Emmett Snead will release his book, Yankees in the Cornfield, this month. Snead has been farming all his life. Read on to find out why he decided to put pen to paper to turn the settings of his childhood into a work of historical fiction.Buy the book
How long have you known you wanted to write a book?
Since a very good friend of mine would request some of my farm sayings and experiences back when we were in college. He would quote some of the stories and refer to them as being from the “Book of Emmett.”
How did you fit the book writing in with the work of running a farm?
My farming operation is not as intense in the winter, from January through March. I also get bored on vacations. I always feel productive when I’m writing. Now that I’m older and not able to cut and split firewood in the winter to sell, I can still write.
You describe Yankees in the Cornfield as “historical fiction with feeling, set in a real place and time.” What about 1960s Fredericksburg makes it an apt setting for a novel?
Sometimes people categorize Fredericksburg or similar small towns as “sleepy” or “boring.” Some of those places were where I went to small colleges (Louisburg, N.C., Emory, Va.). There was always plenty to do and fun to be had at all of those places. I discovered that all of the “soft underbellies” of these places have plenty going on. You just have to know where to look, have a sense of humor, know how to have a good time and sometimes create your own party. This can always be accomplished with a little imagination.
Growing up in Fredericksburg, hunting, fishing and finding ways I could make money were all the fun I needed. No smartphone necessary.
Could the farm that Everett Smith lives on in the book exist in today’s America?
No, the 1960s and 1860s are “Gone with the Wind.” As well it should be, but there are still some good things that have lasted from that time until now, including the American farm work ethic, family values and private ownership of farm land.
The farm could not exist as a dairy farm today because of economies of scale. One hundred cows back then was a big farm. Now you need half a million cows just to break even. The industrialization of dairy farming has had a huge impact on the smaller family farm.
What would you say to readers who say they have a hard time telling where fact ends and fiction begins with this story?
I’d either say, “Thank you for the compliment, that makes me feel like I’ve done a good job writing,” OR “It’s better to believe that it’s all fiction.”