As any student of history knows, horses (and their cousins the Donkey and Burro) have played a key role in shaping not only the story of our country, but also the entire world. A little closer to home, here on the Central Coast, things aren’t any different. There are so many incredible stories surrounding our historical sites, including our Missions, the Presidios and the quaint downtown streets of our local towns like, Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo, Templeton and Paso Robles, where horses are central.
Historical fiction transports us back in time; it puts us right in the midst of the action. Local equine enthusiast and author, Wanda Snow Porter, has written several books where the stories revolve around horses. Through her words and stories, she allows her readers the unique opportunity to actually experience a different place and time.
How Wanda’s Own Story Shapes Her Stories
“I never planned to write, I was more into art,” Wanda expressed. “I’ve always had horses in my life, taught lessons – mainly to real beginners – and focused on safety.”
Wanda wrote out her safety rules in story form and drew some pictures to go along with them. This was picked up by another local author, Kent Gilmore, who used it in collaboration with other writers as a promotion for the Area Young Riders. “It was a real thrill to see myself alongside these other authors,” exclaimed Wanda, regarding her first published work.
Wanda grew up in an era where horses could go just about anywhere in the South County. She described her childhood spent on horseback like this, “We rode everywhere. There were no fences or traffic. We rode where we pleased – through the walnut orchards, down farm roads, to the beach and raced on Stagecoach road!”
Arroyo Grande was little old farm town back in the 1950’s with only 2000 people calling it home. Wanda grew up on a small ranch on Huasna Road, and that same ranch is used as the setting in her newest book, “Riding Babyface”.
The Dana Adobe in Nipomo is practically Wanda’s second home, as she is an experienced docent. Her audience is primarily third and fourth graders coming for California History field trips. A riding student of Wanda’s had a Burro, so Wanda made up a story, created the pictures and had a T-shirt printed. When the Dana Adobe acquired some Burros, they approached Wanda about writing a series. Thus the “Burro Series” was born.
Vaquero’s are also a big part of California History, especially here on the Central Coast. This way of life intrigued Wanda, and she was teaching the children about branding and Vaqueros, which led her to research and learn about the Vaquero way of life. “Spurs for Jose” was born of that research, and is a blend of California Rancho history, Mission history and the Gold Rush.
With her heart pulled by the Burros, Wanda is drawn to the plight of the desert Burros and wild horses so she decided to share her love with the world in written form. She made up a character and wove the burros into the story, which is the basis for her book “Remedy”. “I love character-driven books,” Wanda explained when she talked about her favorite books. “A good character will hook me every time!”
Her newest book, “Ordinary Miracles”, is set to come out in September 2016. It’s a story about family problems. Describing how she fit horses into the story, Wanda said “When I first started the story it didn’t have a horse in it. I usually know my ending and then get involved with the characters as they move me along. One character is this book is impacted by his service to our country. This was the perfect place to interject Horse Therapy!”
Wanda’s horse experience, her understanding of California history and the desire of her heart to really help people all provide a wellspring of inspiration for the books she writes. Let yourself be transported back in time with one of her Historical Fiction stories, or grab a book that will seem familiar to you as the setting takes place in our own