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Interview: Kaylin McFarren, Author of Flaherty’s Crossing

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Kaylin McFarren (whose real name is Linda Yoshida) has had many career adventures, including actively being involved in both business and personal writing projects for many years, a director of a fine art gallery assisting many visual artists to further their careers and gain recognition, before then deciding to focus her creative energy and talent on novel writing. 

Kaylin McFarren has earned more than a dozen literary awards and was a 2008 finalist in the prestigious RWA® Golden Heart contest. Kaylin is also a member of RWA, Rose City Romance Writers, and Willamette Writers.

When not writing, Kaylin enjoys participating and supporting various charitable and educational organizations in the Pacific Northwest and most importantly spending time with her husband, three daughters and her two young grandsons, as she eagerly awaits the arrival of more.  

You can read more about Kaylin McFarren at her website or the Flaherty's Crossing website.

Tell us a bit about Flaherty’s Crossing. What is the story about, who are the characters, etc

Here’s the jest of the story:

Successful yet emotionally stifled artist Kate Flaherty stands at the deathbed of her estranged father, conflicted by his morphine-induced confession exposing his part in her mother's death. While racing home, Kate's car mishap leads her to a soul-searching discussion with a lone diner employee, prompting Kate to confront the true reasons her marriage hangs in the balance. When her night takes an unexpected turn, however, she flees for her life, a life desperate for faith that can only be found through her ability to forgive.

How do you come up with the names of your characters? It almost seems as though, as an author, you have the continuous fun of naming children!

Since Flaherty’s Crossing encompassed turbulence and problems within an Irish immigrant’s family (much like my own), I chose names that would reflect the culture and am often influenced by nationalities when I write. I think it’s also fun to come up with names that indicate qualities of a character – such as Daimon for someone with a devil-may-care attitude.

What do you want readers to take away from reading Flaherty’s Crossing?

I think Tami Brady of TCM Reviews might have summed up this question best:

"Sometimes, the deepest darkest moments allow us to finally recognize the light in our lives. Only when we face our pain can we move onto something better. So it seems for Kate Flaherty. Kate was at a crossroads. From the moment her mother died, everything changed. Her father became distant. As she watches her father succumb to cancer, Kate realizes that she was very much her father's daughter. She'd lost her mother, would soon lose her father, and if she wasn't careful her husband would give up on their marriage. She had to make some changes and fast. Flaherty's Crossing is an inspirational story about learning to let go and love fully for the sake of love. Who are we under our masks of pain? How would it feel to have those burdens lifted?"

What was the most fun about writing Flaherty’s Crossing?

There’s nothing more enjoyable than creating a deeply flawed character. Their quirks and physical attributes help break the tension and allow readers an opportunity to breathe. In Flaherty’s Crossing this happens to be Wanda Finch, Kate’s nosey neighbor. Although she seems intrusive, overly talkative and extremely annoying, in reality she’s genuinely interested in Kate’s well-being.

What was the hardest part about writing Flaherty’s Crossing?

I think the difficult thing might have been opening myself up to extreme emotions. My characters experience anger, confusion and apprehension. They cry, laugh, regret, make love and before all is said and done, come to terms with their short comings. There were days when I emptied a Kleenex box and others when I devoured half a pound of chocolate. Not to mention the wine…

Could you please tell us about your writing process?

Strangely enough, I dream up my stories – literally from beginning to end. I make notes, create a rough draft, and set to work on developing my characters. I actually design a notebook for them with photos, habits, flaws, birthdays, backgrounds, the works. Then it’s a matter of putting them into my scenes and turning them loose. The more challenges they face, the more fun it is to write about them. And before I know it, they’ve fell in love, overcome obstacles, and are preparing for the next hurdle – perhaps a little stronger and wiser and definitely more intriguing.

Do you have any particular habits that you take part in while writing? By that I mean certain music you like to listen to, foods you like to eat, environment that helps you write better, etc.

My routine consists of nabbing a hot chai and toasted bagel before sequestering myself to our cozy, book-lined library. I flip on an old Stevie Nick’s soundtrack, check messages, make a few phone calls, and then set to work. I often reread the last chapter I’ve written just to rekindle my thoughts, then it’s off to the races – solving dilemmas and overcoming adversaries.

Where do you get your ideas and inspirations?

Although I read a lot, most of my ideas for stories come from my travels and personal life experiences. I’m also inspired by people who’ve lead fascinating lives and held interesting jobs. I love to pick their brains. :D

If you had to summarize your life and give it a book title, what would that title be?

Whirlwind. Time has flow by so fast it seems I’ve experienced everything in the blink of an eye. Yet I find myself constantly searching for knowledge, seeking new relationships, relishing old memories. Hoping I’ll reach the end of my journey in a far better place than where I began.

What are you reading right now?

Two books – Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol and Mary Balough, Nicola Cornick and Courtney Milan’s The Heart of Christmas.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Besides Dan Brown – Jodi Picoult, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Suzanne Brockman, Lisa Jackson, Mitch Albom, Author Golden, James Patterson and Jane Austen.

If you could have lunch and chat with any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Jodi Picoult – I’m crazy about her books and would love to discuss her creative process. She somehow manages to take headline news and turn it into a thought-provoking, twisted tale. More than anything, I’d love to nab a few writing tips and discover how she’s become so prolific.

What were some of your favorite books as a child?

As a young child, I read everything from Mother Goose to Dr. Seuss. But when I read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women as a pre-teen, I became completely enthralled with historical fiction. I think I’ve read every book Jane Austen wrote before I moved on to romance novels.

What do you hope to accomplish within the next five years?

I’m hoping to have at least two more published books under my belt and another in the works. Since I’ve elected to donate all the proceeds from the sale of my novels to medical organizations and charitable causes, perhaps a Kaylin Foundation will be established and millions of people around the world will benefit. But then, we can only dream…right??

What are you working on right now and can you give us a sneak peek? A small excerpt?

Right now I’m working on Severed Threads, an action/adventure romance, or what some might call romantic suspense. The story line? Believing herself responsible for her father's fatal diving accident, Rachel Lyons has withdrawn from the world and assumed a safe position at a foundation office. When called upon by a museum director to assist her former love interest with the recovery of a priceless artifact from a sunken galleon, she has no intention of cooperating – until her brother is kidnapped by a drug-dealing gangster. In order to save him and gain control over her own life, Rachel must not only overcome her greatest fears, but also relive the circumstances that lead to her father's death.

And here’s a tempting sneak peek:

PROLOGUE – Shipwreck Site, Ten miles off the California Coast

Jordan Novak tumbled over Stargazer's side and into the cold Pacific Ocean, his dreams of riches so close he could barely breathe. Five years diving for other salvaging companies had taught him to restore his breathing as quickly as possible. To concentrate and remain focused on his purpose. Yet every time he entered this amazing aquarium, he found himself briefly caught up in his surroundings.

From his right, a bug-eyed fish approached. It hovered close by, apparently intrigued by the diver's trailing bubbles and slow-moving black fins. When Jordan smiled and reached out, it darted away then turned back around to assume a distant appraisal – an action reminiscent of the beautiful woman that now graced his life. Rachel was as guarded as the creatures in the deep. And fortunately, with her being a marine biologist at the university, they shared the same engrossing fascination. Their job compliance, however, ended at his trenching and underwater excavations.

Just then, Sam Lyons dropped into view, sending the Groper scurrying away. As good fortune would have it, Jordan's partner was also Rachel's father. He was a virtual saint as far as Jordan was concerned – the father he had never known. The man's kindness and unselfish deeds were rewarded by the loyal friends that surrounded him. His youthful enthusiasm and obsession with history and lost treasures never waned in the two years Jordan had known him. And as much as Jordan enjoyed his free time, he valued the months they spent together even more. However, at that moment, hanging weightless before Jordan in his black mask, wetsuit and regulator, Sam took on the appearance of a dark angel. His gray hair swayed in the current, matching the rhythm of his large glowing hands. The muted light of the sea framed his expressive brown eyes, now tense with impatience. He signaled okay and Jordan mimicked his action.

Deflating his BC vest, Jordan followed Sam's scissoring fins down the length of the anchor line and in no time they reached the bottom, eighty feet down. Moss carpeted boulders were tucked into the soft gray sand. In the distance, the ground gradually slopped into opaque bottomless depths. They were positioned in the exact area Sam's secretive map had indicated, on the edge of a sharp, rocky outcropping. For hundreds of years, the jagged masses had reached up and toppled unsuspecting ships into the sea.

Somewhere down here tucked out of sight lay a barnacle-crusted anchor. And if Sam's calculations were right, below it rested the wreck of a Chinese galleon he had referred to as the Wanli II.
Aside from the antiquated box Sam had acquired from a local junk shop, it was still unclear what had led him to this particular spot. Perhaps the drunken ramblings of the retired salvager he'd kept company with at the Crow's Nest Bar. Or the volumes of books he poured over every night. Had he really found the mother lode as he claimed? Jordan had his doubts, but Sam's unrelenting pursuit of his elusive treasure ship gave credence to the notion that something spectacular lay buried down here. Something he wanted so badly he would stake his life on it.

As they swam beyond their own anchor, an occasional fish passed by. But there was nothing of interest in the gray, gloomy water. Following Sam, Jordan floated over a pile of craggy bedrock into a gully of crevices spanning like veins in all directions. They signaled and nodded before separating to cover more ground, to peer into dark places, hidden nooks and crannies where evidence and unseen creatures might rest.

For more than thirty minutes, they surveyed the ocean floor. They fanned boulders and incrustations, dusting off layers of sediment. The further and deeper they went, the more muddy the frigid waters grew. Jordan strained his eyes and ran his hands over rocks in the hazy murk. He was an obsessed man searching blindly in unfamiliar territory. Eventually, discontent took over – seeping into the hopeless, tedious routine.

Diving 101 had taught Jordan the necessity of staying within visual proximity of his diving partner, to carefully monitor his time. But growing impatience tempted him to blaze his own path. He veered off in a northerly direction and continued groping along. His flashlight bounced off the particulate, floating like dust in the narrow sunbeam.
Then something took shape. His hand closed over a metal object, an ingot half buried in silt. He brushed the sand away, searching for more remnants, artifacts, anything to remedy their hapless endeavor. But there was nothing more to be found.

Jordan glanced at his watch and quickly realized time was running out. Worse yet, Sam was no where in sight. He noted his position on his compass and checked his gauge. His air was getting low. By his calculations, he had barely five minutes to spare. Just enough to reach the surface. But what about Sam? As he circled back around to locate him, Jordan's breath suddenly caught. He felt a wall hit his lungs, the stream of oxygen halt in his regulator.

What the hell? He briskly tapped on his gauge, but the problem no sooner became clear. Equipment malfunction. The gravity of his situation sunk in with the weight of lead. Reacting purely on instinct, he triggered the inflator on the buoyancy compensator in his vest. He sucked on the backup mouthpiece. Then willing himself to sustain a controlled ascent, he rose through the swirling cloud of silt he'd kicked up from the ocean floor.

Halfway mark, he assured himself. Out of nowhere, a current took hold – blasting him sideways with the velocity of a baseball into the grip of an abandoned fishing net. Tank tangled, he struggled to break free. But the woven trap held tight. He grabbed the knife strapped to his ankle and slashed wildly above him, behind him. All around until the web gave way. With his heart pounding, he quickened his strokes. Racing his small cluster of rising bubbles, he calculated his required safety stop. Miss it and he'd be facing decompression sickness and a whole heap of pain.

When he reached ten feet, he slowed his strokes and hovered. For an eternal minute of strained, rationed breaths, the silhouette of Sam's boat taunted him from above. Finally, he kicked his fins to rise. Reaching upward, he emerged in the choppy surf and spat out his mouthpiece. He gasped for air. Salty air. Air that never tasted so good.

"Bloody wind's comin' up," the Irish helmsman barked at him. "Callin' it a day." Onboard, the crew feverishly looped anchor lines. Froth-tipped waves rocked the boat back and forth as Jordan bobbed in the restless surf. He slid his mask back over his dripping hair.

"Gauge is busted," Jordan yelled. "Give me some new gear. I'll head down and grab Sam."

In a matter of minutes, Jordan was back down at the bottom. He retraced his path and spotted his partner twenty yards out.
Up, Jordan repeatedly motioned.

Sam shook his head. He signaled not okay, but didn't indicate what was wrong.

Jordan grabbed him by the harness to maintain contact. As they ascended, Sam began moving his arms and legs. Then his limbs went limp. After ten more feet, Sam's regulator fell out of his mouth. Heavy lids sealed his glazed eyes, indicating he'd lost consciousness. Jordan's brain scrounged for information, a practice drill from the certification classes he'd taken years earlier. Classes he should have paid more attention to.

Damn it! This wasn't supposed to ever happen. Jordan shoved Sam's regulator back into his vacant mouth. He pushed the purge button forcing air down his throat. Sam didn't breath. Escaping air bubbled around his slack lips. Jordan punched Sam's chest repeatedly. But his efforts proved useless.

God no, God no. This couldn't be happening. Not to Sam. Not to Rachel's father. Not when Jordan had assured her he'd look after him.

Fifteen feet under the ocean, Jordan struggled to keep his calm. He seized the lifeline and secured Sam to it. He removed his weight belt and inflated his BC. With one huge push, Jordan shoved him upward. Then remaining in place, he hovered – decompressing himself for the longest five minutes of his life. All the while, his memories filled with Sam. The only man in his life he was willing to trust. The only father figure he'd ever known. Without hesitation, Sam had offered him a job. He opened his home and welcomed him like a member of his family. How could Jordan have been so careless? So completely self-absorbed?

His reeling thoughts centered on Rachel. The moment she had stepped into his world, all the bad that ever was had vanished. He wasn't the poor orphaned kid growing up on the wrong side of the tracks. He wasn't the dishwasher who struggled through college with no one to offer a hand. She was his hope, his aspiration, his future. Of all the women he'd allowed himself to become involved with, Rachel was the one who had found her way into his heart. How could he possibly explain this mess to her? What words could he use to excuse his actions? Sam and Rachel were both the most important people in his life and now in a matter of minutes, that could all change.

Jordan tucked away his anxieties and headed straight for the surface. With each determined stroke and kick, he prayed that his partner would survive. By the time he boarded Stargazer, the crew had already hoisted Sam onto the deck. They had radioed the San Palo Coast Guard station, only ten minutes away.

While Jordan breathed in oxygen, they headed for shore. He watched the bulky helmsman aggressively work over Sam's body. Exhaled breaths, rhythmic chest compressions. Ian was steadfast, relentless. Jordan could hear voices all around them asking questions, but his fear muted them. When Ian finally stopped and shook his downcast head, Jordan shoved him out of the way. He took over breathing into Sam's gapping mouth, hammering his chest with his fist. "Breath, Sam, goddamn it! Breathe!" he yelled. No matter how hard he tried, it was no use. Yet he wasn't about to give up.

Not until they reached the dock did someone finally have the courage to pull him off.

"Looks like cardiac arrest," a Coast Guard officer announced. The words reverberated in Jordan's ears. His breath caught in his dry throat. He rested his hand on the boat's gun-rail to keep from collapsing. He watched as they transferred Sam's body into a waiting ambulance, then forced himself to follow closely behind, his legs barely cooperating. He begged to come along, but the same officer assured him there was nothing more to be done.

Jordan stood barefooted in the graveled lot, watching the white emergency vehicle drive away. As soon as it disappeared from view, he fell back against a parked car. His eyes dropped to a discarded plastic bag, rolling across the ground. All sound had been siphoned from the air. The only thing registering was his throbbing brain and the radiating pain in his chest.

"I'll tell Rachel," he had managed to mumble to the police officer who had been taking statements from the crew. But now that he was alone, he couldn't imagine what had possessed him. The last thing he wanted to do was break her heart. To tell her that he had just taken away the only parent she had left.

As he flipped open his phone and auto-dialed her number, his eyes filled with unshed tears. He already knew from that moment on their lives would never be the same.

Rachel's voice came on the line. Happy. Playful. Unaware. "So, don't tell me. Another wild goose chase, right? I swear my father will never grow up."

Jordan remained silent for an eternal moment. And in that moment, he wished for the strength of Goliath – to rein in his quaking nerves, to give him the courage to spill the words that refused to form.

"Jordan?" Concern edged her tone. "Jordan, are you there?"

He forced another swallow. "Rachel, listen," he began, a rasp of a voice. Rusted from panic, from guilt. From disbelief. "Something happened. It… it's your dad." 

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About April Pohren

  • http://www.kayilnmcfarren.com Kaylin McFarren

    Thanks for the fun interview! Hope everyone gets a chance to read Flaherty’s Crossing and if you’re interested in receiving my monthly newsletter, just drop me a line [Personal contact info deleted]

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