Mattie Richardson, a native of Sheldon, N.D., recently released her sixth novel, “The Secret of the Hemlock Forest.”
Richardson has been writing since a young age, completing the rough draft of her first novel, “Appaloosy,” when she was thirteen years old and getting it published when she was sixteen.
Since then, five others have been completed, including Dusty’s Trail, Golden Sunrise, Day and Night, Blackberry Blossom, and her most recent work. Four of her six books are the perfect blend of horses and history; they tell a story in American history, from the horse’s point of view, making them a fun and creative way for children and adults alike to learn more about history while reading a good story at the same time. Known as an author of historical fiction, The Secret of the Hemlock Forest has been a delve into a different genre.
“The Secret of the Hemlock Forest is my first attempt at a fantasy novel,” said Richardson. “I wanted to try something different; something new. Little did I know how hard that would actually be.”
The book is the first that she has ever co-written as well, with the co-writer being her husband, Dan Schmitz.
“We actually met over writing,” Richardson commented, stating that Schmitz had seen an article in the Forum about her writing and reached out to her about help with editing some of his work.
“Dan writes fantasy stuff, so he has a lot more experience than I do with that genre. I had started the book when I was in college, but came to a writer’s block that I just couldn’t get over. I had actually given up on the book, but handed it over to him, and together we made it workable.”
Richardson attended Cottey College, a liberal arts, all-women’s college in Nevada, MO, where she earned an associates degree before transferring to Valley City State University for a teaching degree. While the teaching career didn’t pan out, she was able to continue to do what she loved: writing.
After working at a heavy-machinery factory in Gwinner, N.D. for three years to pay off accrued student debt, she was able to begin work with the Ransom County Gazette in Lisbon as a writer and works there today. Besides writing, she continues to write and sell her novels and also plays music part time with the local band Raw Sugar.
“I’m just glad I get to write. There were so many nay-sayers in the beginning, and it’s kind of like being an artist; nobody thinks you can actually make it in writing,” she said. “It’s a lot of hard work for a little profit, but I’m going to keep going at it until I can hopefully write my novels and play music full-time, even if it takes me the rest of my life.”
Besides selling books online, she often does school and library visits and travels across the county to get her books in the right hands.
“I spend part of each year traveling for my books. It’s important to make personal appearances, because there are so many books out there, that people aren’t always necessarily buying the books, they’re taking a chance on the author and seeing if the books are as good as they’ve heard.”
Richardson says this fall/winter will be relatively quiet, as she’s decided to spend more time writing than traveling to catch up on the stories she wants to write. “I’m really excited about the spring time though,” she explained, “I’ll be spending five weeks on the road going to conventions, schools, and other event in Tennessee, Illinois, Texas, Missouri, and Iowa.”
Currently she is working on another historical fiction book, Blue Skies West. It will be a part of her horses in history series, which tells a specific story in history from the horse’s point of view, which makes history more fun for kids. Blue Skies West is about a horse’s experience on the Oregon Trail. “The horse series is fun, because the horse’s point of view gives a unique way to tell the story, but you also get to develop the human characters too. It’s always fun to see where the story goes,” she shared.
Richardson also has published her first Enrichment Guide to go with her books in October. The Day and Night Enrichment Guide is an accompanying study guide that goes with her book Day and Night, which is about two horses that are a part of the Civil War and end up on opposing sides during the war.
The guide has more information about the history of the book, games, crafts, and activities, equestrian segments, and more, to bring the history in the book to life. Richardson plans on making a guide for each one of her books in the Horses in History series.
She is also working on an adult novel, a historical fiction novel set in North Dakota, and more enrichment guides to go with her books. To learn more about Richardson and her writing, visit www.appaloosybooks.com