Author Spotlight: Brenda Whiteside

I often get my inspiration from a place, a city, a landscape. I prefer to set my stories in locations I know. But they need to have that certain something that gets the creative juices flowing. Settings can be characters in themselves—or at least that is how I approach them. The setting for The MacKenzie Chronicles is a fictional town, Joshua, Arizona, inspired by a real-life Arizona destination, Jerome. Once dubbed “The Wickedest Town in the West,” the history is rich with tales of mining, brothels, and ghosts from another century. Add to that history the hippie settlers of the 1960s and 1970s who revitalized the crumbling town into an art mecca. The streets are stacked on the side of the mountain. There’s a jail still intact that literally slid down the mountain decades ago. Wine, food, ruins, and adventure await the tourist. The town looks much the same as it did in the early part of the twentieth century.

Since I was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Jerome was a day trip and always fun. As I wandered the streets, I would wonder what life was like during the wicked years with miners trudging the dirt roads, ladies of the night leaning over balconies, and respectable, rich wives in their mansions. In the 60s and 70s, I experienced firsthand how the town was reshaped. The town became a cultural statement and mystical in my imagination…don’t forget, these were the mind-expanding decades. My characters were forming in my head, even before I knew I would become an author.

I turned Jerome into Joshua. After copying a brief synopsis of Jerome into my computer, I replaced all the facts with my parallel city of Joshua. I have a map of the town which is basically three roads stacked like stadium seating. Only on my map, the shops, streets, landmarks, and businesses are those of Joshua. I created a family tree and time line history that begins in 1905 to present day.  

Despite my characters having personalities that include the gifts of empath or clairsentient, these are not paranormal stories. But because my three characters are children of parents who were deep into the mindset of the 60s, I fell into a mystical underlying storyline. The mother, deceased before the first book, was a mystic and renowned in Joshua. I set out to write three books about three siblings who possess some degree of the mother’s mystical talents and are artistic like their father.

In spite of my familiarity with the town, I needed a great deal of research to make my characters live the life. I read a couple of histories written by residents. I made a few trips there, spotting stores or buildings I would use in the stories. I read a good deal about empaths (for book three, Curse of Wolf Falls) clairsentients for book two, and déjà vu for book one.

By the time I got to book three, Elidor formed as a character most closely like her mother. She doesn’t make a physical appearance in books one and two, but it’s apparent she is the black sheep of the family and an empath who is troubled. She has spent her life running from her gift which she considers a curse, but she comes back to Joshua to make amends. Oh, did I have fun researching her. Plus, she’s an archaeologist with a dangerous secret, which kept her on the move. The fact she is an archaeologist sent me in another direction of research. Fascinating!

I’m particularly proud of the third book in the series, Curse of Wolf Falls, because it completes the family saga arc satisfactorily, and my character finds the peace and happiness she’s yearned for her whole life. Elidor was particularly adept at slowly revealing certain aspects of her backstory and personality to me as the story progressed. At times, I felt her guiding my fingers across the keys of my laptop. Her empathic abilities make her particularly in tune to the feelings of those she loves, which can be euphoric if there is joy. But the pain can be difficult to manage as well as the urge to solve everyone’s problems. Getting into her head and finding ways to control her gift was a challenge. Lots of fun to write…but a challenge.

When I write and how I schedule my time is generally the same each day, but as we all know life can get in the way. Most days, I rise at 5:30, pour my cup of coffee (programed the night before to brew at 5:20), and go back to my bed with my laptop. I can usually get email and some promo done by 7:00. Then it’s walk the dog time and breakfast. I try to put in four hours of writing and three hours of other writerly chores like blogging, promo, etc. I’m fried by 4:00. I then kick back and do any number of personal things…my favorite is to have a glass of wine and enjoy the aroma of whatever my husband is cooking.

How I feel about my finished product, The Mackenzie Chronicles and in particular Curse of Wolf Falls, is summed up in my dedication in the third book:

For all those who aren’t like everyone else—who feel deeper, who see the world in a different light, who are extraordinary, outlandish, and unconventional.

About the Author

Brenda Whiteside is the award-winning author of romantic suspense, cozy mystery, and romance. After living in six states and two countries—so far—she and her husband have settled in Central Arizona. They admit to being gypsies at heart so won’t discount the possibility of another move. They share their home with a rescue dog named Amigo. While FDW fishes, Brenda writes.


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