‘Red-tailed Hawk’ by Nancy Schoellkopf, the second installment in her book series about Samantha O’Malley, is a wonderful blend of her family’s story rooted in reality and an otherworldly adventure that takes the family on an engaging journey of self-discovery.
‘Red-tailed Hawk’ is the story of Samantha’s daughter Mariah; the novel’s predecessor, ‘Yellow-billed Magpie,’ focuses on Samantha. Though Mariah is clearly the protagonist of ‘Red-tailed Hawk,’ I found myself engaged and interested in each and every character, including Samantha the spiritual mother and Mariah’s practical older brother Dale. It’s as if I learned so much about each of the family members to the point where there is a connection between them and me. Therefore I not only sensed their familial bond, but I also felt invested in their struggles.
Throughout the novel, I was hoping that the family, and especially Mariah, would be able to track down the family heirloom, a thimble with two red-tailed hawks. Schoellkopf knows her characters well, so she is not afraid to explore who they are. An author who is unfamiliar with her characters and therefore paints them as one-dimensional could lead the reader to dismiss their exhaustive cross-country search for a thimble (although a family heirloom) as meaningless.
Schoellkopf manages to delve deeply into each character’s thought process at a manageable and easy pace. The characters the family interacts with on its travel are low-key versions of fairy tale archetypes such as trolls and fairies, but they are still created as believable enough that they could be found in real life.
For more information about ‘Red-tailed Hawk’ by Nancy Schoellkopf, read on about the book description, her bio, and my interview with her.
‘Red-tailed Hawk’ spotlight/book description
When Mariah Easter encounters a large hawk in her urban midtown neighborhood, her father Charlie is concerned. He can see a wild and mystical path opening before his daughter, a path he himself would never be able to resist. The hawk soon reappears: engraved with its twin on a golden thimble that has been an Easter family heirloom for generations. After the thimble is stolen at a funeral reception, Mariah and her mother Samantha set off on a road trip to find it, a journey that will bring healing to the grieving family and change Mariah’s life forever.
Red-tailed Hawk is a coming of age story, the tale of a young woman’s quest to discover the source of her own longing and to understand the mystical legacy of her family.
Nancy Schoellkopf is the author of Yellow-billed Magpie, the first in her Easter Family series. Nancy has been telling stories and writing poems for many lifetimes. It goes without saying that she’d need a second income, so this time around she has happily taught amazing children in special education classes in two urban school districts in Sacramento, California. A full time writer now, she enjoys lavishing attention on her cats, her garden, and her intriguing circle of family and friends.
Interview with Nancy Schoellkopf
1. Discuss how birds influence your writing, especially since your first novel in the Easter family series is titled ” Yellow-Billed Magpie” and the second is called “Red-tailed Hawk.”
I’ve always been interested in birds, but after I took a class from a local Audubon group, birds began showing up in my writing. I was excited to learn in this class that the yellow-billed magpie lives only in my home base here in Northern California. When I started writing my first novel, I needed a title for the computer file. I called it magpie just for fun. But that magpie wanted into the story and soon he was directing the plot. That happens when you let your characters have their way. Now I’m happy to let Samantha and Mariah watch the skies and tree branches to give me inspiration.
2. How do you find the inspiration to write?
I think the most important thing for a writer is to find time to write. Over the years, I’ve worked at maintaining a “practice,” a routine of writing daily or at least several times a week. When you write this often, it doesn’t matter what you write about; the practice serves to develop flow and endurance, just as it does for an athlete when she cross trains. When you have this kind of persistence, story ideas arise naturally.
3. When you wrote “Yellow-billed Magpie,” did you intend to write a sequel for it or to turn it into a series?
I initially intended ‘Yellow-billed Magpie’ to be the story of a woman coming to terms with her childless state, learning to find meaning in other parts of her life. But (SPOILER ALERT) Samantha let me know she was going to get pregnant whether I liked it or not—and so my first novel was born. I intended it to be a stand-alone book, but Samantha had other ideas.
4. What is the message you want the reader to take away from “Red-tailed Hawk”?
I don’t intend any particular message in my novels. I just want to tell a good story and hope it touches readers’ hearts.
5. In “Yellow-billed Magpie,” Samantha is reconnecting with her former lover Craig who is also her spiritual guide. In “Red-tailed Hawk,” she and her family go on a quest to search for a family heirloom. What compelled you to want to continue telling Samantha’s story in the sequel?
I thought Samantha and I had told a good story and were ready to go our separate ways. Then a friend challenged me to write a book about Samantha’s and Charlie’s baby. I thought, well, all I know about this character (spoiler alert) is she had a twin who died in utero. I started exploring the idea that Mariah’s unborn sibling may show up in surprising ways. I’d have to say all my story ideas have been rather serendipitous like this. By the way, perhaps it wasn’t clear, but Craig and Samantha were never lovers. They always had a brother/sister relationship. Charlie was the lover Samantha couldn’t forget.
6. According to your website, you have decided to take your leave from teaching and focus on your writing. What prompted you to make this decision and how did you transition between two different professions?
I had a long joyful career in special education working with children who have severe disabilities. But teaching can be both physically and emotionally draining. When I had the opportunity to retire, I discovered I was ready.
The transition to full time writer was not difficult. I have always been a poet and storyteller. For many years, I would get up early so I could write for an hour or so before heading to work. Retiring from teaching has happily given me more time to write so I can focus on bigger projects like the Avian series.
7. There are some similarities between you and Samantha, such as both of you have backgrounds in teaching special education and that both of you are free spirits. How else would you say Samantha is similar to you and also different?
Hmmmm—are Samantha and I free spirits? That’s an interesting notion. Compared to her first husband Tom, Samantha feels like an anarchist! But next to her old lover Charlie, she feels like a stick-in-the-mud conservative. That search for a middle ground is something Samantha and I both share. Also, I’d say we are both hard workers and loyal to the people we love. How are we different? Well, Samantha isn’t a writer. Unlike Samantha, I rely on my journaling to help me process the chaos and minutia of daily life.