GUEST POST & INTERVIEW: Author Sarah MacTavish

by | Jun 22, 2018 | writing

Firebrand Book Club!

by Sarah MacTavish

Summer is in full swing! For a Texan like me, that means spending my days hiding from the heat indoors, and my evenings in the pool after the sun goes down (I burn like crazy). But I’m also a librarian, so it also means Summer Reading–busy days hosting fun (indoor) events for the community, helping swarms of kids and teens find books to read, handing out prizes…

Which inspired me this year to do something fun for my book, Firebrand. I’m currently hard at work editing the sequel, which should be out before the end of the year. So to get ready it’s release, I decided to host an online Summer Book Club during the month of July, with weekly live chats and giveaways as we read (or reread) Firebrand together.

Here’s a little more about the novel:

Firebrand is the first of a 4-part series about two abolitionist teenagers, Saoirse and Westleigh, as they survive one of the darkest chapters of American history, the Civil War. In the first book they find themselves struggling through the summer of 1860, trying to fight against the evils of slavery while also keeping their families safe, but they quickly realize they might not be able to do both. The story is told in two alternating perspectives: Saoirse Callahan, an Irish girl living in north Texas, and Westleigh Kavanagh, the son of a Pennsylvania sheriff.

All you have to do to participate in the book club is visit my website ( and sign up for my monthly newsletter, where you’ll get exclusive downloads, updates on upcoming novels, and be eligible for prizes in my drawings!

Then join me in July online every Sunday afternoon as we talk about the chapters for the week.

In preparation for this, I’m also releasing three short prologues each week that lead up to the events of Firebrand. You can find the first two for free on my website now (

That’s about it! You can find more details on my website. I hope you join me!

Thank you, Sarah! Both for the informative post and for being on the blog today. You know I love Historicals and I love how history inspires authors. Can you share the more historically significant events behind your story?

There was an event in Texas history called the Fires of 1860, or the Texas Troubles, that is the background for Saoirse’s part of the story. There was a series of mysterious fires that burned across most of the counties around modern day Dallas and Fort Worth that sparked rumors of an abolitionist-led slave uprising.

Today, historians think the fires were the result of a combination of volatile matches, Texas summer heat, and a drought. But at the time (just months after John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry), most white southerners feared an insurrection, so North Texans created vigilante committees to interrogate (or worse) suspected abolitionists.

By the presidential election in November, over 100 people were killed, others run out of town, but there was never any actual evidence of a plot found. So Saoirse’s part of the story centers around trying to uncover the truth of what’s really going on.

Westleigh, on the other hand, is up against the Fugitive Slave Law, which required lawmen even in free states to aid in the capture of people who’ve escaped slavery, or face fine and/or imprisonment. When Westleigh finds out the man staying in their house is actually on the run, he has to keep it a secret from his father, the sheriff, and soon finds out he’s in way over his head.

Wow! So intriguing! What was the specific inspiration for Firebrand?

My mother. When I was young she gave me the idea of writing about an abolitionist boy from the South that runs away to fight for the Union Army in the Civil War. It was immediately interesting to me–a character that goes against the way he was raised to fight for what is right. That idea grew to include a girl from the north who disguises herself to fight as a soldier. Eventually the two characters swapped places, and I realized I wanted to start the story before the war, to give a better picture of why they both become soldiers.

Now I’m really hooked! I know we authors are always looking to the next thing…that imagination is always going… Do you have current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

Yes! As I said, I’m working on the sequel to Firebrand right now, Paladin. This will pick up at the beginning of the Civil War, when Saoirse, Westleigh, and their friends enlist in the Union Army. You can check out the book cover and description here! (


In the summer of 1860, when slavery ruled the heart of America, two young abolitionists discover how dangerous it can be to believe in freedom for all.

Saoirse Callahan’s family is broken. Hunger forced them out of Ireland and they still struggle to survive in their new home, where scorching Texas droughts threaten their small farm. Then, on one blazing Sunday afternoon, a series of mysterious fires devastates the region. Whispered rumors of a slave rebellion soon flame into a statewide panic. Vigilantes scour the countryside for arsonists, targeting foreigners and slaves in a bloodthirsty witch-hunt. Saoirse is determined to find out how the fires really started, but the more questions she asks, the more she puts her family and friends in danger. And the truth may be more than she can handle.

Meanwhile, safe in Pennsylvania, Westleigh Kavanagh can call himself an abolitionist with little fear. But when he realizes his father’s new boarder is actually a runaway slave, he must keep the wanted man’s identity a secret. Because Westleigh’s father is the sheriff, and bound by law to help capture fugitives, whether he believes in slavery or not. Westleigh wants to protect his father from the truth, but the longer he lies, the greater chance they will all be caught. Then Westleigh makes his own discovery—an old forbidden journal that holds secrets of his father’s past. Secrets that lead to the Callahans. Secrets that, if unraveled, could destroy both families.

Enjoy an Excerpt

My cousin sank into the armchair and wilted, limbs sprawled. “There were fires in Denton yesterday afternoon,” he said hoarsely. “Dallas, too. Pilot Point. Corsicana…”

“All on the same day? But–”

“They figured ours started at the general store. Sam thinks it was those new matches everybody got in.”

“Just the matches?” I sighed in relief. “That’s welcome news.”

“It would be, if that was the word being whispered ‘round town–” he stopped to cough up more smoke. Then his head started to droop.

“Well? What are they saying?” I kicked his foot. “Jack!”

He lifted his red eyes. “Arson.”

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More About the Author

Sarah MacTavish is a small-town Texan with “Yankee” roots, and a heart that belongs to Ireland. In addition to being a writer she is also a teen librarian, incurable Star Wars nerd, and proud Hufflepuff. Her first historical novel, Firebrand, was described as “a moving, expertly written, and entertaining work of Young Adult fiction” by Self-Publishing Review. Connect with her online and get the latest updates about the Firebrand series at

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Instagram: @sarahmactavish

Twitter: @sarahmactavish

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