Author Interview - Kristy McCaffrey
By Alison Bruce
Kristy McCaffrey has been writing since she was very young, but it wasn't until she was a stay-at-home mom that she considered becoming published. A fascination with science led her to earn two engineering degrees--she did her undergraduate work at Arizona State University and her graduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh--but storytelling was always her favorite hobby.
Two engineering degrees and you write historical western romance. Connect the dots for us.
I’ve always written since I was very young; I really couldn’t stop myself. But growing up, I was very conscious of making my dad proud. In my mind, I thought I should study something important and difficult.
My high school calculus teacher introduced me to the idea of engineering, so it seemed to fit the bill. I do love science and the curriculum was vastly challenging, but I really never had a good intuitive sensibility for engineering. I know this because it was at that time that I met my husband. He also studied engineering and he would design gears and such in his head for fun. I never did that; I created stories instead. That was my natural inclination. So, when I was a stay-at-home mom with my four kids, I decided to finally pursue my dream of writing something for publication. I was always drawn to the western motif, and having grown up in Arizona (and being desperately homesick while living in Pennsylvania) I knew I wanted to write in that genre.
Have you ever used your engineering knowledge in your books?
No, not directly. But studying engineering for eight years (I have both an undergraduate and graduate degree in Mechanical Engineering) taught me to think analytically, problem-solve, and work hard. These are all skills that have helped with my writing, without a doubt. I’ve toyed with the idea of an engineer character—I lived in Pittsburgh for a long time and the history of steel goes back into the 1800’s, so there’s certainly a lot of background to tap into—but as yet, I’ve been sticking with those cowboys and Texas Rangers.
What is the biggest inspiration for your novels?
I find this a challenging question because I can’t say that it’s one particular thing. Stories unfold for me, somewhere in my unconscious, and I follow the thread (doing research and exploratory writing) until the tale is done.
I understand you are a big Star Wars fan. (Even I haven’t seen the movie 60 times yet… at least I don’t think I have.) The original movies had an epic–even mythic storyline that could be applied to any time or space near or far, far away. Has Star Wars had any influence on what you write?
Most definitely. This does tie in to the above question—I’m inspired by sweeping narratives. Star Wars had this, and the first time I saw it (at age ten), it just blew me away. I was too young to really understand why, but when I started writing seriously it was that feeling that I strove toward. I think that’s why the first three books I wrote—The Wren, The Dove, and The Sparrow—were part of a series.
I’m planning two more books and I’ve always envisioned a broader spectrum than what’s encompassed in one book. So, the series is meant to be read altogether. I know, most are, right? J But I’ve struggled gaining readership, especially with the last book. I think each book taken separately lacks the magic of the whole. I’m hoping that once the series is complete the thread throughout will be more satisfying. One thing I’ve learned about writing—the vision in my head isn’t always translated to paper as well as I’d like. It’s a process, one that keeps evolving.
Tell us about your latest book.
Well, I decided to stray from my series and try to put a sweeping narrative into just one book. Into The Land Of Shadows is a historical western romance set in the Arizona Territory. Rancher Ethan Barstow is weary of the years-long estrangement from his brother, Charley. Deciding to track him down is easy; not so easy is riding in the company of Kate Kinsella, Charley’s fiancée. In the land of the Navajo, spirits and desire draw them close, leading them deeper into the shadows and to each other.
I based Kate Kinsella on my own daughter (also named Kate), something I’ve never done before. My Kate is stubborn and very hard to wake up in the morning, so I gave those traits to fictional Kate. Kinsella is a family name on my dad’s side (they all emigrated from Ireland).
The hero, Ethan, is shadowed by a wolf named Bart throughout the story. Bart is based on a wolf-dog my parents raised named Chaco. Wolves are wonderful creatures, but different than dogs in subtle ways. They’re much more pack-oriented, shy but with strong hunting instincts (which makes them a bit dangerous, especially around small children and pets), and they have different digestive requirements (my mom often fed them—they had two wolf-dogs—frozen raw chicken complete with the bones).
I hope these touches add to the novel, but in the end my biggest wish is that readers enjoy the love story.
You've sparked my interest. Coincidentally, my daughter is named Kate and she also has trouble getting up in the morning. She was named after one of my characters, Kate Garrett in Deadly Legacy.
Where can we find out more?
For more info about my books please visit me at www.kristymccaffrey.com. I’ve got a great contest going this month—win a Whiskey Creek Press book bag filled with goodies—so be sure to enter.
Alison, thanks so much for inviting me to chat with you. This was fun!!