Monday, April 5, 2021

Fun Facts About The Wings of the West Series


By Kristy McCaffrey


The characters in THE WREN (Book 1) came to me when I was 15 years old. I saw a girl and two brothers. This grew into the characters of Molly Hart and Matt Ryan (and his brother Logan).


When I was 23, I moved across the country to attend graduate school in Pennsylvania. I drove with my mom and sister, and during a rest stop in Amarillo, Texas, I looked out over the flat, rolling plains and ‘saw’ a young Molly running among the tall grass.


Although it felt like Molly was stalking me to tell her story, I didn’t publish THE WREN until I was 37 years old. I wrote it while I had four kids under the age of 5 underfoot. Although I’d been compelled to write since I was a young girl, it took me that long to finally do something about it. It’s the first book I ever wrote (and rewrote and rewrote …) and the first I had published.


The character of Molly was named after my paternal great-grandmother—Mary Agnes “Molly” O’Rourke Kearney, who emigrated from Ireland. ‘Hart’ is a family name on my mother’s side.


While writing THE DOVE (Book 2), I traveled to Las Vegas, New Mexico, and was able to find local research books that helped immensely in the layout of the town in 1877. If you’re a writer, do this. Often, local research isn’t available on the internet or Amazon.


I was a bit over-ambitious with this story which includes a multitude of characters and a complicated tale of land grabbing and betrayals, but for a sophomore effort I’m still happy with the book. However, if I ever committed to an overhaul of the plot, I’d include more about Claire helping the local prostitutes with their unique medical problems. When I originally wrote it (in the early 2000’s), I found it exceedingly difficult to find that information. I’m a little more successful today digging up such details.


THE SPARROW (Book 3) took the longest for me to write—about 6 years. While I took a lengthy break to focus on raising my children, I also became stuck in the story at the halfway point. This book employed my most intuitive writing, guiding me toward shamanism, a discipline I knew nothing about. I spent over two years attempting to understand the skills and techniques utilized in this ancient healing modality.


THE SPARROW is my most mixed-reviewed book. Readers either love it or hate it. For me, personally, it was a labor of love, albeit a painful labor at times. While I’ve considered cutting portions of the story to make it more marketable, it encompasses an interior emotional journey that has spoken to similar kindred souls. When a writer is pushed by some unknown force toward a work that makes little sense to her, sometimes the best thing to do is step out of the way and let it be what it needs to be.


Although I now live in Arizona, I wrote THE BLACKBIRD (Book 4) without ever visiting southern Arizona (the location of the story). Clearly this goes against my earlier advice of visiting the setting of a book; however, I’m a very detail-oriented person (probably why I studied engineering in college) and I always immerse myself in intensive research whenever I write a book. I did my homework.


In the book, the heroine is a cuentista, a storyteller. That idea germinated from one of my favorite reference books, Women Who Run With The Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés. I’m very drawn to how myth plays out in our everyday lives, and I try to weave this into my stories. THE BLACKBIRD is a gritty book, especially with the backstory regarding the heroine’s assault by one of the bad guys, but my goal was to showcase the healing and not the trauma of such an ordeal. Tess is truly a special character to me, as is the hero, Cale Walker. He encompasses everything I like in a hero—confidence, a pragmatic cynicism, and an effort to right the wrongs of his own past. He also possesses the insight into recovery that Tess needs, but more importantly, he loves all aspects of her. This frees her to love them as well.


Now, touching on practical matters—while writing THE BLUEBIRD (Book 5), I lost the file twice. The first time, the manuscript was two-thirds complete and I had no backup. It was a rude awakening about my lazy computer habits. I quickly cleaned up my act, but it took me a week before I could bring myself to sit down and write the book again. And then, near the end, I lost the file again. Thankfully, this time, I did have a backup. But my disillusionment with technology runs fairly deep now and I no longer trust ANY source completely, whether it be a computer hard drive, an external hard drive, or Dropbox. These days, I backup in four places every day.


I had believed myself to be finished with the Wings of the West series (although there are three additional short reads that I later added – ECHO OF THE PLAINS, a young adult tale featuring Matt and Molly’s son, Eli; THE SHINY PENNY, a Christmas short story featuring Molly and Emma; and SONG OF THE WREN, a follow up to THE WREN and THE SPARROW that ties up the storyline regarding Matt and Nathan’s involvement with the villain Cerillo.) But during the recent pandemic and lockdown, I decided to explore more stories with these characters and their children.


First up will be a novella tentatively titled THE SONGBIRD. I have a first draft completed that includes all your favorites—with 13 points-of -view! It takes place 15 years after THE WREN and while the focus will be Matt and Molly, Logan and Claire are also there, as well as Nathan and Emma, and Cale and Tess. You’ll also meet five daughters—Katie and Josie (Matt and Molly’s girls), and Anna, Sarah, and Sophie (belonging to Logan and Claire). They will each soon star in their own novel. This story is entirely for the fans, to say thank you for reading and reviewing the series with such love. I can’t tell you how much that has meant to me.


The next full-length Wings novel has a completed first draft, starring Katie Ryan as a Pinkerton detective, but it still needs a lot of work. What's the title? It will continue the bird theme, and I’ve got a few ideas, but nothing is set as yet. So if you have any suggestions, feel free to drop them in the comments below. My hope is to have both books out by this summer.

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Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Hi, Kristy, this is one of those posts that touched on so much, I wish I could sit down with you over coffee to discuss! First, you must be able to really lose yourself and dive deep into your imagine to come up with a series like this and follow up on characters through generations.
It's always interesting to me to read about how other authors find their inspiration and what they're process is. So interesting how those characters sought you out to tell their stories. I feel like, especially in my earlier writing, that something outside myself pushed me into writing their story.
Also, I just recently discovered Las Vegas, NM through a neighbor's Instagram and it looks like such an interesting place! I'd love to go there one day--maybe on a road trip on Route 66!
I like how you're able to separate how some readers will respond both positively and negatively to a piece of work, but as a writer you go with the value it has to you and not go back to change things.
Good luck with the upcoming novels in Wings of the West!

Kristy McCaffrey said...

Patti-- I too love to hear about other author's processes. It's never a straight line to writing a book, is it? One of these days perhaps we will finally be able to chat over coffee. Thanks for stopping by!