While writing my first book baby, IN ROBIN’S NEST, I sat out to “show” readers main character Dean’s one-hundred-year-old horse farm, Villeneuve (French for new settlement) in Keswick, VA. A horseshoe full of luck led me to equestrian-born Shelley Payne. Over cups of coffee, Shelley educated me on all things horses, then arranged for me to visit lovely Willowbrook Farm “down the road.” One sunny Saturday, I bumped my SUV along the scenic lane, past the training paddocks to the eloquent Georgian of a main house, and then hoofed it, photographing the property.

Breathing the organic air to the sounds of the horses nickering in the barn, I knew I’d found my setting: where Dean would be born and reared; where he and Billy would work; where Mary and Leslie would train the event horses; where Robin and Lark would come to visit Dean that pivotal summer; and the only place for which my POV character Robin would leave her New York City. With the sensory experience in my rearview mirror and photographs for the bulletin board above my desk, I was prepared to create scenes that readers later told me made them feel as if they were there at Villeneuve and a part of the story. Btw, the big, handsome stud in the largest picture boards at the equestrian center near my home. I chose him for the character of Dean’s elegant Kirby.

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