The Pirate Bride

Fairytales are a treasured past time for parents and their children. They listen with delight as mom and dad tell stories that awaken imagination and emotion; but for Edmond resident Ryan McKinley, it was his 11-year-old daughter Anna’s story that sparked a little magic in him.

It all started one day on a family hiking trip when McKinley told the story of Hansel and Gretel. Anna piped up with a tale of her own, complete with the title “pirate bride.” The idea captivated McKinley and he later decided to pursue writing a book with his daughter.

Anna and her brother Kyle, fourteen, kept forgetting homework assignments so their father decided to fix the problem by doing schoolwork in the library. “I didn’t know what I was going to do there for an hour and a half so I decided to bring my laptop and start writing this story. I would sit Anna beside me to do her homework and then I’d ask her about how a character should respond or get something from her perspective,” said McKinley. “After we got the first rough draft down I made sure we had significant plot elements and characterization.”

Their book, The Pirate Bride, is the result of Anna’s intuitive imagination, Ryan’s talented writing, and Jerry Bennett’s whimsical illustrations. The process from idea to print was truly a trio of creativity. “I wouldn’t have been able to write this story without Anna’s original idea and input,” said McKinley. “Anna wouldn’t have been able to complete it without my writing experience and ability to put together a compelling story. Jerry’s sketches let me visualize the characters and expand the story.”

The Pirate Bride is the humorous and suspenseful tale of 13-year-old Rachel, who is weary of the responsibilities that often befall an eldest daughter among younger brothers. They embark on a family vacation to the Bahamas when Rachel is kidnapped by a ship of lost pirates. Rachel’s care giving skills and family experiences prove useful to the band of swashbucklers who can’t decide if she’s on their
side or not.

Anna, Ryan and Bennett have been on a string of book signings at schools all over Edmond, Oklahoma City and rural areas. “Anna talks to students about her inspiration, I lecture about the writing process and Jerry talks about his path from child artist to full-time illustrator,” said McKinley.

An unusual twist to the creative process was bringing in Bennett before the book was finished. “In the publishing world, a book is finished before they hire the illustrator,” said Bennett. “This was my first children’s book to design … and I really liked doing it this way.” Prior to The Pirate Bride, his illustration interest was dedicated to comic books, now “illustrating for young adult fiction has become a passion I never would have considered before,” says Bennett.

The experience has been meaningful for both father and daughter as well. In 2002, McKinley almost lost Anna and her mother Shawna to a car accident. “I realize that every day is a blessing. When I saw this opportunity, I realized this would be something to enjoy together but something for her to look back on as something we did together,” said McKinley. “This is a special time that goes by so fast.”

The story’s touching message is a mirror of the values the McKinley family holds. “The moral of the story is that our family can be the greatest treasure,” said Anna. Her father agreed. “Family is a big part of the book’s message. Basically, hate them or like them, they’re a big part of who we become. If you don’t like your family, that affects you the rest of your life so you better learn from them what you can.”

The close knit McKinley family made storytelling a habit while the children were young and their father would write stories about their family experiences. The children drew the pictures and stapled the pages. When Anna’s creativity began to emerge in singing and painting, writing was also a strong interest. “I’ve always liked to write when I had free time,” said Anna.

Since most book agents don’t take on new authors, they decided to self publish through Outskirts Press and the feedback they’ve received has been so encouraging that they’ve decided to write a sequel. The biggest compliments for these two story lovers comes from parents. “They tell us their kids won’t go to bed until they read them another chapter,” said McKinley.

The Pirate Bride is available at Best of Books in Edmond, Barnes & Noble on 63rd and May, Hastings in Norman, and Visit the McKinley’s website for more information about the book:

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