#FabulousFridayGuestBlogger, Deborah Jay: how do you write ‘what you know’, when you write fantasy?

Thanks, Marcia, for the opportunity to be featured guest blogger here on The Write Stuff this week. I’m so thrilled this wonderful blog is up and running again after all your trials and tribulations. We missed you!

‘Write what you know’ is one of those rules all authors come across. But when you’re writing a fantasy novel, how can you do that?

With book #3 in my Five Kingdoms fantasy series releasing next week, I thought I’d share a peek into how I chose to incorporate a little of what I know into my imaginary world. You might notice a bit of a theme across my covers…


One of the draws of writing fantasy is the ability (necessity) to create your own world from scratch, but it’s nevertheless important to have enough similarities with the real world for readers to have an easy frame of reference. If everything is unfamiliar, they have to work too hard at understanding what’s going on to enjoy following the plot, or find empathy with the protagonist and supporting characters.

If I’d wanted, I could have given my characters 6-legged, horned critters to ride, but as a professional horse rider (my day job, lucky me), I decided to give them regular horses. Well, slightly enhanced, almost regular horses!

This enabled me to inject some realism into the world of the Five Kingdoms, with small details of horsemanship and horse behaviour that bring the horses to life as characters in their own right. Here’s a snippet featuring one of my favourites:

* * * * * * *

At this time of day, only one horse stood inside. Fleetfoot, Rustam’s bright bay Shivan stallion, dozed on his feet in the middle of the walkway, disdaining an actual stable. None of the stable lads would dream of trying to coax him into a loose box—he’d shown them how such an attempt would end within half a day of his arrival in the barn. Fortunately, as the season was so warm, the lad in question had dried out quickly after his dunking in the water trough.

Fleetfoot acknowledged Rustam’s arrival with a shake of his neck, his long black mane swishing from side to side. Rustam patted his shoulder. “It’s good to see you resting, my friend. We’ve an important task ahead.”

He ran a hand along the stallion’s muscular crest beneath the heavy fall of mane, marvelling as always at the softness of the horse’s hair. Fleetfoot bent his neck around and blinked at Rustam, who sighed. “I’m guessing the hardest part will be persuading Risada to stay behind. Ouch!”

He leaned against the stallion’s shoulder, pushing hard until the horse lifted the hoof he’d planted on Rustam’s foot. “What was that for?”

Rustam hopped a few steps, before rubbing the top of his abused foot against the back of his other calf. He’d never held any illusions about the weight of the substantial animal even before being trodden on. “That’s going to be one almighty bruise, thank you very much. What did I say to offend you?”

Fleetfoot arched his neck, lowering his head until he matched eyelines with Rustam. His expression revealed both dismay and disapproval. Rustam shook his head. “For someone who can’t utter words, you have an amazing ability to express your opinions. You think Risada should come with us, don’t you?” Fleetfoot bobbed his head down, once, twice.

* * * * * * *

Each of my books features several named horses who have their parts to play in developing the characters of their riders, instead of being just a means of conveyance. I find human/horse (or indeed, any animal) relationships bring out greater personality depths, and in the case of horses are often a means of strengthening and deepening certain traits, such as patience, empathy and humility. Exactly what they do for those of us fortunate enough to work with them in real life.

DO you follow the ‘write what you know’ rule? Please tell me in the comments: it’s always fascinating to hear other writers’ thoughts on the ‘rules’.

If you haven’t read any of my Five Kingdoms novels yet, #1, THE PRINCE’S MAN goes on sale next Friday at $0.99 in all stores, the same day as #3, THE PRINCE’S PROTEGE releases with an introductory price of $2.99

Mar 19 sale

Each book has a stand alone story arc, but they have ongoing threads leading towards a final showdown in book #4.

If you HAVE read books 1 & 2, this is what #3 looks like, and is available now on Amazon pre-order,

launch promo

thumb nailDeborah Jay writes fantasy and urban fantasy featuring complex, quirky characters and multi-layered plots – just what she likes to read.

Living mostly on the UK South coast, she has already invested in her ultimate retirement plan – a farmhouse in the majestic, mystery-filled Scottish Highlands where she retreats to write when she has time. Her taste for the good things in life is kept in check by the expense of keeping too many horses, and her complete inability to cook.
She has a dream day job riding, training and judging competition dressage horses and riders, and also writes books and magazine features on the subject under her professional name of Debby Lush.

Connect with Deborah elsewhere across the web



If you fancy trying out a FREE Five Kingdoms story, sign up to my mailing list HERE – you can always unsubscribe if it’s not to your taste.

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Other books by Deborah Jay

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32 thoughts on “#FabulousFridayGuestBlogger, Deborah Jay: how do you write ‘what you know’, when you write fantasy?

  1. Good Morning, Debby, and welcome to The Write Stuff. SO happy to have you as our #FabulousFridayGuestBlogger today! And what a wonderful post you’ve given us! I can’t imagine being able to write fantasy the way you do. What a gift you have! And I’m eager for the publication of your third book in this series. I’ve loved Books 1 and 2, and can’t wait for more.

    I agree 100% about the use of beloved animals in our books, and your horses add a very special element to this series, Fleetfoot, in particular! Lovely excerpt, and I’m definitely counting the days until The Prince’s Protege is in my hot little hands!

    Thanks again for being our guest today, and MUCH continued success to you with this wonderful series! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Marcia, I always love visiting your blog – I just got a notification to say I’ve posted 50 times to The Write Stuff! I can’t believe its that many!
      I also can’t imagine writing a novel without animals involved, they are so much a part of my life. While I don’t have horses in my Caledonian Sprite novels, there’s no shortage of other critters ❤
      Counting down the days until Friday, and waiting to hear what everybody thinks of the latest entry in the Five Kingdoms series 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow, 50 times, eh? Lucky US!!! 😀 Can’t wait for Friday, myownself! 😉 Of course, I’m having a family birthday bash here that weekend, so I’ll have to be patient until everyone’s gone home, but I’ll be reading this one ASAP! 😀 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

        • What an interesting post and excerpt – having read the first two, I’m really looking forward to the Prince’s
          Protege. As a life long animal lover, especially horses, I also have animals in my novels, usually horses but sometimes an ‘otherwordly’ critter! What I love about your books, apart from the stunning covers and the great charactersand plots, is that the horses themselves are characters in their own right, but still act like living, breathing horses, with all their equine characteristics, and are not ‘humanised’ even though they are, as you say ‘slightly enhanced’.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thank you!
            One of my bugbears in my daily work is dealing with horse owners who insist on anthropomorphising their horses, to the detriment of their understanding of why their horses behave as they do. Horses-and other animals- have their own psychologies, formed on the basis of their fundamental natures, and I always try to keep that clear, both when instructing, and in my writing, even when my horses are slightly enhanced,

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, I could sob. I’m on vacation at the beach and logged on for a quick email check. I typed a very long reply to the post and then lost the whole thing before I could hit send, *sobbing*

    I’ll shorten things up and say that I’m fascinated that you get to work with horses, I have used what I know in some of my works to a certain degree, and I already have books 1 and 2 of your series on my Kindle and will be adding book 3. Congratulations, Debby!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh I know how that is! One or two of my friends have self-hosted WP sites that are often quirky about accepting my comments – there’s nothing more frustrating than writing a well-considered, long comment, only to have it vanish into the ether when you press ‘post’ 😦
      Thanks anyway, and especially for having a second go, even if truncated – I am so lucky to be able to make a living out of the two things I love to do: riding horses and writing novels.
      Have a great vacation, Mae, and I hope you enjoy book 3.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Fabulous post Deb. How lucky you are to tie in your love for horses into your stories. Me, you know me, I am definitely a ‘write what you know’ girl, I observe people all the time which feeds me with stories. – Write not just what we know, but from things we experience in a day ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much for sharing this, Sally! For some odd reason, Friday was an extra slow day for my blogs, FB pages, and everywhere else, so I’m glad to see traffic picking up a bit. And super glad you shared this one on your blog! 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 2 people

        • Thanks for that info, Sally. I feel somewhat better knowing it wasn’t just me, but on the other hand, I hate that things were messed up that badly. Even my email was a fraction of the normal amount I receive. And, a week or so earlier, over 350 followers were dropped from my total, overnight. It always fluctuates slightly, but no way did that many people jump up from the dinner table, announcing “I must go unsubscribe from The Write Stuff immediately!” 😀 During the lull on Friday, they reappeared in the total. *scratching head, here* Weird stuff going on, for sure.

          Liked by 2 people

  4. Pingback: #Excerpt time – THE PRINCE’S PROTEGE RELEASES ON FRIDAY! | deborahjay

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