New Southern Novel Captures the Essence of Female Friendship, Cancer Battles, and Small-Town Charm

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Celebrated author Celeste Fletcher McHale thrilled readers with her wildly successful indie debut about the remarkable bond of friendship between three Louisiana women, and now her delectable Southern novel has been reincarnated in a revised new edition full of fresh charm, hilarity, and heart-wrenching emotion, The Secret to Hummingbird Cake (Thomas Nelson Publishing, a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, $15.99, Trade Paperback, 320 pages, February 9, 2016).

The next read for fans of novels like The Same Sweet Girls and The Last Girlsand films like Steel Magnolias, The Secret to Hummingbird Cake will captivate lovers of stories about unbreakable small-town friendships. Perfect for book clubs, this funny, flamboyant, and fearless novel offers a peek into Southern life through the lives of three genuine, loyal female friends as they endure life’s trials and tribulations.

What’s the secret? Carrigan, Ella Rae, and Laine have been friends since the day Rae beat up a boy who tried to pick on Laine in kindergarten—and Laine is still trying to keep the other two out of trouble. Having grown up in the same small town of Bon Dieu Falls, Louisiana, they’ve been through everything together, from a State Softball Championship to Carrigan’s elopement at seventeen.

But when cancer threatens to rip the trio apart, their world spins in a way they’ve never known before. How deep do the bonds of friendship go? Through it all, they may just discover the secret to the divine taste of hummingbird cake—and the secret to a friendship that never ends.

Celeste Fletcher McHale is a Louisiana born-and-bred literary firecracker who has been praised for her hilarious wit, raw emotion, and powerfully authentic characters. Beautifully-written and compelling, readers have affirmed they recognize their own friends and loved ones in these pages, have laughed and cried from beginning to end— and are eager to read more of McHale’s breakout Southern literary writing.

Recently, author Celeste Fletcher McHale sat down and answered a few of the burning questions that have been at the forefront of readers minds…

Before Thomas Nelson bought the rights to your novel, you published it independently. Did you expect it to be so successful?

Never in my wildest imagination.

What has your journey from being an indie author to a traditionally published one been like?

LONG! I had no idea when you write “the end” you are nowhere near the end! But the process has been very, very rewarding and unexpected and has filled me with gratitude.

So, what the heck is hummingbird cake? How does it play into the story?

Hummingbird Cake is a staple where I come from. It’s present at every holiday, every family gathering and every wake. And you have to be cool at a wake and act like you’re distraught (even if you aren’t) and STILL keep your eye on that cake so you can get there when they cut it! It’s a very SOUTHERN cake and it is delicious!

Were there any particularly important aspects of small-town Southern life that you especially wanted to capture? What about stereotypes you tried to avoid?

A) I hoped to convey the “oneness,” the solidarity of where I live. Sorta like, it’s okay for ME to say something about one of these people, but if an outsider does, we gonna have trouble. Some of them may be crazies, but they are MY crazies.

B) I don’t like for other regions to sometimes collectively judge us as intellectually challenged because we talk funny…according to them. Some of the finest people I’ve ever known live in trailers; we ain’t all trash. Also, I have never encountered a race issue around here. I mean, we all grew up together, black kids, white kids. If we didn’t like somebody, it was because they were a jerk, not because of their color. And I was fortunate to have parents that told me from the time I was a very small child, if you cut a black man’s hand, he’ll bleed as red as I do and that made us equals. I wish people wouldn’t always characterize the South as racially charged…maybe it is some places…but that hasn’t been my experience.

You mention on your website that “50 really is the new 30!” What inspired you (or freed you) to begin a writing career at 52?

I actually didn’t realize when I began writing that I was writing a book. It was strictly therapeutic at the time.

Where did the inspiration for The Secret to Hummingbird Cake come from?

It is based on/inspired by a true story.

What do you love about life in the South? What do you hate about it?

A) Everything. I love the laid back lifestyle, I love football on a Saturday night, the SEC rivalry (greatest conference in the nation!). I love how everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, revolves around food, I love the misty stillness of the bayou early in the morning, how deep the roots of family go and how we honor and respect our elders…Or your mama will slap the taste out of your mouth.

B) I hate for it to be a balmy, humid 105 degrees in August. You need gills.

Which character do you most identify with? Is she/he your favorite character?

Carrigan. She IS me. I appreciate her GROWTH during the course of the book…not so sure she is my favorite character…

What is the number one thing you want readers to take away from Hummingbird Cake?

The TRUE meaning of friendship. And it AIN’T what you see on any reality show.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on a novel about a woman who made just about every bad choice she could’ve made and how she survived it.

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