Welcome, Kathy Handley, author of Birds of Paradise

I am so pleased to host Kathy Handley today on her WOW Women on Writing Blog tour and chat with her about her novel Birds of Paradise. Her subject matter is sad and powerful about homeless teenagers in Hollywood California.

Here is a brief synopsis:

When trucker Joe-Mack picks up a runaway in Vegas and drops him in
Hollywood, he offers to help him. When the call comes, he reaches out to the boy and becomes embroiled in Freddie’s life along with Starlet, the homeless girl who desires stardom. The three have in common a search for love and for a place to belong.
Set in California’s beautiful, yet challenging neighborhoods, the characters, like lost Birds of Paradise, take on risks and maintain thin threads of dignity amidst troubling situations with surprising twists along the way.

A recent reviewer said:

I read Birds of Paradise while on vacation in L.A.– the perfect place to experience Kathy Handley’s powerful portraits of young street people lost and found. Walking around Hollywood I saw her characters in the faces of the crowds and in the slumped figures in silent back alleys. She captures the rhythms, dangers, and dreams of Southern California — dreams that are hard-wired in many an American soul and have pulled people West since the country’s first inhabitants wondered what was on the other side of the mountains.

Yes, this is one of those novels where you can’t help but imagine the big screen version.
And the truck driver hero–he’s good-hearted, but mighty complicated.
Hmmm…I could see Chris Cooper playing him…or perhaps a young Harry Dean Stanton.
What a wonderful and mesmerizing ride this novel takes us on–
through the back roads of Hollywood and the wide open highways.
This story is brimming with beauty, heart and wisdom. I absolutely loved this book!

Kathy was pleased to answer a few of my questions about her book and her writing career.

Choices: How long have you been writing? What else have you published?

Kathy: Madeline, I started late in my life with formal writing. My daughter tells me I was always a storyteller and I have memories of writing very sad and horrible poetry during my teens and college years. At the tender age of 58, I joined a writing group and from there attended conferences at Wesleyan, Grub Street classes, individual tutoring and mentoring with the fine writer, Bruce Machart, author of The Wake of Forgiveness (a must read!) Inside the cover of my collection, there is a list of published work and contest placements that include Page to Screen judged by Sara Gruen, Press 53 2010 Flash Fiction, Istanbul Literary Review, and others. I encourage my writer friends to submit widely and enter all levels of contests. 

My collection, A World of Love and Envy, Short Stories, Flash Fiction and Poetry was published in tandem with the novel, Birds of Paradise. I loved gathering a decade’s worth of work; the subtitles, love, yesterdays, envy, Irish voices and California Lost fell naturally into place. 

Choices: Kathy, Do you have a day job?

Kathy: I’m chuckling at your question- do you have a day job? Now Madeline, I’m a woman of a certain age, retired from teaching and busier than ever. I have pawned off a few household chores on my hubby while I write and I’d recommend that. 

Choices: Well, I can certainly relate to that. How many different ways are you putting the Internet to work to promote your book besides this WOW blog tour? Do you think this blog tour is helpful in promoting your book and encouraging sales?

Kathy: Since I’ve lived in CT, CA, MI and now MA, I love connecting through email and Facebook. My blog tour with WOW-Woman on Writing looks promising. I follow many writers, noting they work totally hard and express gratitude for readers. 

Choices: What advice would you give a writer just starting a novel?

Kathy: If one is considering publishing, it’s important to review past work while following your own vision. If one is starting a novel, be sure to love your characters and the settings. You’ll spend a lot of time with them. Take classes and continue craft study.

Choices: Even though your book is a work of fiction, it has a very powerful message. What drew you to the subject of homeless teenagers in Hollywood California? What advice do you have for these young people?

Kathy: Rather than advice to the homeless teens, I would encourage folks to reach out and become involved with organizations that help them, such as My Friends Place in Hollywood. Now, my biggest passion involves helping children with cerebral palsy. My grandson, Eric, born at 2 pounds and now 12, is my inspiration. He and I may write a book this year. 

Choices: Oh, I can’t wait to read that book when it comes out.

Are any of the characters in Birds of Paradise based on people you know?How did you research your material?

Kathy: I start with images for my characters and write a lot about them- their backstories, and then, I put them in a scene and the magic happens. My 20 years in California helped me with the settings. I did research some things like the Getty Museum and desert flowers. 

Choices: I’m most curious about Katha, aging actress? How did you create her?

Kathy: A dear friend, in Los Angeles, Molly, taught me a lot about older ladies, thus Katha, was born. 

Choice: One last question. I’ve heard comments about making a film version of your story. Is a film in the works yet?

Kathy: I’d love to see Birds of Paradise on the big screen, as my friend, Jamie Cat Callan, Bonjour, Happiness, envisions it. It was considered when I won the Page-To-Screen, but no word yet. I’m hopeful and writers live with hope. 

Choices: Thanks so much Kathy. We can’t wait to see Birds of Paradise on the big screen. Much luck with that.

About Kathy:

Author Kathy Handley

Kathy Handley’s grandfather entertained his family with stories and dancing, her father quoted Shakespeare and her mother was known as Mary the Poet so naturally Kathryn would become a writer¦eventually!

Now a published novelist at age 71, Kathy’s short fiction has appeared in many literary magazines. She recently won Word Hustler’s Page-to-Screen Contest (2011) and currently serves as Prose Poetry Judge for the National League of American Pen Women Soul-Making Contest. A collection of her short fiction, flash-fiction, and poetry has also been released under the title A World of Love and Envy.

Kathryn Handley’s Website:


Publisher’s Website:

Hashtag: #BirdsParadise

Birds of Paradise is available as eBook for Kindle or soft cover.

Please comment and ask Kathy Handley your own questions. She’ll be stopping by today to respond.


  1. Still waiting for your book to arrive Madeline. Once I’ve read it, Kathy’s sounds like the next cab off the rank. I’m sure there will be many similarities to the issues facing the homeless here. I had a chuckle at Kathy’s comment re the ‘sad and horrible poetry’ she wrote in the earlier years. I really enjoyed the Q & A session. Best wishes. Jeff.

  2. Thank you so much, Jeff, for ordering my book. I look forward to knowing what you think of it.
    And thanks for reading our Q & A. It was a lot of fun to work with Kathy.
    Best to you, M.

  3. www.kathyhandley.com says

    Dear Madeline,
    I’m delighted to be on your blog. It’s been really nice to learn about your family and your writing. If you and your friends in the South Bay area are reading Birds of Paradise, you’ll find references to Diane’s Beachwear and the Erwin hotel in Venice, as well as a character’s take on the amazing scenery along the coast from SF to LA.
    Thanks Jeff for laughing at the “horrible poetry” comm ent. I also thought I could sing like Judy Collins- too much California wine…
    Love to you all,
    PS The deadline for the international contest in SF is Nov.
    1, check it out;
    The awards ceremony in March is a great time to be in that city.
    Good luck!

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