Darien author blends ‘Black Beauty’ and ‘Mean Girls’ in debut children's book

Photo of TinaMarie Craven

As a self proclaimed horse girl, part-time Darien resident Carrie Seim was more than ready to write her first children’s book about a horse-crazed tween named Willa.

Seim’s new book, “Horse Girl,” follows Willa — aka Wills — as she struggles to make friends. The book will be published on March 30 by Penguin Random House.

“Horse Girl is a little bit like ‘Black Beauty’ meets ‘Mean Girls,’” Seim said. “It tells the story of a seventh grader named Willa who is completely horse crazy, but she’s struggling to make human friends. She’s searching for her forever herd.”

When Willa moves to a new town, her parents finally let her take horseback riding lessons on a real horse for the first time. As she gets to the stable, Willa encounters some mean girls who are a little bit less than welcoming.

Willa gets matched with an older rescue horse named Clyde Lee — a “gentle giant,” Seim said, who’s not really interested in jumping or anything that Wills asks him to do.

Seim’s novel offers up an amusing tale of an awkward tween with a “passion for ponies,” as she tries to find her footing with the other kids at the stable.

As a comedian and television writer, Seim said she wanted to write a funny book for girls within the horse book canon. “That was my big motivator, because there are so few funny books for girls out there, and I think humor is such an impactful and empowering tool for girls,” she said.

Before Nickelodeon recruited Seim to write for comedy variety shows, she studied and performed comedy at Groundlings Theater & School in Los Angeles. As someone who once performed on “Inside Amy Schumer,” Seim said she never expected that she would become an author of children’s books.

“I love writing for what’s called middle grade because it's such a ripe time of life,” Seim said. “There are so many strong feelings, and everything feels so important. The stakes are really high, so I love exploring that time in life.”

Growing up, Seim described herself as being “horse crazy,” reading books like “Black Beauty,” “Misty of Chincoteague,” and the “Saddle Club” series. She and her younger sister, Lindsay, created horse-jumping courses in the backyard with broomsticks and laundry baskets.

“In many ways, this book is a love letter to my younger sister, Lindsay, who was even more of an equestrian than I was,” Seim said.

The author said she shares some qualities with Wills, citing her own awkwardness. “I think Wills is a little unsinkable, and I love that about her,” Seim said. “She makes a lot of mistakes, but she doesn’t give up. That tenacity is something that I hope I also possess.”

But Seim admitted she shares more qualities with Wills’ older sister Kay, a trivia wiz and pianist.

Seim describes Wills and Kay as having a “Ramona and Beezus”-like relationship (from the Beverly Cleary books) and said that some of the sister moments in the books came directly from Seim’s own childhood — like arguing through a laundry shoot.

Seim hopes her book will help inspire kids to not give up on their passions and what makes them who they are. She said that adolescence often makes kids feel self-conscious about appearing to be too interested in something.

“It’s really just the story of a girl trying to find her place in the world and facing new challenges, both the horse kind and the human kind,” Seim said. “The biggest message in the book is not to give up on your most authentic self. If you’re feeling lost, awkward or alone, you have to trust that someday you will find a place or other people just like you.”

While “Horse Girl” is Seim’s first children’s book, she previously created the bestselling children’s audiobook “The Flying Flamingo Sisters” in 2019. She said she based her story off a flying circus her grandfather owned in the 1930s and revealed that she’s currently working on the next installment of “The Flying Flamingo Sisters.”

When asked how she manages to get all of her writing done, Seim laughed and she said she wasn’t sure, before admitting that at one point she didn’t think she would finish “Horse Girl.”

When she was writing the book, Seim said she had been juggling a few other writing projects at the same time. Then, her mother had a stroke. When her mother (who is doing well now) woke up from her coma, one of the first things she remembered was that Seim was writing a funny horse book and promptly told her doctors about it. “I was like, ‘Oh man, I guess I have to finish it now,’” Seim said.

Seim said she’s excited for her upcoming virtual event at the Darien Library on April 6, where she’ll do a reading and explain her inspiration for the book. She will also have a Q&A with attendees and the library’s event will involve making a horse bookmark at home. She added that the first 25 children who register for the event will receive a free signed and personalized copy of “Horse Girl.”

For more information about Seim and her work, visit carrieseim.com.