"The saw-whet owl makes frequent appearances...and is a bit of a Macguffin to drive the plot. Why include it in your novel Imaginary Brightness?"
To answer this question I had to consult the online dictionary because I had absolutely no idea what a Macguffin was. For those that aren't sure what one is either, it's a plot device, perfected by Alfred Hitchcock and often used in his movies, that propels the main character into action, even if the object of his or her desire is secondary to the overall story. The Maltese Falcon is one such movie with a Macguffin, the object: a rare statue that goes missing and leads private eye Sam Spade into an increasingly intricate plot.
My Macguffin? A saw-whet owl. My confession? I didn't even know I was using this plot device. It happened by accident. I needed a ruse for having Avery, a wildlife scientist, stay for a summer at a cabin on Raquette Lake in the Adirondack woods. She eventually finds a diary written in 1893. This plot device, allowed me to have a present-day perspective on the past. And since the cabin is real, and is owned by a college, I thought a scientific study made sense. Being that my background is in environmental science I chose a species that would be interesting to learn about, so I picked the cute little owl that is not well-researched.
Along the way, I was hitting a few roadblocks while conducting research into the main characters of my historical fiction, and the frustration Avery feels about trying to track the elusive saw-whet owl just weaved its way into the plot as a result.
I wish I had planned out my Macguffin so I could have answered the question with a pithy comment like, "Yes, Dean, thanks for noticing, I like to use Macguffins as a way to move the plot forward, it is so Hitchcock-like." But I'm afraid I never studied this concept in graduate school while pouring over scientific studies on wetlands, or while learning what makes a lake turn-over in the spring and again in the fall to replenish the nutrients in the epilimnion. But if you want to know anything about this natural phenomena - let me know. I'll include it in my next novel.