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Author Interview: Alicia Stephens Martin

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Alicia Stephens Martin, author of The Silver Cowgirls.

FQ: Thanks very much for the opportunity to chat today. It was such a pleasure to read this very engaging story. Before getting into the actual story, let’s talk about you. You have a well-rounded and impressive background: successful stylist, salon owner and teacher, Bachelor’s degree in creative writing AND a daughter who became a champion equestrian! Of your multi-faceted talents and accomplishments, what would be your impact statement that captures the sum of all?

STEPHENS MARTIN: Wow, this is a thought-provoking question. Let me start with an explanation. I wasn’t very focused in my twenties. Instead, I was a girl who frolicked in and out of so many dreams, a late bloomer who made some wrong choices. Suddenly, life had scooped me up and this salon owner was burdened with a scorching feeling of unfulfillment. I was thirty-six, with a love for horses. Even though it almost broke the bank, I bought a horse and spent a year on the road showing with a group of girls. (That is, when I wasn’t working sixty-hour weeks.) My heart horse, Ruby, was instrumental in changing my perspective. I realized the business didn’t go under, clients continued to make appointments, and although I was exhausted, I was like most to juggle. I had every intention to continue showing the next year, but instead I said yes to adopting a child and I never looked back. Being a mother was a game changer. Unfortunately, when my daughter was seven, I became widowed. I found myself a solo mom and indebted business owner. I had the desire that my daughter follow her life’s dreams, unlike her mother who merely touched on a festering passion for writing. That is when my real journey began. I didn’t truly believe in myself until I was in my fifties and started writing after I obtained the college degree. So here you go, finally, my impact statement: “Always say yes! Don’t look back. Follow your passion at any age. Embrace it like an out of control love you thought you had lost forever and have been given a second chance. Embark on the adventure with joy like it is your last breath.”

FQ: I chuckled when I read your line: "Her daughter became a champion equestrian, and Alicia drove the horse trailer and wrote." If ever there was a statement I could relate to, it is this one. We have two daughters who spent many years in the saddle, and while I didn’t drive the trailer, I certainly was the resident groom, carpool mom to get them to/from the barn and shows, wallet for the endless purchaser of tack and show/schooling garb and the list goes on. Do you also ride?

Author Alicia Stephens Martin

STEPHENS MARTIN: Horses were instrumental in my evolution as a woman, mother, and certainly as a writer and even a business owner, especially my heart horse who has long passed. But when I became a mom, I centered around my daughter’s equestrian adventure. My passions slipped to the back burner. When she graduated, I realized I loved to ride but was bursting to write. I decided to concentrate on one task at a time. I told myself, “Write the bestseller, and then back to the saddle.”

FQ: I thoroughly enjoyed the dynamics and interactions among the four characters: Presley, Wheezy, Gigi, and Rachel. Having read your bio, it seems there is a little of each of them in what makes Alicia Stephens Martin tick. Who do you identify with most, and why her?

STEPHENS MARTIN: While I admire Wheezy for her unshakable determination, and Presley for her calm, steadfast belief in others, they are both my dream alter ego. I clearly have been in wreckless Rachel’s in fear, missing what could have been grand opportunities. And we all have that little Gigi inside of us, caught up in a material world which leaves our inner soul incomplete.

FQ: I have been a breast cancer survivor for eight years now. When I read the moment when Presley was bald due to the cancer treatment, I had to take a few moments for myself to reflect. For me, it wasn’t so much that my hair was my identity, but while my daughter was shaving my head, I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. There is something so grounding for a woman and her ‘perfect hairstyle.’ Immediately after my head was shaved, my daughter looked at me and said: “I’m not gonna lie Mommy, you have a great head..." That was a powerful moment for me and was a turning point for me to believe I was made up of much more than a great haircut. As a stylist, what words of encouragement would you give a woman going through something like this?

STEPHENS MARTIN: Let me say, you are an inspiration! I have worked with cancer patients through the Look Good Feel Better program as both a class facilitator and an educator. There is never a patient who is not a testimony and a life motivator for me. And as much as some want to say “It’s just hair,” that is never the case. For women and men, it’s part of their identity, one in many cases that they must learn to live without. I have watched them rise up in two short one-hour classes—resurrected with an inner strength. What a powerful moment, learning to live without, realizing you are constructed of so much more than hair.

FQ: I applaud you for the character you developed in Wheezy. She is a black woman of substance, and it was refreshing to see you develop her as such not because of her skin color, but because of her tenacity and convictions to follow through and persevere. We live in a world that is far too quick to judge on many levels, and I thank you for staying true to the story and character development. Did you ever feel apprehension toward saying the ‘wrong thing’ about any of the characters when developing them and if so, what was your process to change direction?

STEPHENS MARTIN: Absolutely. For example, I have never had cancer, although I had lost my husband to the illness and worked with many patients. I never would want to offend anyone, as I truly have never walked in anyone else’s shoes but my own. My career has been dedicated to working with women and promoting both beauty and enhancing oneself, never to judge what makes another feel good. To each their own. I felt most apprehensive about Wheezy’s character. My daughter is adopted and was referred to as “the little Black girl” beyond her immediate riding circle of friends when competing. This always bothered me. She had a name and/or back number, so why the color of her skin? In fact, her heritage is Indian. How uneducated and ignorant. Yet, so was I for not speaking up, too worried my explanation would jeopardize her placing or confidence. It was this way until she won her state championship for the second year in a row, then the tide changed. The fact I never spoke up while sitting in the stands has always gnawed at my core.

FQ: Is there any correlation between the Silver Spurs Rodeo and the Silver Spur championship in your story (i.e., was this part of the foundation in building the event in your story)?

STEPHENS MARTIN: No. All imagination. The story is based on my experience at age thirty-six, I ironically won first in the nation for Pole Bending. Believe me, it was a miracle, I was scared stiff. The comradery of friends and love of horses that year have been stalled in my heart forever. This was the only year APHA (America Paint Horse Association) did not award belt buckles! I was disappointed. At that time, I wanted to wear a silver buckle as large as my waist. Although now, past sixty, I appreciate the lead glass engraved plaque in my living room. As for the Silver Spur in The Silver Cowgirls, I wanted something like the Silver Buckle Competition for the novel, but Silver Spur sounded better!

FQ: I think we all know a person in real life who is the equivalent of the character Randall Emerson (character Gigi Emerson’s husband); diabolical, self-centered, etc. He too was well-developed and I often think when a character is so deeply defined, there is someone in real life walking among us who the author uses to create the fictitious one. Is there one person you thought of when writing the story (or is he a combination of many rolled into one)?

STEPHENS MARTIN: Another profound question. I’ve had my share of diabolical human beings. And I will leave it at that.

FQ: Wyndham Glick is the whole package: horse whisperer, perfect specimen of a man, and likable. I am a true believer in humans who are capable animal communicators. Have you ever crossed paths with one during your years spent with your daughter competing? If so, what was your experience like? If not, what are your thoughts about this gift?

STEPHENS MARTIN: Yes, double yes and triple yes. I have found that the most paramount horse trainers—both men and women—are capable animal communicators. By miracle, my daughter and I had the privilege to study under two remarkable trainers, Peg and Terry Helder. This led to a chance meeting with Guy McLean who was very influential in my daughter’s equestrian life at a time when she needed it most. The gift he demonstrated to her was to follow your heart.

FQ: I was saddened when I read the reason behind Rachel carrying tremendous guilt in connection with her husband’s death. Has there ever been a time in your life when something has happened that you wish you could change, but the circumstances surrounding the matter wouldn’t permit you the opportunity to change the outcome?

STEPHENS MARTIN: When I became widowed, guilt followed me for heavy at times that I didn’t even allow myself to smile. I missed so much living because I questioned why I was still here. I thought I didn’t deserve to be happy. But life is a journey. Not until my mother’s unexpected death did I reevaluate and realize I had missed so much for decades. I finally said yes to a date. And two years ago, I married the love of my life.

FQ: In line with my previous question, what words of encouragement would you give to a friend who is suffering from a situation that he/she wasn’t at fault in creating but carries the guilt regardless.

STEPHENS MARTIN: I recently published The Silver Cowgirls Journal in hopes of helping others. My own journal became a reflection, bearing my soul which was full of unspeakable and trapped emotions. When reflecting back on those pages, I realized the pain this woman, me, was suffering from. I had to forgive, let it go, and move forward. Life will always have challenges. Healing is our triumph. Find an outlet, a safe place—whether it’s on the back of a horse, the pages of a journal, or climbing Mount Everest—and breathe new life into your soul. I believe every person deserves this!

FQ: It was such a pleasure to read The Silver Cowgirls. I curled up immediately and let the story consume me. You are a wonderful storyteller, and I have to assume you are working on your next book. If so, can you share a teaser? If not...when?

STEPHENS MARTIN: There is definitely a sequel in progress, coming early 2025. But in the meantime, I am finishing my next women’s fiction, and you can guess there are hairdressers and horses!

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