Chatting A Bit

Chatting A Bit with Jane Badger

Being a freelance writer, editor, proof reader and publisher, Jane Badger’s passion for equestrian books started early in life.

With her recent book Heroines on Horseback (2019), writing the world’s largest website on equine literature and starting her own publishing company bringing pony classics back into print, Jane is one very busy lady! Sam Hobden from Haynet recently caught up with Jane to find out more about this lovely equestrian writer:

What were your childhood ambitions – was it to always work in the writing industry and be an author?

My childhood ambitions were a) to be a vet (gave this up when I realised I really didn’t like the sight of blood, though I have toughened up since) and  b) to be a showjumper, which died a death as my parents were absolutely not keen, and not having a pony did mean that ambition was a tad tricky to achieve.

What would be your best advice to a school leaver who is thinking of making writing or publishing their career? 

Be prepared to learn everything you can, and persevere. There’s no shame in doing other things to keep body and soul together while you’re working on achieving your ambition. 

People don’t always get into either writing or publishing via conventional means these days. Not everyone can be an intern. I built up my profile first through blogging, my website and social media, and then took a sideways step into publishing. 

I’m an advanced professional member of the Chartered Institute of Editors and Proofreaders, and that’s a help. Lots of publishers and authors work directly with freelancers these days.

Tell us all about Jane Badger Books.

Jane Badger Books is dedicated to bringing back classic pony fiction. While I was a bookseller, I was very aware that there were a lot of books out there that people remembered from their childhoods, or had never read and really wanted to. These books were either impossible to find, or really expensive when you did. The whole idea of Jane Badger Books is to make those books accessible to people, and to introduce people to classic pony fiction they may not have heard of.

Six Ponies, by Josephine Pullein-Thompson, for example, has instruction in it that’s just as relevant today, but it’s welded into the story so well, you don’t realise you’re learning. When I was researching my book on the pony book, Heroines on Horseback, one of my interviewees told me that she’d taken what she’d learned in Six Ponies into the whole of her equestrian life as an instructor.  Six Ponies also has gorgeous illustrations by Anne Bullen. I have done paperback editions of some of the books, which have all the original illustrations – the modern paperbacks often had both text and illustrations cut so it’s really satisfying to be able to get the books out as the authors intended.

What have been the triumphs and challenges of running your own business, particularly selling books which you have in the past?

Selling books: I did love the book hunting and buying element, though that was always laced with worry because you’re never quite sure who you’re going to meet. I once arranged to meet someone in a supermarket car park to buy books, and I could see from the expression on the seller’s face when we met that it was just as much a relief to her as to me when we both turned out to be harmless! I always used to make sure the family knew where I was going and when I’d be back, but I always survived.

There was one time I had a 3-hour drive to get some books and was absolutely desperate for the loo when I arrived. It turned out the house wasn’t lived in, and the water was turned off. I had to get back in the car and drive out to find a suitable field. And hedge. It was a part of the country where hedges were few.

And then there were the books that got away: it’s always very tempting to keep books yourself, but that is no way to make money, so every year I would allow myself to pick one plum from stock. One year, I’d bought the J A Allan reprint of Stubbs’ Anatomy of the Horse, and wildly overpaid for it in my huge excitement to get my paws on one. Which is not a help to your profit margins –  I was very torn. It sold. I’ve regretted it ever since.

Finding rare books was always exciting. I found two copies, with dustjackets, of Primrose Cumming’s Silver Snaffles in a junk shop while I was on holiday, and was so overcome I had to hide behind a door and do some deep breathing before I went and paid. 

As for publishing, it’s always good when the books sell, and when people enjoy them. I think the ones I’ve enjoyed doing most have been Josephine Pullein-Thompson’s Six Ponies, which was hugely cut in the Armada paperback, and it’s good to be able to get the original into people’s hands. And Patience McElwee’s books (Dark Horse, Match Pair and The Merrythoughts) – I loved these, but they were super hard to find, and it’s been great to find a wider audience for them. And it was great to get the Caroline Akrill Showing series out. I used to read Pony Magazine, in which the first story appeared, cover to cover, and I used to count the days until the next one arrived and with it the next instalment of the series.

I think one of the biggest challenges is getting the cover right. It turned out that my vision of Perdita, in the very first book I did, Dream of Fair Horses, by Patricia Leitch, was not most people’s so I changed it.

Which part of your work do you enjoy the most?

I like the actual production (in my other career, I’m a proofreader and editor).  I do also like doing covers, as it’s so different from what I normally do. This has been a learning process, it’s fair to say. And I really love seeing reviews of the books and seeing other people enjoying discovering them.

With these unprecedented times with the Covid-19 situation, working within rural business is extremely challenging. Has this been an issue with your work and if so how have you adapted?

It’s certainly been a challenge for my proofreading/editing work as all the public sector work dried up almost instantly, and a lot of self-published authors have decided (I think wisely) to sit tight and wait until life is more certain. For the books, I’m not doing new paperbacks at the moment as they need delivery, and as people can get the eBooks, there’s a viable alternative. I’ve also been slaving away getting as many books as possible into the pipeline in case I am ill. This is pretty much done: there are six Josephine Pullein-Thompson titles available on pre-order now. The idea behind this is that my daughter, who will take over the business if necessary, can get her head around the technicalities over a period of months, if necessary.

What are your future plans with Jane Badger Books?

This year I’ll be completing the release of all Josephine Pullein-Thompson’s Noel and Henry books (One Day Event and Pony Club Camp) and also her Woodbury Pony Club series. 

On a day off, where would we find you?

Probably in the garden, or with my face stuck in a book. My big ambition this year was to get back on a horse, but that’s going to have to wait!

Where do you hope to be in ten years’ time?

Alive and hopefully solvent!

Against the Clock 

Gin or Champagne:  I don’t actually drink, but I do like those herbal extract things that are a sort of substitute for gin.

Cheese or Chocolate: cheese, but a close run thing

Sunshine or Snow: Sunshine and wind

Home Counties or Far Away Shores: If I’m allowed to go elsewhere in the UK, Northumberland or Suffolk, but if not, Western Australia

Spend or Save:  Save

Book or Kindle: Both. I’m reading an awful lot of library books via Kindle at the moment.

Home Cooked or Eating Out: Both

Music or Film: Music

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