Interview with Kaylin McFarren
author of “High Flying”
Creative Edge Publishing (2019)
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer (04/19) and Paige Lovitt (05/19)
Interview with Sheri Hoyte (06/19)
Kaylin McFarren has received 48 national literary awards, in addition to a prestigious Golden Heart Award nomination for Flaherty’s Crossing - a book she and her oldest daughter, New York Times/USA Today best-selling author Kristina McMorris, co-wrote in 2008. Prior to embarking on her writing journey and developing the popular Threads psychological thriller series, she poured her passion for creativity into her work as the director of a fine art gallery in the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon; she also served as a governor-appointed member of the Oregon Arts Commission. When she’s not traveling or spoiling her pups and three grandsons, she enjoys giving back to her community through participation and support of various charitable and educational organizations in the Pacific Northwest, and is currently the President of the Soulful Giving Foundation - a non-profit focused on cancer research, care and treatment at hospitals throughout Oregon.
Welcome back to Reader Views, Kaylin. Tell us about your new novel, High Flying!
Thanks for having me! High Flying is a story about a troubled young woman named Skylar Haines who is mysteriously transported back in time. She runs into her long-dead father as well as several other people that she knows in their present day incarnations. Unlike most people in time travel novels who end up getting in trouble by making stupid mistakes related to their displacement, Skylar takes a remarkably sensible approach to things. However, her father is so deeply involved with some local drug cartels that she gets dragged into a series of bad situations in spite of herself.
How did you come up with the idea for this story?
High Flying is a story that was inspired by my interest in time travel and stunt flying. I’ve been going to airshows for many years and remember sitting on my father’s shoulders, watching United Airlines prop engine planes take off from the tarmac at LAX. I knew that one day I would bring my passions together in a book, and this is it!
Your protagonist, Skylar engages in cutting, a form of self-harm. This act is often difficult for people to understand. Can you speak to the topic a bit and tell us what inspired you to inflict this behavior onto your main character?
I wanted to create a troubled young girl who is tormented by her past and the bad choices made by her parents. Given time and therapy, she would either overcome her affliction or find a way to live with it. I had a friend who battled this behavior most of her young life, and her need for self-harm always puzzled me. This spurred my interest in knowing about the mindset involved, and as a result, I discovered that cutting is not so uncommon. But it is often considered shameful and viewed as mental illness rather than a lack of coping skills in stressful and difficult situations. I believed by sharing this, the taboo subject of cutting might become more known and perhaps a topic for discussion.
In true Kaylin McFarren fashion, you dabble in a bit of genre-blending, with High Flying. Tell us about some of the intricacies of combining say romance, time travel and adventure with a psychological thriller – how do you make it work?
I find that mixing genres is a bit of a balancing act, but it also makes stories more interesting and appealing to larger audiences. The characters I like to create are deeply flawed and complex. They might have difficulty conveying their feelings, thus the romantic element arises. Adding the component of adventure grows the stakes and forces characters to make choices. And the greater the threat, the more daring and brave they become.
What was it like working with a new cast of characters after ending your Threads series?
It was fun but very challenging too. I knew my full crew in the Threads series, thus I understood how they would react under any given circumstance. But this group had a whole new set of issues to work out, and the focus remained on relationships and not treasure hunting or duty-bound obligations.
What did your research for High Flying entail?
I tend to dig for facts as I go along, and this book was no different. I read pages upon pages of information about stunt flying, killers, violent crimes, and the Mexican cartel. Then I found ways to incorporate a combination of details into my story.
What did you enjoy most about writing this specific novel, High Flying?
I loved growing the idea of changing the past and saving a life if given the chance. We all want to rewrite history in one way or another, but sometimes it simply isn’t possible.
How do you develop your characters?
I grew them out of relationships I currently have and people I knew from my past. As I disclosed more about them, it became easier to anticipate their reactions and expose their inner thoughts. Eventually, I allowed them to direct the story and the ultimate outcome.
You’ve been writing for a while now and are part of a family of authors. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I had an English teacher in the fifth grade that required her students to keep journals. You could write anything in them…a short story, an idea, a poem. At the end of the year, she asked us to open a page and read from it. Being shy, I was mortified at first. Then, after reading a poem I wrote, I became intrigued by the reactions of friends and students around me. Months later, I won a prize in a local newspaper and received $100 from a Seattle rotary for a collection of poems I’d written. To this day, I include a poem at the beginning of every book I write, so I guess my passion for poetry (and the written word) still remains.
What do you wish you knew when you first started your writing journey?
As a hopeful author, I didn’t know how difficult it was to be published. I submitted over 80 letters and received an equal number of rejection letters, mainly for my habit of crossing genres. Now that mixing it up is not looked down upon, I have received a dozen letters from publishers asking if I’d like to submit and join their list of authors. But to tell you the truth, I enjoy being self-published and writing when I feel compelled to do so.
How does your family promote/support your writing? Do they read your books?
My husband shares his ideas, my oldest daughter acts as my sounding board and verbal editor, and my youngest daughter is my book cover designer. So I would have to say that I’ve got tremendous support in my family. However, they’ve shied away from reading my Threads series due to embarrassment over sexual references and romantic scenes. Surprisingly, they are all currently reading High Flying, which concentrates on the “thrill ride” adventure rather than emphasizing romance, and I find that truly fascinating. Even my husband, who hates to read, is halfway through this book and loving it!
What can you tell us about your publishing experience and where do you see publishing going in the future?
Ultimately, I went with a small publisher for my first book, Flaherty’s Crossing, after a less than pleasant experience with a New York agent and the overall submission process. I enjoy self-publishing my books—the control I have over them—and I see myself continuing in this vein for numerous reasons. I also have very successful author friends who are electing to self-publish, so maybe more authors will find themselves going in this direction rather than the “normal” publishing route.
What are your thoughts on writing groups, critique partners and beta readers?
When I first started writing, I depended greatly on writing groups and critique partners. However, I don’t so much anymore. But my beta readers and editors are essential to me. I love receiving their feedback and often take their advice to heart before completing a project.
How do you handle constructive criticism or negative feedback on your work?
I try to be open to criticism while I’m writing, but it’s not always easy to read harsh reviews or cruel remarks when it comes to finished work. Someone always has a theory or idea on the direction a story should have taken. Yet I’ve learned to stay true to my convictions and to let the negative opinions fall to the wayside. The positive reactions and awards I receive confirm my ability to write and that’s what I try to stay focused on.
Being an author is a full-time business. How do you balance your writing/marketing/promotion time?
I dedicate my mornings to social media, personal interactions, and my non-profit organization. By 11am, I’m back to writing and, usually, after a lunch break, spend the next four hours editing and creating new chapters. My goal is to write 2,000 to 4,000 words per day in order to have a manuscript completed in three to four months. Then I dedicate an hour or two to marketing and book promotion.
What do you enjoy most about the whole process?
I love writing the final words in the last chapter and celebrating with a glass of my favorite Merlot wine. Then it’s all about seeing the first copies arrive from the printer and feeling accomplished all over again.
And which part do you resist with all your being?
I try not to read the first editorial reviews (especially Kirkus) without having a cup of coffee and shot of Bailey’s close by. There’s no telling which direction the reader will go…for the jugular or the heart.
Tell us about some of your passions outside of writing.
I’m dedicated to my non-profit Soulful Giving Foundation because I love raising money for the fight against cancer, but my greatest passion will always be my family. I thoroughly enjoy our time together: traveling, cooking, gardening, boating, decorating and watching movies. We never run out of conversation and find so much to laugh about.
What’s next? Do you have another project in the works?
I’ve been thinking about another time travel story or possibly a sci-fi adventure, which I haven’t tackled yet. This is going to require some heavy reading and vacation time is rapidly approaching!
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Write about what you know and love most. It makes the research so much easier.
Where can readers connect with you and learn more about your work?
My website will tell you all about my books, including excerpts and book trailers: www.kaylinmcfarren.com.
My blog will tell you about my concerns and feelings on everyday issues: https://kaylinmcfarren.blog.
Wherever you visit, I love receiving feedback and acquiring new friends.
Kaylin, it’s been a pleasure, as always. Thank you for visiting Reader Views today and sharing a bit about your latest book, High Flying.
Thank you for allowing me to share my experiences and this fun, new book!