Sixteen-year-old Lew Kelly grew up idolizing his enigmatic ex-gunfighter father. Everyone thought Lew’s habit of practicing his quick draw was a harmless amusement—until the day when a boys’ hot-headed quarrel exploded into gun play, with disastrous results.
Three years later, Lew is withdrawn and bitter—and he still carries a gun. When an unexpected twist of circumstances forces him to face again the memories and the aftermath of that ill-fated fight, will old wrongs be righted—or will the result be an even worse tragedy than before?
Ten Interesting Facts About Left-Hand Kelly
1.) It took four years to write. No, not literally, but it was almost four years from the day I wrote the first line to the day of publication. I began it sometime in 2010, and wrote it a couple of chapters at a time, with gaps of months in between when I would get stuck and put it aside to work on something else, before finally finishing the first draft in February 2013. There was never a time when I gave up on it, though, no matter how stuck I got—it always kept me coming back to try again.
2.) Oddly enough, I can’t remember where or when I got the idea for the story. All the evidence I have is an undated sheet of lined paper with a synopsis on one side and a list of character names on the other—both of which remained remarkably intact from inception to final draft.
3.) I dedicated the book to my dad, who started me well on the way to loving Westerns when I was little. We spent many rainy Saturday afternoons watching John Wayne movies or reruns of classic Western TV shows like Bonanza, The Big Valley and High Chaparral.
4.) My plotting and outlining was done in a red composition book (the kind with the old-fashioned-looking marbled cover) with half the pages torn out, passed on from my youngest sister who didn’t need it anymore. Funny, but it seems every time I outline a story in a hand-me-down notebook, something good comes of it. Coincidence? I don’t know, but now I make a point of never refusing a hand-me-down!
5.) Well into the writing process, I discovered that one of my supporting characters shared a name with the protagonist of Tiger Eye, a novel by my favorite Western author B.M. Bower. But since the characters differed greatly in personality and appearance, Tiger Eye is unfortunately quite obscure, and its protagonist spent most of the book under a nickname—and I was already attached to the name myself—I decided it could stay. The funny thing is, Tiger Eye would go on to become one of my favorite novels, so anyone who heard me say that might think the name was a deliberate homage. But it isn’t, honestly; it was a complete coincidence!
6.) Titling chapters is one of the most fun parts of writing a book, and one of my chapter titles in Left-Hand Kelly is a subtle nod to a master of the art: Victor Hugo. His Les Misérables is a chapter-titling tour de force. I haven’t checked, but I’m guessing he holds the record for shortest chapter title ever (“A”), and maybe even the longest (“In Which Mademoiselle Gillenormand At Last Thinks It Not Improper That Monsieur Fauchelevent Should Come In With Something Under His Arm.”) A couple of my favorites were “Deposit Your Money in the Forest Rather Than With Some Notary,” and “Which Tells the Way to Enter a Convent.” At the time I was writing Left-Hand Kelly I remembered that one hazily as “One Way to Enter a Convent,” so my own Chapter 10 became “One Way to Prevent a Murder.”
7.) For the first time ever, I was able to find a photo that matched my mental picture of one of my characters. That still doesn’t happen too often! But this picture is very close to the way I imagine Claire.
8.) At one point I had to cut a day from the timeline of the story, which meant rewriting the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another. The result was several pages of snarled-up, out-of-order paragraphs, which I eventually resorted to numbering in red ink so I could piece them together in the proper order. Of course it didn’t help that I accidentally skipped a number…I spent a while searching for it before the truth dawned on me.
9.) The scenes under the big oak tree may have been partly inspired by the tree near the general store on the town set of Little House on the Prairie. I kind of grew out of that show some time ago, but I always did like that tree.
10.) During the very last proofread, only a few days prior to publication, I caught a bewilderingly simple error which only the author of the story could have noticed: I’d referred to someone’s left hand when I meant to say right. Which was rather ironic, don’t you think?
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