Flaherty's Crossing by Kaylin McFarren l Q&A + Blog Tour + Giveaway

Our guest today is Kaylin McFarren, author of the women's contemporary fiction novel, Flaherty's Crossing.

Kaylin is a rare bird indeed. Not a migratory sort, she prefers to hug the West Coast and keep family within visiting range. Although she has virtually been around the world, she was born in California, relocated with her family to Washington, and nested with her husband in Oregon. In addition to playing an active role in his business endeavors, she has been involved in all aspects of their three daughters' lives - taxi duties, cheerleading coaching, script rehearsals, and relationship counseling, to name but a few. Now she enjoys spending undisciplined time with her two young grandsons and creating fascinating, contemporary stories. You can visit her website at www.kaylinmcfarren.com.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Kaylin. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

Actually, I’ve been actively involved in both business and personal writing projects for many years. As the director of a fine art gallery, I assisted with furthering the careers of numerous visual artists who under my guidance gained recognition through promotional opportunities and in national publications. Four years ago, I was eager to spread my own creative wings and decided to try my hand at writing novels. As a result, I’ve earned more than a dozen literary awards and was a 2008 finalist in the prestigious RWA® Golden Heart contest.

I’ve lived in Oregon for the past 35 years and am a member of RWA, Rose City Romance Writers, and Willamette Writers. I received my AA in Literature at Highline Community College, which originally sparked my passion for writing. In my free time, I enjoy giving back to the community through participation and support of various charitable and educational organizations in the Pacific Northwest. I also plan to donate 100% of the proceeds from my first novel to cancer research at Portland’s Providence Medical Center.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

Besides delving into the complex emotions of bidding a final farewell to an estranged parent, Flaherty's Crossing explores the strain placed on a marital relationship when childhood issues go unresolved. Sixteen years ago, following my father’s death, I found myself obsessed with sitting in front of a typewriter, coming to terms with unresolved issues by banging on keys. This silent venting became a sort of therapy through writing exercise. However, this exercise slowly evolved, taking on a life of its own. I began creating a related fictional story about a woman’s personal journey, and in the process of exploring my main character’s growth, I found myself learning and growing as well.

Eventually, I came to believe I had a meaningful story to tell, one through which I could possibly touch other people who shared the same complicated family relationships – and maybe even make a difference in their lives. Yet I still struggled with bringing this tale to a close.

It wasn’t until my eldest daughter provided her amazing writing insight that I finally came to realize why I struggled with the ending, for both the book and my father’s passing: the true resolution didn’t rest in holding onto the past; it came from opening my mind to future possibilities and honoring him – not only by setting this story free, but by becoming the professional storyteller that had been hiding in my Irish genes.

What kind of research was involved in writing Flaherty’s Crossing?

Research for writing Flaherty’s Crossing was somewhat limited due to the fact that this story was based on my first-hand account and numerous individuals I’ve met throughout my life. However, I did attend various writing workshops, read extensively, verify distances between actual cities, and investigate medical and legal terminology in an effort to insure my characters were three dimensional.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

To be honest, it was hardly smooth sailing. Flaherty’s Crossing was truly a labor of love, but it also crossed a few genres – making it a difficult book to place with large houses. At first I took the rejections as reflections on my writing skills, then I realized although they didn’t accept it, I was receiving a great deal of praise from publishers via personal notes and emails.

Rather than hold back to see what might happen way down the road or completely reinvent the novel based on suggestions I didn’t feel were true to the core of my story, I elected to take hold of the reins and control my own career. I pursued smaller houses, where they are more open to books that are out-of-the-box.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

The answer is pretty straightforward. Within a few months of sending out the requested full manuscript of Flaherty’s Crossing to Ellen Smith at Champagne Books, I received an exciting email from her offering a contract. I was ecstatic to say the least. The actual date I signed on the dotted line was May 8, 2009 and my official release date is February 1, 2010. So if my math is correct, it’s taken nine months to reach the finish line. That’s a bit faster than the larger houses, which are running closer to two years.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

I did have an agent in New York who absolutely fell in love with Flaherty’s Crossing. However, we amiably parted ways and I elected to move forward. In my case, not having an agent hasn’t been a problem. But that’s not to say that an agent wouldn’t have done a great job in working on my behalf.

Do you plan subsequent books?

With Flaherty’s Crossing about to be released, I’m now trying my hand at one of my favorite genres – action/adventure romance. Being my first attempt at writing in a very competitive category, I was anxious for feedback, so I entered my manuscript in two writing competitions: Utah RWA’s Great Beginnings and Nashville RWA’s Melody of Love contest. I couldn’t help but hope, and I didn’t expect my entries to even final. So, when I received word that Severed Threads had won first place in both contests, I was blown away. So, it appears that I’m headed in the right direction after all.

Can you describe your most favorite place to write?

It seems like I live in my library, but it’s a comfortable, quiet space where I can lock myself away from the outside world. I love being surrounded by shelves of books, contemporary music and family photos. And I always have a hot cup of chai tea close by to keep my train of thoughts flowing.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

I’d probably hire a publicist, but then I’d end up doing all her work. I guess deep down, I’m kind of a control freak and love to have a hand in everything – especially planning and promoting. But who wouldn’t love to have unlimited funds for advertising too? Definitely me.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

Great question! I think self-promotion is essential in order to get the word out about yourself and your project. And although it can absorb a great deal of time and energy, I really believe connecting with other authors, readers, and the general public on and off line is your greatest source for marketing. Being involved in various businesses over the years has taught me that word-of-mouth is by far the best source for advertising.

In regard to my network online, it’s pretty extensive – facebook, twitter, myspace, authors den, you name it. I update my website regularly, blog and send e-newsletters to individuals on my growing customer list. I also hand out business cards, bookmarks, pens and coffee mugs printed with my name and website logo. I’ve attended public events where my book trailer’s been featured and even held contests to spur interest in Flaherty’s Crossing’s upcoming release. But I’m always looking for new ideas...

What’s the most common reason you believe new writers give up their dream of becoming published and did you almost give up?

One word – rejection. Receiving a mass-produced, type-written letter, whether it be from an agency or publishing house, indicating a lack interest in your work or stating that your manuscript isn’t marketable can be incredibly defeating. There’s nothing worse than opening yourself up for criticism and having your creativity and passion judged by a selective group or individual.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

Be persistent and determined. If you believe you have a great story that needs to be shared, that will capture a reader’s interest and maybe even make a difference in the way they view life, then challenge yourself to find avenues to get it out there. Research publishing houses online and find out what they’re looking for or what kind of books they’ve recently published. Get reviews from fellow authors who write in the same genre and create a query letter with a great hook. And last but not least, have faith in yourself. Just completing a manuscript is truly an amazing feat. :D

Thank you for your interview, Kaylin. I wish you much success!

Thank you and I wish the same for all your readers.

We're having a giveaway! Leave a comment or a question for Kaylin between now and February 22 and you could be the winner of a pdf copy of her new book, Flaherty's Crossing! Or simply write "I love Flaherty's Crossing!" in the comment section!

Only those leaving email addresses with their comment or question qualifies.

The winner will be announced on Feb. 25.

Good luck!

UPDATE: Kaylin has added an e-Book reader to her amazing Virtual Book Tour contest! Here’s the rules: anyone who posts comments on ALL of her book tour locations has an opportunity to win a Sony Pocket Reader valued at $180 – along with copies of Flaherty’s Crossing and other great prizes. Simply visit the Events page on her website at http://www.kaylinmcfarren.com where you’ll find a complete listing. Winners will be announced on March 28th. Good luck everyone!

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