Monday, May 3, 2021

Naming A Series After Birds

By Kristy McCaffrey

I wrote my first novel, The Wren, when I was a young stay-at-home mom with four kids all under the age of five running amuck. I'd been writing since I was seven years old, but I didn't envision penning a novel until I was too tired from mothering to realize that what I was about to attempt would be tremendously difficult, yet so rewarding. Not much different than becoming a mom, right?

I'm sometimes asked how I came up with the titles for my Wings of the West series. The simple version is that they just came to me, which for the most part is true. I knew the titles and the order in which they would appear long before I had a clear picture of characters and storylines. But there are deeper meanings as well.

Many years ago, I enjoyed a television show called “Ned Blessing: The Story of My Life and Times,” starring Brad Johnson. Maybe some of you remember it. A recurring character was a woman in town—a soiled dove—who was secretly in love with Ned. She was called “the Wren.” For some reason, that stuck with me when, years later, I began developing my Old West series. In my story, however, the heroine, Molly, isn't a prostitute (that theme is addressed in the next book, the aptly titled The Dove). As a child Molly was quite adept with a slingshot, which she named "the Wren" because she believes the rocks she uses may have been dropped by wrens. Rock Wrens have a habit of leaving a stone path to their nests. This encompasses the broader theme of Molly trying to find her way home after she was thought dead at the hands of the Comanche ten years prior.

In the second book, The Dove, I dealt with the well-used theme of prostitution. The heroine in this story, Claire, lives in a saloon run by her mama. While Claire herself isn't a soiled dove, she still faces the decisions many women do: Does she live a life for herself or for others? How do we “use” others to gain our own ends?

In The Sparrow, my heroine, Emma, undergoes a shamanic journey of initiation while traversing the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. During this process, she is helped by her power animal, Sparrow. I will admit, this novel took a strange turn, but I did my best to follow the bones laid before me and write the story as best I could. Sparrows are known as common birds who speak to the inherent magnificence that can be present in all of us. As I wrote the tale, I knew this bird encompassed perfectly the tone of Emma's pilgrimage.

In The Blackbird, I found a Tennyson quote that mentions blackbirds. The heroine, Tess, while of Mexican descent also has an Irish papa and through him a connection to Tennyson. Blackbirds are mystical birds, linking us to the world of enchantment, which is best accessed through storytelling.

The last book, The Bluebird, jumps ahead several years and features Molly Rose, niece to the first Molly from The Wren. In the story, the hero is searching for an elusive mining claim called The Bluebird. While the bird references have helped to shape the series, I always knew I'd begin with a Molly and end with a Molly, which was the nickname of my great-grandmother.

I'm giving away an autographed print copy of THE BLUEBIRD at my website this month. Click here to enter.



Julie Lence said...

It's always fun to learn how authors come up with their titles. Thank you for sharing, Kristy!

Kristy McCaffrey said...

Thanks, Julie!! It's so tough to come up with titles lol.

Marianne B in AZ said...

That's really interesting. I have also wondered how authors name their characters. It's probably not as hard as choosing a name for your child, but it seems like it would be hard. You make them come to life. Their names are forever and if you are writing a series, you will be using it for a long time. Character names are so important. In your newsletter you were talking about all of the characters there are in The Songbird. I have stopped reading books that have a lot of characters and two or three of those characters have similar sounding names. That can make a story hard to follow.

Thanks for sharing the story of how your titles came to be!

Have a happy Mother's day!