Behind The Scenes: Brenda Whitside

The Curse of Wolf Falls (The MacKenzie Chronicles book 3) by Brenda Whiteside

Inspiration/Setting and Worldbuilding

I was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. One of the places that is famous in Arizona is an 1800s mining town, turned ghost town, reborn as a hippie haven, and now a tourist town clinging to the side of Cleopatra Hill overlooking the Verde Valley and Sedona beyond. I’ve visited the tourist hotspot several times. The history of the area is rich with myths and reality. Jerome became my Joshua, Arizona. I envisioned a hippie couple of the sixties who meet in Joshua.

I did a great deal of research on Jerome, Arizona. Although research isn’t my favorite part of writing a book, I had fun with this one. 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 and businesses are those of Joshua.

My first manuscript was about the hippie couple, but as I wrote my mind jumped to present day and the children they raised there. Since I write character driven novels, I couldn’t ignore them and the stories they were weaving in my head. I set aside the parents’ book because their stories play a big part in the three siblings’ novels.

With a mystic mother, renowned within the culture of Joshua, and an artist father whose creations are sought after in his older daughter’s mercantile, the siblings are each unique in their inherited traits. Magpie, the oldest, is more a pragmatist like her father, but she doesn’t ignore the signs the universe sends her. Harlan, although not a full-believer in the mystic life, can’t deny he has an ability to take in the energy of objects and places with a history. He’s kept it a secret until his story is revealed in book two. Elidor, the youngest, is most like her mother the mystic with a strong empathic gift.

All three books are mysteries with strong suspense threads and some romance. The past in the form of diaries, historical data, and memories play a part in finding the murderer or solving the mystery.

Curse of Wolf Falls brings Elidor back to Joshua from New Mexico. Her travels have been wide as an archaeologist and allowed her to keep her distance from Joshua and her family. But it’s time for Elidor to embrace Joshua and her past while avoiding her present danger.

Character Development

The Curse of Wolf Falls percolated in my head for quite awhile. When I set out to write the series based on a setting I loved, the three books were planned around three siblings. The youngest of the siblings, Elidor, would be the final book. As the final story, she danced behind the scenes of books one and two. She would be the black sheep of the family. When her brother or sister or father mentioned her in the first two books, hints of her troubled personality surfaced. So by the time I got to book three, her character was in great shape.

Elidor comes home to make amends but also to hide a secret. She’s an archaeologist, and she’s made a discovery that she feels shouldn’t be revealed in order to protect an Indian culture. She’s an empath, and her gift is particularly sharp in Joshua, so coming home is always difficult. What I didn’t know about her was how she came to relate her gift as a curse and how that curse related to Joshua. And how all of that plays into another Indian culture. Elidor was particularly adept at slowly revealing certain aspects of her backstory and personality to me. 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.

But the character who ended up being the biggest surprise was Jules Landry. Jules and Elidor were in love before she decided to leave Joshua years before this book. He comes back to Joshua for his ill uncle at the same time she returns. That was as much as I knew before I started writing. His backstory blossomed as I wrote—a retired, and renowned news correspondent who is now an author. He covered some dangerous news stories worldwide. Now, he’s a midlist biographer, but doesn’t need the income because of the wealth from his deceased parents. He’s from New Orleans originally, Creole heritage, and a warm, colorful character.

Closing Thoughts

There is a series arc in addition to the arc of each story in books one, two, and three. The relationship between the three siblings and their father is completed as well as their connection to the layered atmosphere of Joshua, Arizona.

In each of the books, there is a subplot concerning family dynamics. The three siblings are as different as bothers and sisters can be, but they also have common bonds and slowly come to recognize and embrace their differences. I like to think I bring the reader along in each book to that conclusion.




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