Where do authors get their inspiration for characters? Many times from real life. Jadie Jones, author of the Moonlit fantasy trilogy, shares about her inspiration. Jadie Jones wrote her first book in seventh grade, filling one hundred and four pages of a black and white Mead notebook. Back then she lived for two things: horses and R.L. Stine books. Fast forward nearly twenty years, and she still work with horses. Its amazing how much changes… and how much stays the same.
?The dream of publishing a novel has hitch-hiked with Jadie down every other path she‘s taken (and there have been many). Waitress, farm manager, road manager, bank teller, speech writer, retail, and more. But that need to bring pen to paper refused to quiet. Finally, in 2009, she sat down, pulled out a brand new notebook, and once again let the pictures in my head become words on paper.
?Confession time: Jadie Jones is a pen name created to honor two fantastic women who didn’t get the chance to live out their professional dreams. First, Jadie’s grandmother – a mother of four during post World War II America, who wanted to be a journalist so bad that even now when she talks about it, her blue eyes mist and she lifts her chin in silent speculation. And second, a dear friend’s mother who left this world entirely too soon. To Judy Dawn and Shirley Jones, Jadie Jones is for you. It’s been a pleasure getting to know her.
A Real-Life Moonlit: the inspiration behind Tanzy’s horse
by Jadie Jones
The Moonlit Trilogy is steeped in fantasy, but a big piece of the story: Tanzy’s beloved horse, “Moonlit,” was inspired
by a very real, very special horse: Zejaluna.
In book #1 (Moonlit), Tanzy’s mother sells Moonlit to a stranger for a dollar in a drunken rage on the anniversary of Tanzy’s father’s death, which was caused in part by a riding accident. Tanzy is devastated, as Moonlit is the last personal tie she has to her dad. With the help of a suspect new friend, Tanzy finds Moonlit by chance several years later on a farm in Kentucky, where the new owner is happy to sell her back to Tanzy for the same price he paid: one dollar. However, in book #2 (Windswept), anything Tanzy values is used as leverage against her by a supernatural force steering her toward a dark decision, and Moonlit is once again wrest from Tanzy’s grasp. It would seem Tanzy and Moonlit are not destined to belong to each other, which is the same conclusion I came to with my own horse, Zejaluna, or “Luna,” as we called her.
I bought Luna when I was 17 and she had just turned 4. I was ambitious, bold, and didn’t know what I didn’t know, and she was young, huge, well bred, very green, talented, athletic, and sassy. I had been riding about eight years by
this point, but surviving the first year on that feisty horse taught me more than the first eight years combined. Luna traveled with me to college at St. Andrews Presbyterian, where we earned a spot on the show team. I was majoring in Equine Business Management, and planned to one day start my own breeding/training horse farm, using Luna and her fantastic pedigree as my first broodmare.
The summer of my freshman year, I was a counselor at a summer camp. Luna, of course, came with me. About a month in, I noticed a tiny block notch above her front left knee, about the size and shape of a pencil eraser. I had a local vet look at it, who said it was a wart, and would fall off with the first frost. It didn’t seem to bother her, and it was tiny, so I thought nothing of it.
Over the next few months, it grew rapidly, beginning to crack and bleed. Flies would cover it, irritating the wound and Luna, and she began to gnaw on it, increasing the damage and the growth. Another vet examined the “wart.” It wasn’t a wart, but a sarcoid, a kind of tumor caused by a bovine virus. We began a new, aggressive topical treatment, which only served to make it worse. The trouble with some sarcoids is the more you disrupt them, the faster they grow, and this was no exception.
By the next fall, Luna was limping. The tumor was a rare type that invades any tissue type, and had gone under the
skin and was warping her leg bone. Surgery was her only option. We had no money. I was running cross country at the time, and told my coach I would need to quit so I could get a job. He didn’t let me quit. Instead, he handed me a scholarship for the exact amount of her surgery. Even now typing this, I am brought to tears.
They weren’t able to get the whole tumor. It had “fingers” that wrapped around her knee joint. Chemo would be necessary. We did six round of injectable chemo. When that failed, we tried kryonic freezing. When that failed, the vet looked at me, tears in his eyes, and said we were at the end of the road. The end of her road.
I was numb. Luna’s care had taken over my life. I’d cut back on training and showing with the riding team. Somehow working on another horse didn’t feel right when she was in her stall, bandaged and depressed. I kept thinking if I pushed hard enough, sacrificed enough, threw everything possible at this monster, it would finally slink away. It didn’t.
One of my coaches encouraged me to consider “the big picture,” and another coach questioned my loyalty to the team (and rightfully so, I had pretty much stopped showing up to anything team related at this point.) The vet said it was a matter of months before the tumor would make it impossible for her to walk, and that she was likely to have more tumors over the course of her life, however long it might be. This was back in 2003, and the early years of using the internet for commerce and networking. I used a website called equine.com to post an ad for Luna, listing her pedigree, the story of her tumor, her bleak prognosis, and this: if you can fix her, you can have her for free. And then a long checklist of what I required in a new home for my once-in-a-lifetime horse, including references, contact information for veterinarians, and video footage of the property where she would stay. In two days, I received over one hundred emails requesting to be considered.
I weeded it down to a few, but none of them felt exactly right. This is about to be TMI, but I remember this next moment so vividly that I have to describe it as it happened. It was winter, and cold in the dorms. I went to the bathroom and had on a jacket. My cell phone was in my pocket. I sat down to pee, and my phone went off. It was a number I didn’t recognize, but I answered it anyway, talking low to keep my voice from echoing. It was a man. His wife, Lisa, who owned a breeding farm in Florida, had just lost her treasured gray broodmare, and was horribly depressed. He was scanning equine.com, and came across my ad for Luna. He said he knew it sounded crazy, but would I please consider them. There was honesty and sympathy in his voice that I clung to. He hadn’t told his wife about Luna yet, because he wanted to make sure she was still available. I told him she was, and agreed to speak to his wife that night.
Lisa is a firecracker. A force of nature. A mover and a shaker. An I-will-get-it-done-come-hell-or-high-water woman. I could feel her through the speaker of my magenta flip-phone. The care of her horses came absolutely first. She knew a veterinarian who specialized in equine dermatology, and she had a plan for how to heal Luna from the inside-out. And during the Super Bowl of 2003, I called her and told her that Luna was hers.
Lisa would come to get her a week later. A couple of my good friends were there to help me say goodbye. Luna and I had a game we would play together. She would circle around me, and when I jogged in place she would trot, when I skipped she would canter, and when I spun around she would change directions. We played it one last time. What’s the harm? I thought. Then I brushed her until she shone. I braided a tiny lock of her tail and cut it out to keep. I packed up all her things. Lisa came. I told her every fact there was to know about Luna. I walked her on the trailer. Lisa shut the door. And they left. I fell to my knees and sobbed.
In April of that year, I received an email from Lisa with a picture attached. There was a hole in Luna’s leg the size of a tennis ball. The entire tumor had fallen out. Lisa said: I feel like I should give her back to you. But something inside me was still broken from not being able to fix her. I wanted to think everything we’d done to shrink the tumor had contributed, and I’ll never know. But I couldn’t stomach the idea of another tumor popping up, and going through it again. I didn’t trust myself. I had lost all my confidence. I said no, that I would honor our agreement. I didn’t tell her that I’d dropped off the team and had stopped riding all together. That I’d sold most of my gear and supplies. That I’d thrown away all the ribbons Luna and I had won together because I couldn’t bear to look at them.
I went to see Luna later that year. She was pregnant, happy, and tumor-free. Still, leaving her again ripped me apart. I felt like I couldn’t breathe until we crossed the state line back into Georgia. Over the next year I would see her twice more, once to meet her baby, and again when Luna competed at the Cosequin Championship horse show in Conyers, Georgia. Lisa let me stand with her when they called the class placing, and she won Reserve Champion. I thought it would be the last time I saw her.
Luna continued to campaign all over the east coast, winning multi-national titles. She was named ATA broodmare horse of the year, and was the dressage at Devon winner of the Joan T. Peyton Memorial Trophy. All of Luna’s foals have gone on to share in her success, and thrive in their competitive careers. Back then, I both loved and grieved her success. That probably makes me unlikeable. But it’s the truth. I had dreamed that she and I would walk a similar path. But I finally realized her path was bigger than me. I wasn’t ready for her yet, she was capable of more than me. And no, I hadn’t been the one to save her, but I found the person who could, and finally, finally I found solace in it.
Years later, Luna went to live at another farm with a friend of Lisa’s. I stayed in touch with Lisa, and Luna’s new owner, Julianna. I had also begun riding again, and had worked in the horse world in various capacities. On an impulse, I emailed Julianna, and told her that if they were ever ready to retire Luna, I would be happy to be her forever-home. She was very kind, and kept me up to date on Luna and her babies. By then, I had had a baby of my own, and was pregnant again. I decided to look for a new horse, and found Rowan, a young, quirky, pistol-of-a-horse, off-track thoroughbred to rehabilitate and retrain.
My second daughter was born. Rowan was improving and learning every day. Then, on May 2nd of this year, I received an email from Julianna: please call me as soon as possible. I was sure Luna was dying. I dialed Julianna’s number, stepped out onto my porch, and braced myself for the worst. Julianna was in tears, and had trouble speaking as she told me what was happening. While Luna hasn’t developed any more sarcoids, her skin is still extremely sensitive, and she’s susceptible to skin conditions. Her immune system is also out of whack because of the sarcoid virus. Combine these factors with Florida’s heat, humidity, and biting flies, and Luna had a problem: large wounds that wouldn’t heal. They were causing her a lot of stress, and even though she was eating, she was dropping weight. Julianna had tried everything, but the horse she loved wasn’t getting better, and she needed out of Florida. She made the selfless, gut-wrenching decision to find someone who could help. So she called me, and said it was time for Luna to go home.
I was in shock. Luna was now 19, and I hadn’t seen her in 12 years. I had regained faith in myself in all horsey-areas, except Luna. What if I can’t fix her? I asked Julianna at least half a dozen times. Then send her back, she said. In the weeks between this conversation and Luna’s arrival, I researched Luna’s condition and the various treatments. I bought ten different types of medicines, gauze, and wraps. My husband specializes in wound care, which is a huge bonus.
In June, Luna stepped off the trailer and onto the farm where I teach. Her legs wobbled from the long trip. Her eyes were dull and distant with stress. Her legs were wrapped to protect the wounds. The wound on her belly was coated in salve. She looked through me. She didn’t know who I was, not that I expected her to. I could still barely believe I was looking at her, much less that I was holding her ownership papers in my hand.
The next day, I groomed every inch of her, remembering where she liked to be scratched and where she hated it, talking quietly to her all the while. Her ears began to swivel back and forth in rhythm to my voice. Afterwards, I turned her loose in the riding ring so she could stretch. She started to circle around me, trotting, and then spinning in to look at me. Her ears pricked. Her black eyes brightened. And then I realized what she was doing: she was trying to play a game with me. Our game. She remembered.
It took about two months for the wounds to heal. She gained weight and strength. It was my turn to send pictures of progress, and we all celebrated together. And then, one day, I put a saddle on her. I got on. And I found my home. We ride a couple times a week now, and she is teaching my four year old the basics. My tiny daughter leads around my giant horse, and it’s a sight that makes my heart squeeze every time, because it’s something I never thought I’d see.
As I said, her path was in the stars, too big and far-reaching for me to guide her down by myself. She was loved and adored by many, and she inspired my path from afar, breathing life, depth, and influence into Moonlit, Tanzy’s treasured horse. I won’t tell you how Tanzy and Moonlit end up by the final page of book #3 (Wildwood,) but I will say I had decided their conclusion before learning Luna was coming home to me, but it wasn’t how I originally thought it would go. Maybe the stars had a hand in that, too.
One thing is for sure: Luna is the horse of a life-time, and not just mine.