Unicorn Tracks by Julia Ember
What is #Wo2016?
Wo2016 originally stood for ‘Waiting on 2016’ and was started as a supportive FB group for writers publishing a book in 2016 by Suzanne Van Rooyen and Louise Gornall. The group is comprised primarily of YA and NA authors, about 70% of whom are debuts. The idea behind the group was to provide a safe space for writers to chat about their anxieties, share little successes and offer/advice and encouragement for one another as we all journey down the publishing road! The group also runs a fortnightly twitter chat on a variety of subjects.
by Julia Ember
When a naturalist hires safari-guide Mnemba to help him track unicorns, she
doesn’t expect poachers to kidnap him or to fall in love with his daughter.
Publisher: HARMONY INK PRESS
Genre: YA FANTASY ROMANCE
Release Date: 21 APRIL 2016
Age Category: 14+
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-63476-878-8
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-63476-879-5
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.
Mini Interview with Julia Ember
I think there were three main sources of inspiration: going on safaris with my family, feeling the desire to write a f/f love story, and my nearly obsessive love of horses.
I’ve been very privileged that my parents’ take the term ‘wanderlust’ to another level. Growing up, we travelled pretty constantly and exotically. We went on safari in four different countries: Botswana, South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania, and visited multiple camps in each country. The first time I went, I was 11. The entire experience blew my mind. There was something really magical about bouncing along in a safari vehicle, binoculars in hand, just waiting to see something cool. The magic never really wore off. I went to Tanzania when I was 18 and was still as deeply entranced as I was at 11 by the animals, the atmosphere of intrigue, the danger! When you live in the UK, being on safari faces you with a new level of nature. We were chased by an elephant in South Africa. It was terrifying and amazing all once.
When I started planning Unicorn Tracks, I really wanted to convey some of that magic to my readers. I felt that mythological creatures would accomplish more of that goal than using real animals, because the reader would constantly wonder what strange and wonderful monster would pop out next! (at least I hope) The landscape and much of the culture of Unicorn Tracks is based on the border regions of Kenya and Tanzania — the plains — where huge herds congregate to graze. It is a fantasy novel, though, and much of the culture is invented!
For the second point, I’m a bisexual woman and most of my most powerful loves have been other women. Yet, up until I wrote UT, all of my stories had been m/f couples. I felt that if I wrote something that was based in the romances that had been most powerful to me, as an author, the chemistry might feel more natural. I also think f/f speculative fiction is pitifully represented! This is getting better, slowly, and I am extremely excited about two other 2016 spec f/f releases: Emily Skrutskie’s THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US and Audrey Coulthurst’s OF FIRE AND STARS.
Finally, I am a lifelong horse fanatic. I still own the same chubby, loveable cob that I got when I was 12 (I’ve had him for 15 years!!). You see a lot of really ‘horsey’ Middle Grade books, but not as many in the YA genre. The horses in UT all have personalities. They’re characters in themselves. The book is definitely written with horse fanatics and serious animal lovers in mind.
2. What message do you want readers to walk away with?
Love the person (or people) who makes you feel alive and treats you like you’re the highest priority in the world — parental and cultural expectations be damned.
3. What was the world building like for this book?
It’s hard to know exactly where memory ends and fantasy begins when I think about the world building for the book. Definitely, a lot of it is based on thinking about places I’ve visited in Tanzania / Kenya. We do get to see the bustling cities of Mnemba’s world, as well as the plains. I thought that was important, because so many times Africa is represented as some kind of monolithic place that can be enraptured by an elephant walking into the dawn, when in fact ‘Africa’ encompasses places as diverse as Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, Kenya, South Africa … all places with a totally unique culture and atmosphere!
The part of the world building that I spent the longest building was researching all the creatures I wanted to populate the world with. There are some pretty obscure monsters in Unicorn Tracks!
Originally from Chicago, 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. 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.
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