Terri Sprenger Farley, who wrote her first novel at age 8, was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame this month. As Terri Farley, she is the author of Avon’s 24-volume Phantom Stallion young adult series of books, which describe events in the lives of Samantha “Sam” Forster” and a wild stallion named Phantom. In addition, she has written innumerable magazine articles and a number of romances under the name Tess Farraday. Her website is at www.TerriFarley.com.
Why do you write?
Because I can’t not write. Because I’ve been writing since I was 8 years old, and it’s better than a lot of addictions. I just have never tried not to, so I’ve just always written.
Why do you write the kind of things you write?
I’ve always liked wild horses, and I’ve always liked horses. I fell in love with Nevada when I was on a 10-day cattle drive across the Black Rock Desert, Soldier Meadows to Ravendale, California. You know, I’m a fourth generation Californian, but when I got out there on the range and how it smelled, the sage smelled after the rain—for 10 days I didn’t do anything but ride a horse and be out in the elements. And for the first time, in Nevada, I saw wildflowers that were about as big as my little fingernail, and I’d always thought that was just barren land out there. And so, you know, I fell in love with that, and I had to start writing about it, and then I got my idea for the Phantom Stallion series out there, too. One day we were following the herd very early in the morning, and it’d been really rainy the night before. It almost washed us out of our tent. There was steam rising up off the desert, and I looked down this little slot canyon, and I thought I saw a white horse. Just as I saw that white horse, cows broke from the herd and my cow pony, Ace, who is a lot better cow pony than I am a cowgirl, took off after it, and when we went back, there was nothing there. So I kind of got that [Phantom Stallion] idea, and I kept ideas in recipe boxes for about two or three years. I mean, I had five recipe boxes full of ideas for the Phantom Stallion book, and when I finally sent it in, and it was accepted, they asked me to do a series instead of a single title book. And I was ready to do it because I had all those ideas stockpiled.
Most little girls have a thing about horses, just like boys and dinosaurs. You turned it into a way of making a living.
I didn’t get over it. I wasn’t one of those kids that got over loving horses. I’ve always cared about them … and the older I got, the more the spirit of the wild horse and what it does for kids really touched me.
What lies ahead for you?
I’m still working on some books about the wild horses, not in the [Phantom Stallion] series. I want to continue to write about the wild horses because I think we’re in very serious danger of having them disappear. I’ve spent the last year and a half on the range and in courtrooms, and things are not good out there. … The herds are down to, [in] a lot of areas, non-viable numbers, genetically not viable numbers. If a disease comes through there …
Is there a non-fiction book on wild horses in you?
There is. There’s an awfully good one out there right now by Deanne Stillman called Mustang. But I would like to do that. I think probably I would reach more people doing fiction about them. However, I also want to write a nonfiction book for kids, and I’ve been working with a photographer who’s interested in doing that. But right now the production costs are so high that doing colored photographs for a children’s book is, they claim, prohibitive. But we’ll see. I’m not going to back off that one. I would like to do a nonfiction book. … I’m also writing a book, a suspense novel that takes place in what is now the St. Mary’s arts center in Virginia City, the old hospital, and it’s based very loosely on the legend of the waterbabies in Pyramid Lake. I’m transplanting things.