January 15, 2012

My Arizona Writing Life--Kristy McCaffrey

            I was born and raised in Scottsdale, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix. Nearly every house here has a swimming pool and my sister and I were quite the fish, living in the water every day, all summer long. The heat is legendary.
Arizona is called the Grand Canyon State and each year over 5 million visitors flock to see this natural wonder of the world. As part of the Four Corners region with New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah, Arizona has one of the largest U.S. Indian populations—more than 14 tribes are represented on 20 reservations, including the Apache, the Navajo, the Hopi, the Hualapai, and the Havasupai. The state also regulates an international border with Mexico, embroiling the government in controversial immigration issues. The capital and largest city is Phoenix, with a population of 1.5 million. Arizona is one of two states that does not observe Daylight Savings Time, except in the Navajo Nation, located in the northeastern region of the state. 
            Arizona is the 48th state and the last of the contiguous states admitted into the Union, achieving statehood on February 14th, 1912. So this year marks the state’s 100th birthday. The area is noted for its desert climate, exceptionally hot summers and mild winters, but also features pine forests and mountain ranges in the northern high country.
            Marcos de Niza, a Spanish Franciscan friar, was the first European to explore Arizona. He entered the area in 1539 in search of the mythical Seven Cities of Gold. In 1775 the Spanish established Fort Tucson. In 1848, after the Mexican War, most of the Arizona territory became part of the United States, and the southern portion was added by the Gadsden Purchase in 1853.
            Arizona’s rich history includes the surrender of the great Apache chief Geronimo to the U.S. Army and the West’s most famous shoot-out at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.
            The star attraction, the Grand Canyon, is a steep gorge located in northern Arizona. Carved by the Colorado River and 277 miles long, it ranges in width from 4 to 18 miles and attains a depth of more than 1 mile. Nearly 2 billion years of the Earth’s history are visible in the exposed layers of sediment.
            In the northern part of the state are Monument Valley, the Painted Desert, and the Petrified National Forest. Monument Valley is characterized by a cluster of vast sandstone buttes. The area was immortalized in John Ford westerns such as “The Searchers.” The Painted Desert is a 146-square-mile area of badlands composed of stratified layers of easily erodible siltstone, mudstone, and shale. An assortment of fossilized prehistoric plants and animals are found in the region, as well as dinosaur tracks and evidence of early human habitation. Petrified Forest National Park is known for its fossils, especially fallen trees that lived in the Late Triassic period, about 225 million years ago.
Also in the north is Lake Powell, the second largest man-made reservoir in the U.S., created by the controversial Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River. It was named for explorer John Wesley Powell, a one-armed American Civil War veteran who explored the river via three wooden boats in 1869.
            Arizona is home to one of the most well-preserved meteorite impact sites in the world. Meteor Crater is a giant hole in the middle of the high plains of the Colorado Plateau, about 25 miles west of Winslow. The crater is nearly 1 mile wide and 570 feet deep and was the result of a collision between a piece of an asteroid traveling at 26,000 miles per hour and planet Earth approximately 50,000 years ago. The strange terrain was used as a training ground for the Apollo astronauts.
            Early in its history, Arizona’s economy relied on the “five C’s”: copper, cotton, cattle, citrus, and climate. At one point Arizona was the largest producer of cotton in the country. Copper is still extensively mined from many expansive open-pit and underground mines, accounting for two-thirds of the nation’s output. Today manufacturing has become Arizona’s most important industry. Principal products include electrical, communications, and aeronautical items. Agriculture is also a big part of the state’s economy.
            After living in the Pittsburgh area for nearly 20 years, I recently moved back to Arizona with my husband and children. One thing hadn’t changed—the heat. My children are still adjusting!

Kristy McCaffrey writes historical western romances. Her newest book, THE SPARROW, is now available from Whiskey Creek Press and is set in the Grand Canyon in 1877.


  1. Hi Kristy,
    Do you play golf? I have friends who to to Scottsdale just for the pleasure. There are tons to see in Arizona. You must have lots of guests. Is it true you have to hire a lawn service to come and provide water in order to have grass? Congratulations on your latest book. Thanks, for educating me about a beautiful state.

  2. Arizona has much to offer and you've spelled it out beautifully, Kristy.
    I came close to living in Bisbee at one point.

  3. Kristy, I grew up in Pittsburgh. Gone a long time, but have many memories.

    I explored the rim of the Grand Canyon some years ago with my family. I'll never forget the unreal feeling of looking at it for the first time. No postcard can do it justice and when you finally get around to the south rim, its enormity just is hard to sink in. Truly a wonder.

  4. You did a marvelous job describing the beauty and grandeur of Arizona. I lived in Surprise for three years, until the call of my east-coast roots and the ocean lured me back. There are many things I miss about AZ, especially the variety of culture and the ever changing landscape of desert and mountains. I think I prefer the heat of AZ to the humidity of FL. Sedona still beckons with its healing red rocks. Good job!

  5. Arizona has so much. I was there just once. We did go to the Grand Canyon. My daughter, who is handicapped, got us behind the gates so we could drive wherever we wanted. I love the geology in Arizona.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

  6. Hi, Kristy--I love the Grand Canyon. Probably everyone does, though. It's such a special place.
    I've been through the desert and to the GC, but other than a layover, I've not been to Phoenix nor Flaggstaff. One day, I'd like to explore Arizona. Your photos are gorgeous.
    I do hope your book is doing well..it too, seems like a special story. Guess I need to start another list!

  7. Kristy,
    Your post was very informative. I admire writers who write historical fiction.

  8. I love Arizona and have visited several times, though my favorite spot of all is Sedona. Thanks for showing a bit more of the state and good luck with your book.

  9. Dear Nora,
    I don't really play golf anymore but many people come here just for that. I live in north Scottsdale so it's all desert landscape, no grass. But where I grew up (in more of a neighborhood setting) we had a lawn. You didn't need a service but there were times when the city asked you not to water your lawn if water levels were low.

  10. Lovely post. We were in Arizona just this summer. Very hot. :)

    Congrats on your writing success!

  11. I have family in Scottsdale! Have visited several times and yes, hot but lovely and very fun!

  12. I love Arizona! I have relatives in Phoenix, and my husband and I have purchased a home for our retirement in Chino Valley near Prescott. Can't wait to live where there's sunshine (but not so hot in summer!)

  13. Thanks to everyone for your wonderful comments. Sedona is a wonderful place. It has great energy and you can feel it as soon as you enter the Verde Valley. I also love Prescott. A quick drive from Phx that gets you out of the heat. I was terribly homesick when I lived in Pittsburgh and am blessed to have returned!

  14. The Grand Canyon would be nice to visit.



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