Carrie Seim on Writing for the New Generation of Horse Girls
Carrie Seim is the author of the acclaimed new tween novel HORSE GIRL (Penguin Random House) as well as the Audible adventure series THE FLYING FLAMINGO SISTERS. She’s previously written for Nickelodeon, The New York Times, Architectural Digest, The New York Post, and The Atlantic — and has appeared on Inside Amy Schumer, The Comedy Central Stage, and the Today show. We were lucky enough to have her answer a few questions about writing for the new generation of horse girls. Thank you, Carrie!!
What are some qualities of a "horse girl" you want to represent to young adult readers?
A true horse girl is defined by her contradictions — as all the best people are. She is fierce yet tender, empowered but empathetic, an unapologetic outsider who still longs for her “forever herd” (as my book’s heroine Willa dubs this quest).
But here’s the very best part of being a horse girl: You get to embrace your galloping inner weirdo! In my book, the other kids may mock Willa’s handmade “It’s a beautiful day in the neighhhhhborhood” T-shirt, but she wears it with pride. A horse girl wears what she likes, fails big, loves bigger, laughs with abandon, whinnies loudly when the mood strikes — then gets back in the saddle and does it all over again. (And by the way, she thinks anyone who doesn’t love horses is a weirdo.)
Do you think that anyone can be a horse girl?
Abso-freaking-lutely! Being a horse girl has nothing to do with your age or your gender — you need never have ridden or even met a real horse to qualify. You simply must love these beautiful creatures — whether real or imagined — and all they embody. And OK, maybe use Mane ‘n Tail as your go-to shampoo.
How did the idea for HORSE GIRL form?
The book is a story about friendship and sisters and horses — and all of the perils and unbridled joy that come with each. Ultimately, it’s a love letter to my sister, [writer and actor] Lindsay Seim. We were both completely horse crazy growing up. We read all the horse book classics: Misty of Chincoteague, King of the Wind, Black Beauty, Black Stallion. Lindsay was also obsessed with the Saddle Club and Thoroughbred book series, not to mention her magnificent Breyer collection. We begged our parents to let us go to horse camp for years. They finally relented and signed us up for a rinky-dink YMCA camp in rural Nebraska that promised one hour of horse riding a day. Obviously, it was the best hour of our lives.
Unfortunately, that hour is also when I discovered I was severely allergic to horses — and this was the pre-Claritin days. So my sister got to keep taking riding lessons at a stable in Omaha, while I was banished to piano lessons. But I still loved horses, so I’d go to my sister’s lessons and horse shows every week and watch from the stands. I was in awe of her, and her mystical connection with these beautiful beings.
I wanted to write a book recapturing that experience — and that electric time between childhood and adulthood when everything feels possible and impossible all at once.
Why is this book important for today's young adult reader?
First of all, it’s a funny book for girls — and horse lovers of all ages! — which I’ve discovered is kind of a rare thing. Humor is such an important and powerful tool, especially for young women, so I’m proud to have written a story that isn’t afraid to laugh at itself.
Second, HORSE GIRL delves into issues of diversity and bluntly addresses the financial hurdles that can make it difficult — if not impossible — for many young people to have access to a real horse. I thought it was extremely important to call out those realities and make them a focal point of the book.
Finally, horses offer this tactile “IRL” comfort that’s been so sadly lacking in our social-media-obsessed, socially distanced world … especially over the last year and a half. We’re all eager to let our inner horse girls ride free!
Why do you think horses remain a through-line between generations and cultures?
Horses are majestic creatures that symbolize the pure-hearted, tender comforts of childhood — but also the power and freedoms of adulthood. When you fall in love with horses, you get to gallop back and forth between both worlds. How magical is that??
If you think back on the most beloved horse tales, they usually involve a young person who’s somehow able to save or tame or heal a horse — but she does it using gentle savvy and a giant heart rather than cruelty or brute strength. What a powerful lesson in leadership. Horses teach us that we don’t necessarily have to be the biggest or the toughest to succeed — we can be the smartest or the cleverest or the most empathetic. I think that’s why horses and horse stories endure — and why they often act as a heartbeat connecting generations and cultures.
Where can we catch you celebrating HORSE GIRL in the wild?
I’ll be hosting a seminar as part of BreyerFest this July! For the unacquainted, BreyerFest is basically the Comic-Con of model horses and I’m beyond giddy to get to be a part of it. I’ll also be speaking on a tween author panel at the awesome Mississippi Book Festival on August 21. And you can find tons more event updates on my website, HorseGirlBook.com.
Thank you so much to my friends at Calling All Horse Girls for this incredible opportunity — and for doing this hard, magical work of uniting and delighting the horse girls in the world. We remain grateful!!