Rebecca K. O’Connor has published essays in South Dakota Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Los Angeles Times Magazine, West, divide, and was a Pushcart Nominee for the 2008 Prize. Her novel, Falcon’s Return was a Holt Medallion Finalist for best first novel and she has published numerous reference books on the natural world. She has an MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from the University of California, Riverside.
As a professional animal trainer, O’Connor has worked with a variety of exotic animals in zoos and private facilities around the United States and abroad. She has been a falconer for more than a decade and is a nationally known parrot behaviorist. Her book A Parrot for Life: Raising and Training the Perfect Parrot Companion was published in 2007 by TFH and went into a second printing in the first six months. She is also a nationally sought after lecturer at parrot clubs and parrot festivals.
In all of O’Connor’s work she strives to illuminate or foil the human condition through the animals that surround us. Whether it is to give a science-based lecture, write a serious how-to book or crafting deeply personal prose, the foundation of everything in her life is a love for animals. She hopes that her life’s work will help people understand the animals (including other humans) that surround them and relish their relationships.
So what do you do exactly?
It sort of depends on when you ask me. I do have a day job and I love it! I work for Ducks Unlimited raising money for wetlands and waterfowl conservation. (We all need clean water!) In my previous life as a free flight bird trainer, I learned a lot about behavior though. So you might also find me doing lectures/workshops around the country teaching people training basics for parrots. I also do a lot of freelance writing. I write for Bird Talk, Good Bird and other magazines as well as write essays, short stories and books. Birds and words, baby!
How many books have you written?
I’ve written ten, but it’s not that big of a deal. You probably haven’t heard of them. Many of these books were reference books. These were just an excuse to buy research books and quell my insatiable need for information. I’ve also written a romance novel Falcon’s Return and my new memoir, Lift. I also like to tell stories and books let me talk to a lot of people all at once.
How did you get into falconry?
I don’t really know why I’ve always been so bird crazy. Same reason my skin is lily white and my eyes are blue, I guess. Falconry though, that was my grandfather’s fault. He showed me a peregrine falcon when I was just a little girl and spun a story about how someone hunted with her, someone she trusted. I was hooked.
How many animals do you have?
Not as many as you might guess. I have a Brittany spaniel, Booth. I also have two falcons, Anakin, the peregrine in Lift as well as Sister, a gyr/peregrine hybrid. Then I have three parrots, Ty, an African grey, Loki, a Senegal parrot and Bali, a red-bellied parrot.
Don’t your falcons want to eat the parrots?
Pretty much, yeah. That’s why the parrots live inside and the falcons live outside.
When do you sleep?
I get eight hours every night, I swear. You don’t want to be around me if I don’t. However, all my friends and family rarely see me. They have to figure out what I’m doing through Facebook and Twitter just like anyone else. Okay, not really, but there’s not as much time for television and dinner parties as there ought to be.
ABOUT REBECCA’S BOOKS
How did you get started writing books?
My first book was a romance novel. I had a bachelor’s degree in creative writing, but had only dabbled in writing since. When I turned 30, I decided that I would prove to myself that I could write a whole book. I gave myself permission to write something light and fun, which became Falcon’s Return. When Avalon decided to published it, there was no turning back!
Why do you write in so many different genres?
I just love to write and every genre makes me a little better at some aspect of writing. Reference books have honed my research skills. Ask any successful novelist, research is a critical component to writing fiction too. Writing books for pet owners has helped me hone how to write clearly, concisely and conversationally. When I work on essays or memoir it teaches me work harder at plot. (It’s not as easy when you can’t make it up!) I think writing in multiple genres is good for your writing skills. I also thinks it keeps you from getting bored.
Which of your books is your personal favorite?
Whichever one I’m working on! I’m much too busy to be writing anything that isn’t fun. So I’m usually fully immersed and loving whatever I’m working on at the moment.
What are you working on right now?
A parrot book and a novel. That’s all I can say for right now!