I was fourteen when I read my first historical romance novel. It was set in Scotland and I fell in love with the place. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and still re-read it from time to time, but it sparked a life long pull to know and experience more about that amazing place.
When I envision a love story, it’s not on this cold rock in the middle of the North Atlantic, nor in this century. My imagination is tugged across the ocean to a landscape not unlike parts of my home, but with a much older culture and I’m swept away. Mists and mountains, fiercely proud people, lochs and legends, and kilts!! Who wouldn’t be inspired?
Choosing a time-frame for my first manuscript (hereafter lovingly called ‘the beast’) sparked a few weeks of research. I read about the Jacobite rising, the Picts, various clan feuds, and Hadrian’s wall. And then I hit on it! That piece of actual history that made me go, “WOW! This is better than fiction!” I became fascinated by James Stewart I and his English Queen. I read everything I could find on the internet, bought used books and absorbed as much of them as I could. Their story became my backdrop and provided a clear vision of when and where my main characters would live and love. As if I wasn’t enamored enough with the place, research for a novel gave me an excuse to feed my craving. By the time the first draft was done, I realized I wanted more than to just write about Scotland. I needed to see heather in bloom on the mountains, smell the air, taste the food, and hear that lovely accent…sigh.
Full on immersion into a culture you’re writing about is not always possible. I was fortunate enough to visit all the castles in my beast and thank God I did. My heroine’s is inspired by the lovely Eilean Donan Castle in Dornie, Western Highlands. I had taken the virtual tour many times on their website and one chamber in particular became hers. I can hardly articulate the feeling of actually standing in that room two years after dreaming up a character existing there. I could picture her so clearly. I was gone – goosebumps, shaky knees, trembling voice – I had it all.
My buddy (inspiration for my heroine) and I traveled by planes, trains and automobiles across much of the Highlands. We saw some awe-inspiring sights, met some incredibly gracious and funny people, and ate some pretty damned good food. I’ve brought as much of that into my story as possible and hopefully that comes across.
Let’s face it, Scotland has a pretty impressive tourism industry so if you’ve ever considered a visit, there are many helpful websites from Tourism Scotland to individual towns and even restaurants. We used Trip Advisor a lot and even reserved our restaurants for supper for most of the trip.
So here I am, back home clicking away on my keyboard and still dreaming of a far off land…