The Red McKenna series chronicles the adventures of a six-foot, three-inch redhead with an athlete's body, a mathematical-genius mind, and an independent streak a mile wide.
Months ago, I promised to alert
readers of this blog when my first full-length novel Red
appeared. Well, it's out. Actually, it's been
out for a while in hard cover, paperback, and e-book formats. It is
available through online and brick-and-mortar booksellers. Published
by iUniverse, the novel introduces a unique
heroine whom I think readers of this blog could relate to. She's a
six-foot, three-inch redhead with a mathematical genius mind, as well
as a crack-athelete's body and an independent streak a mile wide.
Her soul mate is a biker who's even bigger, smarter, and more
independent. Together, they harness science and advanced technology
to solve riddles that life throws at them.
The idea for the story started back in early 2001 on a bitterly cold January night in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. I'd just flown in from Arizona to spend a week emptying out and closing up the house of my recently deceased father, who'd finally succumbed to cancer at age 87.
When I say it was bitterly cold, I ain't just kiddin'. The high for the day was about zero Fahrenheit, which is cold even for New England in January. For a desert rat living in Arizona, it was unbelievable!
Then, the sun set, and it got colder.
I curled up in a lotus position with the thickest quilt I could find wrapped around me, hoping the furnace would soon drive away the chill that had seeped into the walls during two weeks of the house being empty. Since the house had been empty, there was no TV. I'd been cooped up on an airplane for hours with nothing to do but read, so I was read out. My body was still on Mountain Standard Time, and I'm a night owl, anyway, so sleep was many hours away.
I just sat, and thought.
What I thought was the beginning of this story. It was going to be the adventures of two young people who made a transcontinental journey by motorcycle, visiting all the places I liked to go by motorcycle, doing the things I like to do when touring by motorcycle, and meeting the kinds of people I meet when wandering around by motorcycle.
To make it interesting, I'd have the lady be a newbie biker, who'd never been on a motorcycle tour before. Everything would be new to her, and a surprise.
What would she look like? Well, I like tall redheads who are really, really smart. My mother was tall, had auburn hair, and was one of the smartest people I've ever met. My wife is tall, has red hair, and is no slouch between the ears, either. In fact, I'm a sucker for tall redheads with lots of brains. So, my heroine would be tall, have red hair, and be really, really smart.
Since everything in an exciting fiction story must be bigger than life, she'd have to be extremely tall - like six-foot, three-inches tall - have lots of flaming red hair, and be a genius with a full scholarship in an Ivy League college studying something that gives most people phobias: mathematics.
The guy would be a veteran biker, who knew all the right places to go, and could introduce her to the most interesting people. To be able to match her, he'd have to be really tall - like six-foot, six-inches tall - more athletic, and even smarter.
They'd visit motorcycle races, camp out at biker rallies, spend hours shopping at motorcycle flea markets, and spend evenings getting plastered at biker bars. Being really, really smart would give them the wherewithal to thumb their noses at convention whenever they wanted to. They could get into stuff the rest of us only fantasize about.
It'd be a lot of fun for them, and, maybe, for readers.
In that form, however, it'd be lucky to make fifty pages long. That's a longish short story, not a novel. A novel needs a lot more. It needs character development. It needs suspense. It needs mystery.
It needed a lot of work.
Over the next nine years, the story grew. The young lady got a name, Judith McKenna (nicknamed "Red" for obvious reasons), as well as a troubled past. Her troubles, however, were not her fault, and not the fault of any character flaw. The troubles stemmed from a singular event that made building relationships difficult at best, especially building relationships with guys. That event was the untimely and mysterious disappearance of her father just at the time an adolescent girl needs a father figure most.
So, the father figure would be supplied by the mysterious biker, who takes her on a journey, which is no longer a touristy vacation, but a journey of self-discovery. Who was she, inside? How could she relate to other people? What was she going to do with her life?
One of the ambiguities she'd have to resolve could be a bit of sexual confusion. That could be fun!
The mystery, of course, is what happened to her father. Why'd he leave? Why'd he not come back?
my favorite fiction genres over the past lots-and-lots-of-decades
have been mystery and science fiction. And, my favorite stories have
always combined both. And, my favorite author has been Rober
Heinlein, who generally combined those two genres and used them to
weave epic tales that explored basic human values. That's what I'd try to do.
Judith's story had a mystery, and had some serious character-development potential. It also had two young people off on their own, providing plenty of opportunities for fooling around between sheets, which will seriously spice up any story. In fact, giving her a chance to peel back layers to slowly discover who this biker was would add a second mystery, which might be fun to develop as well.
What she would find is a scientific genius who could provide technology that would make solving her other mystery - what happened to her father - possible, where it hadn't been before. He'd have built his own company in very short time, capitalizing on his inventions in aerospace technology. I know about aerospace technology. I can do that.
With all that additional content packed in, the space needed to tell the story expanded tenfold. When I finally sat down to type it out, it took a year instead of the three-to-six months I envisioned. From a simple little story about a motorcycle trip, it grew to an epic adventure.
By the way, it's still growing, with new titles coming soon. My wife says she likes the sequel even better.
I think you'll like it, too.