Stephenia H. McGee is the award-winning author of many stories of faith, hope, and healing set in the Deep South. When she’s not reading or sipping sweet tea on the front porch, she’s a writer, dreamer, husband spoiler, and busy mom of two rambunctious boys.
In this interview, she share some of her insights behind her latest book, The Secrets of Emberwild.
FF: Can you please provide a brief summary of your novel, The Secrets of Emberwild?
In this story, a young woman struggles against the confines of her time and is determined to train and race her prized colt. In so doing, she believes she can save her beloved family farm. When a new trainer arrives and starts asking questions, Nora realizes that the secrets holding her world together are starting to fray.
FF: Your character Nora Fenton is a talented horse trainer. Why did you choose this profession for your protagonist?
I have always loved horses and actually hold a degree in equine science. I always wanted to write a character that uses the natural horsemanship training methods I learned in college. Nora is a feisty enough heroine to handle a wild colt, so the two fit perfectly together.
FF: Nora struggles to be accepted as a legitimate trainer because of her gender. What drew you to exploring this theme?
Nora wants to be judged on her merit more than anything else. She struggles against her mother’s more traditional view that a lady should spend most of her time in the kitchen. Her true passions are horsemanship and the outdoors, and she is determined to find her place. And who doesn’t enjoy cheering on an underdog? We love to see the team of less-athletic kids pull off the big win or watch the singer no one said would ever succeed make it big. I loved the idea of giving my character a dream and the courage to chase after it because I believe it is something that we can all see in ourselves.
FF: Your novel is set in Mississippi in the early 1900s. Why did you choose this setting?
Most of my stories are set in the South where I live. I appreciate the hospitality and charm of the South, which, like many areas of the US, has a culture all its own. The time period allowed for the rise of harness racing and women’s suffrage, and the turn of the century was a great time for an independent woman.
FF: Did any of your personal experiences influence your writing of The Secrets of Emberwild?
I used a lot of my own experiences with horses in this story, including methods I used when I was a horse trainer. Nora shares a great bond with her horse, something that I had experienced as well.
FF: What do you hope readers will gain from reading your novel?
I hope readers will be inspired by Nora’s determination, strength, and faith. Many times life doesn’t work out the way we expect, but with prayer and fortitude we can keep reaching past the obstacles to achieve our dreams.
FF: Do you identify with any of your characters in particular?
I very much identify with Nora. Her passion for what she does and her determination to find a way no matter what in many ways mirrors my own passion and determination for writing. There were many times along the way that I thought I wasn’t capable enough to ever make my writing dream possible. But I’m thankful for good people around me and the steady encouragement of my heavenly Father to keep going.
FF: What do you love about writing about the Deep South?
There’s a culture down here of neighborly front porch sitting, church potlucks, and sweet iced tea. Like any other place, it isn’t perfect and we certainly have our own struggles, but I believe the people here are both friendly and resilient. That kind of spirit always makes its way into my stories.
FF: Are readers always promised a “happily ever after” in your novels?
In a way, yes. Like life, things don’t always work out the way my characters might expect. But what they usually discover is that God’s plan for them turns out to be better after all.
FF: What are you working on next?
I’m currently writing another historical romance for Revell, due to release in May of 2023. This one is also set in the early 1900s and takes place in Dawson County, Georgia.
The Secrets of Emberwild
Stephenia H. McGee
Genres: Historical Romance
Release Date: October 4, 2022
A gifted trainer in a time women are not allowed to race, Nora Fenton prefers horses to men. They’re easier to handle, they’re more reliable, and they never tell her what to do. After her father’s passing, Nora is determined to save her struggling horse farm, starting with entering her prize colt into the harness races at the 1905 Mississippi Fair. If she wins, she may have a chance at independence. But when a stranger arrives and starts asking disconcerting questions, she suspects he may have other motives than unseating her in the training job that is rightfully hers.
Silas Cavallero will do whatever it takes to solve the mystery of his father’s death—even if it means training an unwieldy colt for Nora, who wants nothing more than to see him gone. But when mysterious accidents threaten their safety and circumstances shrouded in secrets begin unlocking clues to his past, Silas will have to decide if the truth is worth risking ruining everything for the feisty woman he’s come to admire.
Buy The Secrets of Emberwild from the FF Store HERE!
Buy The Secrets of Emberwild from Amazon HERE!