyone—a hostage negotiator to a jockey—and do anything, no matter how dangerous. And—unlike when you read a book—when you write your own adventure, you are in control of making those choices.

You write a lot about horses. Why are they so fascinating?
Horses and humans have been intertwined as early as 3500 BC when horses were raised for milk and meat in Kazakhstan. (See the fascinating March 2009 article in National Geographic

Since then, horses have been used by humans in all parts of the world. In America, horses became extinct about 10,000 years ago and were then reintroduced by 16th century Spanish Explorers. This gives me centuries of horses in history to write about. Many of my books focus on the 1800’s when horses were necessary for transportation, farming, commerce—and war. I also write suspenseful, contemporary mysteries with a horse “twist” that are set on a rescue farm. Whirlwind, my newest book for teen readers, will be out in May.

Your main character, Gabriel, is a preteen African-American boy during the Civil War. Was it hard to get into his mind and his world?
Before I write a book, I have to do lots of research. I spent about two years researching the Racing to Freedom trilogy (Gabriel’s Horses, Gabriel’s Triumph and Gabriel’s Journey). So by the time I started writing about Gabriel and Hammond Plantation, I felt as if I was living in Kentucky and riding race horses during the Civil War. In other books I have been a hostage negotiator and a cat detective, so you can see that writers truly get to morph into other ‘beings.’
I’m a Civil War buff but I’d never heard of the Battle of Saltville until I read Gabriel’s Journey. How did you find out about it?When I was researching Kentucky during the Civil War, I learned about Camp Nelson, one of the largest recruiting centers for African American soldiers. Camp Nelson had trained the Fifth Colored Cavalry, one of only seven Black cavalry regiments during the entire war. Of course, loving anything about horses, I was very excited! When I read that the Fifth fought in a battle that involved a treacherous march from Kentucky to Virginia and a disastrous defeat, I knew I had to write about it. Fortunately, I was able to find several books on the battle, and Camp Nelson has a terrific website ( The story of the Fifth become the last book in the trilogy, Gabriel’s Journey.

You live in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Are you still snowed in?
It’s warm, so now we have mud and slush.
What do you like to do for fun?
Write books, of course. And when we don’t have mud and slush, I love to ride my horse Relish. I also have three dogs who like long walks every day (in the mud and slush).

Which do you like better--cheeseburgers or pizza? What do you like on them?
Pizza with oodles of vegetables and no meat. I know, not a very ‘guy’ choice!

Hmmm--pizza toppings with nutritional value? Not a Guy choice at all! Well, we made you an Honorary Guy back in November and that's an honor so great that we can't take it back. We wouldn't want to anyway since you've written such terrific books. Thanks so much. And thanks for the great interview! Let tell you again, all you reader guys in blogland, you owe it to yourselves to get these books!!


Joanna said...

Alison is definitely an honorary guy! Great interview!!

Jacqueline Jules said...

These books sound perfect for horse lovers, history buffs, and anyone who enjoys adventure. Thanks for the opportunity to hear about some great books and learn more about Alison Hart.

Carl said...

Yes, Alison have EARNED her Honorary Guyhood. She's a remarkable writer and very nice person.