Debbie: Jo Anne, please tell us a little about yourself.
Jo Anne: I am lifelong resident of Michigan. I currently live in Plymouth, between Ann Arbor and Detroit, on a small horse farm. I was one of those girls who always loved horses but grew up in a tiny two-bedroom tract house in the suburbs and then lived the first 16 years of my marriage in Westland. In a kind of I Love Lucy moment, I convinced my husband to move from our bustling suburb to a house in the country. At age 36 I got my first horse, a beautiful black Quarter Horse that I named Beauty, after Black Beauty. A few months later, she was followed by a sweet, docile orangey/mahogany horse I named Pumpkin. She was skinny and sickly when I first brought her home on Christmas Eve, but by the next spring, her beautiful ginger highlights were shining.
Debbie: And, of course, we want to know all about your book.
Jo Anne: The book is called Saving Baby and was just released in hardcover by St. Martin’s Press. I started out self-publishing it in paperback because no publisher thought it would sell. But the book received some excellent reviews (I wrote it with New York Times bestselling writer Larry Lindner) and in early January, I brought it to a new agent, and within three weeks it had gone to auction with the bids going up and up. In the end, St. Martin’s Press beat out Simon & Schuster. Now it’s available in all the bookstores as well as online and will soon be out in audio. Readers Digest picked it up for an adaptation this coming February so it has been a very exciting year.
The book is about my star-crossed entry into racing. I had two well-bred Thoroughbreds: one, a granddaughter of Secretariat, and the other, Baby of the book’s title. He, too, came from fine racing lineage. I had no intention to race but got pulled in by a fluke. Then I saw that racing is not kind to horses, to say the least, so I did an about-face and started a horse rescue called CANTER. It was the first rescue to take horses directly from the track to safe havens. In time, CANTER had operations at tracks in more than 10 states, and I ended up responsible for saving more than 4,000 equines – more than any other horse rescue. I was given an award for my work that needed the approval of Secretariat’s owner, Penny Chenery, so in a certain way things came full circle. It was because of Penny Chenery that I ended up having a granddaughter of Secretariat in the first place! I could have potentially made a considerable amount if I let her continue to race, but I realized by degrees that racing is not a blanket of red roses thrown over a horse, not all mint juleps and large hats. The racing industry treats “spent” horses like a bent deck of cards, treating them in the harshest ways possible, and I couldn't be part of that.
Debbie: Other books or projects on the horizon?
Jo Anne: No books right now, although I've been asked repeatedly by my readers when my next book is coming out. The ultimate honor!
Debbie: Upcoming appearances?
Jo Anne: I’ll be at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor on November 19 at 7:00 o’clock and at Barnes & Noble in Northville on November 22 at 2:00 o’clock.
Debbie: Is there anything unique about this book that readers should know?
Jo Anne: Most definitely! A portion of the proceeds of each and every book helps fund Saving Baby Equine Charity so that readers actually become directly involved in horse rescue and can go on the website under Success Stories and see the horses they have helped. They can also follow the rescue on its Facebook page if they prefer.
Debbie: How can readers stay in touch with you?
Jo Anne: I love interaction with readers because they have truly shared my life with me through my book's pages and we have also become partners in horse rescue and promoting change. Readers can stay in touch with me on Facebook at my book's page Saving Baby - How One Woman's Love for a Racehorse Led to Her Redemption https://www.facebook.com/SavingBabyBook
Debbie: Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? And/or a favorite Michigan library?
Jo Anne: It would be hard to pick a favorite library. I love every one I've been in. I personally visited many of them when my book was self-published, and they were all extremely supportive of a Michigan writer. They hosted “Meet the Author” days, advertised the events, put up posters, and kept in touch with me afterwards. One was even responsible for having me be the guest speaker at an equine event not related to the library.
I received similar enthusiastic support from Nicola’s Books, an independent store that likes to promote Michigan authors. The special people at Nicola’s have asked me back for a second “Meet the Author” evening.
Debbie: How about a favorite place in Michigan?
Jo Anne: My parents were both born in Keweenaw, known as Michigan’s Copper Country, located in the far west of the Upper Peninsula and 600 miles away from the Detroit area. As a child we vacationed there every summer. Heavily forested, with high cliffs, a historic fort, wild blueberries to pick for fresh pie, swimming in Lake Superior (brrrrrr) and lots of wildlife – even bears, oh, my! Spectacular!
Debbie: Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?
Jo Anne: Right now! Michigan autumns! The magnificence of the trees as they put on their show of colors brings people from other states for fall leaf tours. Autumn means the opening of all the apple cider mills. There’s nothing like a trail ride at this time of year to enjoy fresh cider, homemade donuts and, of course, apples for your horse.
Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?
Jo Anne: I love the compassionate people of Michigan that I have worked with my lifetime here. We have two large humane societies for animals, special wildlife rehabilitation centers, and large numbers of dog and cat rescues and horse rescues. They know our work is not over so all strive to keep improving the welfare of all beings we share this earth with.
Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?
Jo Anne: We have the full change of seasons so something for everyone. Autumn, as I mentioned, is stunning. For summer, we are surrounded by the Great Lakes with thousands of inland lakes for unlimited summer fun. Winter brings lots of snow for downhill and cross country skiers and snowmobilers or just making a giant snowman. Another great time to trail ride—no bugs!! Spring comes in with a vibrant burst of color when the yellow forsythia bloom in landscaped yards, and here in Michigan it grows wild in nearly every field.
Debbie: Last question. Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?
Jo Anne: Michigander.
Debbie: Jo Anne, we'll add you to the Michigander column. Thank you so much for joining us today!
Jo Anne's publisher has generously provided three copies of Saving Baby as a giveaway. First three to claim one in the comments section, they're yours! (Leave your name in the comments; I'll get your address by email so that the publisher can send your book.)