An interview with the author of Highland Blessings
1. What intrigued you about fifteenth century Scotland so that you chose it as the setting for Highland Blessings?
I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed history, but there is something romantically intriguing about the late Medieval period and the clan system of the highlands. I’m amazed at how the clans can fight among themselves, and yet, fiercely defend each other against the English and any outsiders.
2. How did you choose the setting?
The setting of the loch where Akira nearly drowns is from an area in a park where I used to practice running. I was on the Cross Country team in high school and ran several miles a day. The rest of the scenes were a combination of my research of Scotland and castles and my imagination.
3. Does the story line of this novel parallel a particular Biblical account?
No, if there is a biblical parallel, it was not a conscious decision on my part. I originally wrote Highland Blessings as a secular novel in 1998. I didn’t convert it to Christian fiction until 2006 after I discovered Kathleen Morgan’s novel, Embrace the Dawn. Once I realized there was such a thing as a Christian fiction Scottish Medieval, I was elated and determined to try and get mine published.
4. Which comes first, the plot, the place, or the people? Why?
The people. I can’t write a story unless I’ve created a character sketch of the main characters. I can create a plot around the characters, but I think it is the people that make the story. I think that is why I tend to love character driven novels like Jane Austen’s stories.
5. Which novel was the more difficult to research, Highland Blessings or Beloved Liberty, your book set in early nineteenth century South Carolina?
Beloved Liberty required the most research. The story idea is loosely based on my real family history from the actual genealogy research I conducted on my Hudson line. Then I had to research slavery laws for 1810. It takes place during the Regency period of England, but the setting is on a rural plantation in SC. Most of my southern plantation knowledge is either during the colonial period before 1800 or much later in the Victorian period between 1840-1865, so I had to do extensive research for 1810.
6. How did the research between the two differ? The writing?
The writing is very different as the two books contain different cultures, accents in the dialogue, and time periods. The vocabulary for Highland Blessings in 1473 is extremely limited compared to 1810, so in that regard Highland Blessings was harder to write. I had to keep looking up alternative words for those words that were not yet in existence. It was difficult to verify some of the clothing in 15th century Scotland. There are so few authentic references and most date from the late 16th century. For instance, the Scottish kilt as we know it today was not in existence until around 1725, nor wore the family clan tartan colors.
7. How do you develop your characters?
I develop a character sketch that includes physical traits and personality traits. Each character must have at least one spiritual flaw, and one personality flaw, if appropriate, even a physical flaw. In Highland Blessings, Akira MacKenzie is extremely tall for a woman, and she isn’t very fond of her auburn hair. In Beloved Liberty, Catherine Oakes has a mole on her cheek that she thinks is hideous, but the hero views it as a beauty mark. The last thing I establish is their background, their goals, and why they want to achieve them and how they will go about achieving those goals based on their personality and character.
8. How do you name your characters?
Names are very important. I use the Character Naming Sourcebook, and I sound out first and last names aloud. I run them by my husband. I even look up street names and small towns in the areas where the novel is set. I do this because lots of streets and towns are named after the local people and families in the area.
9. What is your writing regimen?
I don’t have a set schedule because I work another full-time job. I squeeze writing in between lunch hours, doctor visits, evenings, weekends, road trips while my husband drives, wherever and whenever I can. Sometimes I fear that my writing won’t be as good as others who have the opportunity to sit down and really concentrate and work on their novels throughout the day. Then I quit feeling sorry for myself and just deal with it.
10. What has surprised you most about the whole process, from inception of the idea to release of your debut novel?
When I first received the contract offer, the release date was a whole year and half away. I’m surprised at how fast that time passed.
11. What have you learned about God through this journey?
I’ve learned that God will help me in ways that I never imagined. He is with me the whole way and He inspires me through loved ones, inspirational verses, and dreams.
12. What advice do you have for unpubbed writers?
Never give up. Persevere and press through.
Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with us today. May God bless you with much writing success. We're really looking forward to your next novel.