It’s time to meet the 4th featured author of the SSS! Introducing…Julia Ember!
After a savage attack drives her from her home, sixteen-year-old Mnemba finds a place in her cousin Tumelo’s successful safari business, where she quickly excels as a guide. Surrounding herself with nature and the mystical animals inhabiting the savannah not only allows Mnemba’s tracking skills to shine, it helps her to hide from the terrible memories that haunt her.
Mnemba is employed to guide Mr. Harving and his daughter, Kara, through the wilderness as they study Unicorns. The young women are drawn to each other, despite that fact that Kara is betrothed. During their research, they discover a conspiracy by a group of poachers to capture the Unicorns and exploit their supernatural strength to build a railway. Together, they must find a way to protect the creatures Kara adores while resisting the love they know they can never indulge.
Inspiration Behind Unicorn Tracks
By Julia Ember
The inspiration for Unicorn Tracks came from two sources that are equally important to me: my love of travel (specifically within Africa) and my love of horses.
My family moved from Chicago to the UK in 1999. Living in London gave us more opportunity to travel, and my parents’ wanderlust and desire to show us the world, ensured that we made the most of those opportunities. I first travelled to Africa with my family in 2000. We visited South Africa, and the first stop on our tour was Mala Mala Safari Park. Rising before dawn each morning, we bundled into a jeep and went out in search of wildlife. The trip was truly magical for me, at eleven. Our guides tracked down a hunting pride of lions, two leopards mating, monkeys, zebra … and we were able to get close to them within the vehicle. Sometimes, we got a bit too close. On one bleary morning, our driver unknowingly positioned the jeep between a mother elephant and her calf. She chased us! Since visiting Mala Mala in 2000, I’ve been on Safari in Botswana and Tanzania, both times as a teenager. Safaris are an intoxicating experience for someone living in
Scotland where we have no dangerous wild animals to speak of, something that seems a bit out of a fantasy when I remember it.
When I started thinking of the idea for Unicorn Tracks, I knew I wanted to write a YA Fantasy novel that captured some of the same magic of the wilds of the African continent that I experienced as a young adult. I felt that the best way to convey that sense of wonder was to use fantastical beasts – to keep the audience wondering, what will they discover next? I also wanted to convey the laid-back attitudes and the genuineness of the people we met on our trips. As we bumped along in the backseats, our guides gave us little glimpses into what their lives were like, sharing memories and photos of their families.
Although I was blissfully unaware of it during our first trip to South Africa, by the time I went to Tanzania in 2007, I was a lot more aware of the disparities between the way we lived and the way they did. That disparity, and the collision of two cultures, was also something I tried to capture in the book. Mnemba and Kara come from two extremely different worlds: the fictional Nazwimbe and Echelend. Mnemba has grown up the daughter of a local chief, but has left some of the traditional ways behind, moving to her cousin’s new safari business to work as a guide. For her, the world of the safari camp is practical; she appreciates the animals she tracks, but it’s business, and it’s the world she’s used to. Kara is a tourist, experiencing a world she’s dreamed about for the first time.
My love of horses began early on and I started riding when I was seven. My mom enrolled me in a Park District 8-week riding course, thinking I’d give it up quickly like I had with ballet or soccer. I got my horse for Christmas when I was twelve – a beautiful tri-coloured cob with a devious sense of humour, a huge heart and a white marking shaped like the continent of Africa. I guess that you could say Africa (the horse’s name) is a constant reminder of my experiences. I still have him, and we’re both adjusting to our twenties together. My love of horses really does come across in the books. The more time you spend around horses, the more you realise how individual they are. They can be affectionate, understanding, genuinely hilarious, and they have good days and bad. I think that the equine characters (of which there are many in the novel) have personalities all their own.
As far as the romance elements of the book … I think like a lot of people, I’ve experienced love that was forbidden in one way or another. Deciding how to move forward in that situation is never easy!
Also, Julia was kind enough to let me participate in her cover reveal, where I was able to share an AWESOME EXCERPT from Unicorn Tracks! Click HERE to check it out!
Hadley St. Clair’s life changed the day she came home to a front door covered in slips of Originally from the Windy City, Julia Ember now resides in Sunny Scotland where she learned to enjoy both haggis and black pudding. She spends her days working as a professional Book Nerd for a large book wholesaler, and her nights writing YA Romantic Fantasy novels. She also spends an inordinate amount of time managing her growing city-based menagerie of pets with Harry Potter themed names. Presently, she is the haggard slave Sirius Black and Luna Lovegood the cats and Bellatrix Le Snake. She also owns a freakishly adorable cob pony called Africa.
A world traveller since childhood, Julia has now visited over 60 countries. Her travels inspire the fictional worlds she writes about and she populates those worlds with magic and monsters. In the coming year, she really hopes to visit Iceland and participate in a Saga Tour — viewing the stunning countryside by pony-back.
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