Turning your passion into a career is not always easy but award-winning author Stacy Gregg is proof that it happens to those who work hard enough.
Gregg, the acclaimed author of the Pony Club book series, shared her writing journey with students at Woodford House this week as part of a national book tour to promote her latest novel, The Diamond Horse.
Woodford student Clementine Coates, 13, said it was a dream come true meeting Gregg.
"I have all of her books and I never imagined I would meet her," Clementine, a keen show jumper herself, said.
"I really enjoyed hearing about how her own life inspired her books because I didn't realise that; I thought they were just made up stories."
Gregg's visit came on the same day that Woodford House announced the launch of Woodford Equestrian, a specialised academy where boarding students can bring their horses to Hawke's Bay and hone their equine skills under the guidance of national showjumper Amy Roydhouse.
It will be the only equestrian academy in Hawke's Bay and is expected to attract intermediate and secondary school riders from across the country.
Having gone to a boarding school, and growing up with her own horses, Gregg was excited to hear about the school's initiative.
"I went to a boarding school and all I ever wanted was to bring my pony to school ... and that was where a lot of the inspiration for the Rivals series came from," Gregg said.
She said a lot of her ideas were derived from true stories, people she knew, horses she had met and events that took place in her own life as a child.
"I take things that have actually happened and exaggerate them to become interesting stories."
Gregg has written 21 books - 13 in the Secrets series and four in the Pony Club Rivals series as well novels The Princess and the Foal and Girl Who Rode the Wind.
She said her latest book The Diamond Horse was the most difficult to write.
"I dumped 40,000 words and started again with this book. It has been the hardest one for me so far," she said.
Gregg spent time in Russia researching history, horses and animals such as the Siberian tiger and borzoi, the Russian wolf-hunting dogs, which all became key characters in the book.