Monday Motivator with Dianne Wolfer


Dianne Wolfer is the author of 23 books, including the multi-awarded ‘Light’ series which has inspired street theatre, musical and stage adaptations and is currently being re-adapted by Theatre 180. Dianne writes across genres and especially loves historical fiction and animal stories. She combined these passions in her WW2 novel The Dog with Seven Names, winner of the 2019 Speech Pathology Award. This title was one of two books written for Dianne’s PhD research into anthropomorphism in children’s literature. The other, The Shark Caller  is a fantasy quest novel sparked by the ancient practice of calling sharks. 

In addition to The Last Light Horse, Dianne has two more books due out in 2022. One is a second Aussie STEM Star title, about future foods Skye Blackburn-Lang – Eating Bugs for the Planet (Dianne now eats cricket meal muesli for breakfast). The other title Mia, is part of Allen and Unwin’s Through my Eyes Australian Disaster series. You can find more at Dianne’s websites and


There were 136,000 Australian horses sent to fight during the First World War. Just one came home. From the high country of Victoria to the desert sand of Egypt, from the waters off Gallipoli to the battlefields of France, The Last Light Horse is the extraordinary story of Sandy, the only returning warhorse. Sandy was the favourite horse of Major General Bridges. After being hit by a sniper at Gallipoli the major general’s dying wish was for Sandy to be allowed to come home.  This is the final story in Dianne’s award-winning ‘Light series’. It joins Lighthouse Girl  (winner WA Young Readers’ Book Award, shortlisted NSW Premier’s History), CBCA Notable In the Lamplight, and WA Premier’s Award winner Light Horse Boy. A Better Readings review describes the book as, ‘Engaging, and at times heartbreaking, The Last Light Horse is a fantastic conclusion to the series and a heartfelt look at an unsung Australian hero.’


The hardest thing about writing The Last Light Horse was filling the gaps between ‘known’ historical events relating to Sandy. Wartime record keeping was detailed for humans, but not for horses! To overcome this challenge, I structured the story around the four pivotal humans in Sandy’s life; Francis O’Donnell, Major General Bridges, Captain Whitfield and Archie. I knew that before the war, Sandy carted bricks for the O’Donnell family at old Tallangatta, a town that was drowned to make the Hume Weir. I also knew that Sandy was Major General Bridges’ favourite horse and that they sailed together in late 1914 on the flagship Orvieto. But how did Sandy and the major general meet? Did the O’ Donnell family donate Sandy to the war effort, or to Major General Bridges directly? I interviewed descendants of the O’Donnell family and Tallangatta historians. Their opinions differed, so I linked their meeting to an actual wartime horse muster. I also knew that after leaving the Middle East Sandy travelled with Whitfield to the Calais Remount Centre, and that his eyesight was damaged in a gas attack. but again there were no details. For an author sketchy information is not necessarily a bad thing as it leaves plenty of room for imagination. For readers who’d like to know more, I’ve created a link ‘The Real Sandy’ on my website, sharing what is real and what is imagined. I will continue adding to this as more becomes known about this iconic horse.


The hardest thing about being an author is believing in yourself and persevering. Every author I know has received manuscript rejections. Writing is like any other job, you need to turn up every day. Editing and working to make your stories the best they can be is difficult.


When I’m stuck, I find that being outside helps, taking a long walk, swimming in the ocean, or just staring at clouds or a tree. Nature helps me put things in perspective. Once I stop obsessing about a scene or character, a solution usually presents itself. Allowing myself to write scrappy first drafts without judgement also helps. First drafts can be edited again and again until at last they begin to work. When a manuscript is accepted, it’s worth all the hard work.