Author finds freedom in book launch

🕔Sep 22, 2005

The life of a writer can be a long, arduous journey filled with hundreds of rejection letters and disappointing attempts to find a publisher. A book written is not necessarily a book published. But for Angela Dorsey, a one-time Terrace resident, writing for a living has become a reality.

Dorsey published her first novel in Canada this past fall. A Horse Called Freedom made its debut in September through the Scholastic school book club catalogues. It was then released in October in stores across the country.

A juvenile fiction novel, A Horse Called Freedom tells the story of Jani, a young girl moving from the big city to the small town of Red River where her parents have recently bought a small-town newspaper. The only thing she looks forward to about the move is being able to keep her horse in her very own barn. Soon after she arrives to Red River, Jani discovers there is a phantom horse trapped in the barn at her new home. She and a newfound friend spend the summer unravelling the mystery of the ghost called Freedom and set out to free it. Along the journey the girls encounter a creepy old recluse who is responsible for trapping Freedom in the first place. He gives them the clues they need to liberate the spooky horse.

While the story is packed with action, adventure and the supernatural, at its heart it is really about the power of forgiveness. Without being preachy or talking down to its readers, the story carries the message that love can overcome hate. A certain sense of morality is central to Dorsey’s style of writing.

“I think it carries a lot of hope, I think it has a good message. A lot of times books don’t deal with strong moral issues,” she says.

Though it’s the first time one of her novels has been published in Canada, it’s not the first time children are reading her books. It took more than eight years and 80 rejections on the way to getting her story published, but finally a European publishing house called Stabenfeldt picked the book up. In 2002, it was published in Norway, Sweden, Germany, Finland and Holland. The success of that book lead to a request by the publisher for more books of the same genre.

In 2003 Stabenfeldt published Hunted. Much like Freedom, this novel is action-packed, features a horse and has a spooky element of the supernatural. Stabenfeldt then asked her to write a series of books based on an angel that goes around helping horses. She’s now writing her fifth installment in that series.

While Dorsey is enjoying tremendous success in Europe, she is thrilled to have her first book, the one closest to her heart, finally available in Canada.

“I’m very excited. This makes it more real,” she says. “It’s different from being published over in Europe—mainly because the book’s in English now.”

And for readers in the northwest, the book reads as though it could be set in our own backyard. For instance, Jani’s family moves to their new home on a road called Solomon Way. It’s named after a road in a subdivision near Terrace where Dorsey and her children lived from 1996-2002.

The book is packed with vivid descriptions of jack pine and cedar forests that cover the northwest landscape.

“It’s very much set in that type of country—the big rivers and big mountains,” says Dorsey. “The feel of the place, Red River, is very ‘Terrace-y.’”

The reason the story is so distinctly northwestern is that it was born in Terrace while Dorsey was living there working as a silviculture assistant. When the idea came to her, she was certain it would appeal to young people. While on a camping trip to Red Sand Lake, Dorsey started telling her children the story of Freedom.

“We were walking around Red Sand Lake and I was telling the kids the story and they seemed totally thrilled with it so I kept going with it,” she recalls. “Some stories I’ll spend some time with and I think, ‘Oh, that’s stupid,’ but this one I always believed in.”

She started sending out query letters, sample chapters and began hunting for an agent, but she kept on hearing the same answer from would-be publishers: ‘no.’

Finally, she found an agent who said she didn’t know of any North American publishers who would be interested in the book, but she did know of one in Europe who may be interested. The agent offered to represent her on a one-time-only basis. That publisher was Stabenfeldt and the agent decided to stay on to represent Dorsey full-time.

The key to persevering in an industry that can be cut-throat comes from her belief in the story; that it was well written, well told and deserved to be read.

“I just believed in it so much. I just believed it was a great story,” she says.

Dorsey also credits the support she got from the Terrace Writers’ Guild while she was writing the book. The group meets once a month and provides a place where writers can discuss ongoing projects, discuss challenges and share market information with one another. It is a place where writers set goals, and get the much-needed support they lack in what can be a lonely world of writing

“The writers’ guild is really amazing in Terrace. I knew that when I was there but I really realized it when I left,” says Dorsey, who now lives in Ucluelet on Vancouver Island. “Just having somebody to know what it’s like is great.”

Dorsey plans to join up with Terrace writer Ev Bishop to host a writers’ retreat in the northwest next summer. The duo hopes to hold the event at the North Pacific Cannery in Port Edward.

“I usually come back to Terrace every year to visit and Ev’s a lot of fun and I thought it would be good to do a retreat with her,” Dorsey says. “Even though I’ve been gone for two and a half years I still think of it as home and so when I think of doing things like that, I want to do it at home.”

A Horse Called Freedom is available at Misty River Books in Terrace, Book Masters in Kitimat, the Terrace Public Library and online at