New York Times bestselling author Megan Shepherd grew up in her family’s independent bookstore in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She is the author of the young adult series The Madman's Daughter and The Cage, as well as books for middle grade readers. She now lives and writes on a 125-year-old farm outside Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband, two cats, and an especially scruffy dog.
About Megan Shepherd
Where did you get the idea for The Secret Horses of Briar Hill?
The thing about young adult books are, they’re long! And the thing about trilogies is, they’re VERY long! So after years spent working on each of my YA projects, I was itching to write a shorter story. Also, my young adult books remind me of my own teenage years, which were filled with angst and big dreams and curiosity about the world, while my middle grade books remind me more of my younger years, which were more sweeter and felt magical. I love exploring these different sides of my own past.
What was your own childhood like?
Why did you go from writing young adult fiction to middle grade fiction?
Memories of my childhood are filled with books. My parents ran an independent bookstore in the Blue Ridge Mountains for 40 years, and as a girl I would hide behind shelves and get lost in magical literary worlds. As a child, I was often frustrated by the mundane, regular world. I wanted adventure, magic, winged horses! I was also a very determined and independent child. In fact, when I was eight, I wanted a horse very badly, but my parents wouldn’t let me have one. (In hindsight, this makes sense, as we lived right in town!) But I decided that I’d just get one myself, and when we took a trip to Ocracoke Island, where they have wild ponies, I brought my lasso and cowgirl boots and fully intended to catch one and bring it back in our minivan.
I was inspired by many classic children’s books I loved as a young reader: The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, The Chronicles of Narnia. But the original inspiration was simply a long car ride with a broken radio. I was alone, driving in silence through rural countryside dotted with horse pastures, thinking about how special the relationship is between horses and girls. The story of Emmaline and Foxfire emerged naturally as my mind wandered, and by the time I arrived at my destination, I couldn’t wait to start writing their story.
Who was your favorite character to write about in The Secret Horses of Briar Hill?
While I love Emmaline, the main character, and Foxfire, the magical winged horse, I think I enjoyed writing Thomas the most. Thomas is the hospital’s groundskeeper. At twenty years old, he is the only adult male to work on the estate. He lives in a gardener’s cottage with his dog, Bog, and doesn’t interact often with the children or nuns, but plays a huge role in the book regardless. He is disabled and unable to fight in the war like most men his age. This hits very hard for him, as his father is a famous military hero. In his own way, I think he finds as much magic in this story as Emmaline does.
How can I get in touch with you?
I love hearing from readers! Visit my author website at for all my contact information. You can also get in touch with me on Twitter at @megan_shepherd, Instagram at @meganshepherdauthor, or Facebook at Megan Shepherd, Author.