Featured Interview With Gifford MacShane
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
I’m the author of historical fiction that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit. My novels feature a family of Irish immigrants who settled in the Arizona Territory. The first novel in the series, WHISPERS IN THE CANYON, was released by Soul Mate Publishing in September, 2019. I’ve written two more novels in the Donovan Family Saga (now in various stages of editing), and a pre-quel novella which explains the family’s reasons for emigrating to America.
Singing almost before I could talk, I’ve always loved folk music, whether it be Irish, Appalachian, or the songs of the cowboys. My love of the Old West goes back to childhood, when my father introduced me to the works of Zane Grey. Later I became interested in the Irish diaspora, realizing my ancestors must have lived through An Gorta Mor, the Great Irish Potato Famine of the mid-1800s. Writing allows me to combine my three great interests into a series of family stories, each including romance, traditional song lyrics, and a dash of Celtic mysticism.
A grammar nerd who still loves diagramming sentences, I currently live in Pennsylvania with my husband Richard, the Pied Piper of stray cats. I tend to give our rescues unusual names, like ZebNebula, Sprite, Finn McCool & Potiphar.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
Like most folks who grow up to be authors, I started writing in grade school with simple poems and what we now call “fan fiction”. By the age of 10, I was tired of kids’ books and I asked the librarian to recommend something, and thus became acquainted with The Virginian by Owen Wister — that was all it took to get me hooked on Westerns as a literary form. As a result, I read through my father’s entire collection of Zane Grey novels by the end of that summer, and still have and read those wonderful books. (If you think all there is to Zane Grey is shoot-em-ups, let me recommend The Vanishing American, The Mysterious Rider, or Riders of the Purple Sage. Read one and experience the depth of characterization—I bet you get hooked, too!)
The hard-core Knight of the Range and the literature of that time, that place—both live deep inside me.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
While I do read historicals and westerns, most of my reading is in the mystery/thriller genres: Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, David Baldacci’s King & Maxwell series, and J. D. Robb’s In Death series take up a lot of space on my bookshelves, along with the late Dick Francis. These are books, like Zane Grey, that I can always find something new in.
As for an individual book, it’s really hard to choose just one favorite. THE VIRGINIAN was my first, followed closely by WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Bronte. But I also just re-read ETHAN FROME by Edith Wharton, and it hit me just as hard as it did the first time. LOOK HOMEWARD, ANGEL by Thomas Wolfe is one I go back to from time to time as well. I find his style fascinating.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
My latest book is also my debut novel, WHISPERS IN THE CANYON, the first book in the Donovan Family Saga. In a nutshell, it’s the story of a young woman whose survival depends on the man who shot her brother. Here’s a little more detail:
Shunned by the village for her outlaw brother’s deeds, Jesse Travers is not sorry to hear he’s been killed while robbing a bank. Strangely enough it’s Adam Donovan, the man who shot him, who brings her the news.
Traumatized by years of abuse, Jesse doubts she can trust any man—especially this Irish immigrant with his volatile temper and gunfighter’s reputation. But now she’s alone, and he’s offered to help put her bankrupt ranch back on solid footing. A profound love for her canyon home is stronger than her trepidation, and she accepts his assistance.
As they work together to improve her ranch, Jesse begins to see that Adam’s true nature is far removed from his reputation. She feels the first stirrings of love―an emotion she’s never known before. Then, as if to tell her she is unworthy of happiness, her past rises up with a vengeance and she is left with a terrible choice: retreat to a life of solitude and shame, or trust her heart and reveal her tragic secret, in the hope that Adam is the man she believes him to be.
I’m working on the sequel now, and hope to have it published before the end of summer. THE WOODSMAN’S ROSE features the same cast of characters, but the central romance involves another member of the family.
The inspiration for this series struck me when I read an article about a memorial sculpture being installed in County Cork that celebrated the aid the Choctaw Tribe in America gave to the Irish during the Irish Famine (An Gorta Mor). My mother has a smidgen of native blood, so the article caught my eye.
My father’s family were Irish immigrants, and I realized that they had lived through that famine. I did some research and learned that it was a totally avoidable disaster, which cut Ireland’s population by at least a third while food was being exported to England at astronomical rates.
I felt compelled to tell the stories of the survivors—the ones who somehow held body and soul together and found a way to prosper.
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