by J.R. Gulledge
Diane Lee Wilson Autobiography
I was one horse-crazy kid!
Not only did I read every single horse book
I could find (Marguerite Henry and Walter
Farley being my two favorite authors), I obsessively
collected horse figurines on family outings
and even made costumes for them. They were
my "show and tell" presentation
all the way into middle school because I could
tie the costumes or breeds into history projects.
(A stallion outfitted in aluminum foil became
a knight's charger; a paint draped in fringed
suede exemplified the mount of an American
I tacked horse hair to my bulletin board,
drew horses in the margins of all my papers,
and on those rare occasions when I actually
got to touch a horse, would preserve that
wonderful aroma by refusing to wash my hands
the rest of the day.
Of course all I wanted was a horse, and I
hoped and prayed each December 25 that this
would be the year I would find a halter or
saddle pad under the tree with a note telling
me where to find my new love. My dreams skyrocketed
one Christmas morning when my younger brothers
came racing into my room to tell me there
was something ALIVE under the tree and it
was for me! I raced downstairs and found
guinea pig. Sigh. He was very cute and I named
him Bugaboo and he became the sire of many
baby guinea pigs who took up residence in
my bedroom. But he wasn't a horse. Back to
Now, if you're reading this for a school assignment-a
"report on the author" sort of thing-you
probably want me to get to the particulars,
so here they are:
I was born in Champaign, Illinois in 1957 but
was raised in Rock Island, Illinois. I have
two younger brothers. My father was a veterinarian
(small animals, only; no horses-another sigh)
but I'm sure I inherited my love of animals
and the outdoors from him. My mother always
encouraged us to read, and books were the preferred
gift for birthdays and holidays.
Upon graduating from high school I attended
the University of Iowa where I earned degrees
in Fine Arts and English. At the time I wanted
to be an illustrator. Every summer during college,
though, I worked in Texas at a stable that specialized
in training and showing horses. I actually lived
in the barn in a converted stall and fell asleep
each night listening to the horses move about.
At times I was put on "night watch"
for a pregnant mare, meaning I had to get up
every hour throughout the night and check on
her, and that allowed me on more than one occasion
to witness a foal being born. Such a privilege!
Although I wanted to be an illustrator, I ended
up getting a job as a writer for Hallmark Cards
in Kansas City and later, for an advertising
agency there. I discovered how much I loved
crafting words, and I remember the art director
saying, "I'll bet you have a book in you."
At the time that seemed utterly impossible.
How did people go about writing entire books??
Fast forward: I married and moved to San Diego,
California in 1986. I continued working as a
copywriter but then, when I had my daughter,
decided to stay home and raise her. Yet I needed
to keep writing. So, when I wasn't changing
diapers or playing peek-a-boo, I wrote a few
magazine articles and sold them; of course they
were about horses. Then I tried short stories,
and happily sold one to a children's magazine.
Hmmm. Could I tackle a novel?
I decided to try and in about a year and a half
completed the book that was eventually named
I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade. I was fortunate
to find a wonderful agent (thank you, Patty!)
who helped me get it published.
I continue to live in the San Diego area and
continue to write novels. So far these novels
have all been historical fiction because I enjoy
researching how horses and history intertwine.
With my figurines packed away, I now collect
non-fictional books on horses; these are great
In response to the "What is your favorite
list of questions: I like sooty colors like
blacks and grays; I prefer cats to dogs (though
horses are, of course, my favorite animal);
Scotland is magical; anything made of dark chocolate
sends my taste buds into a frenzy; and one of
my favorite authors is Anne Tyler.
If you haven't found the answers to your questions
here, you can try the following links:
But perhaps you're still wondering-did she
ever get that horse? Yes! When I was thirteen
my parents bought me a young gelding (I even
took him to college with me) and I've not
been without a horse since. Currently I have
a retired Arabian show horse (a mare) whose
registered name is Smoldering but whose nickname
is Sammi. She and I have had many adventures
together on the trails and at shows. She is
smart and talented, curious and brave, and
I trust her completely. She is bossy among
other horses but very respectful of people
and extremely gentle with children. Her personality
and idiosyncrasies have found their way into
each of my novels.
Thanks for looking me up. And happy reading.