Question and Answer Session with Madeline Hunter for her article in the USAToday Happy Ever After Blog.
Q – May McGoldrick’s newest book title and release date:
Romancing the Scot, November 14, 2017
Q – Short description of the story and setting:
Grace Ware is an enemy to the English crown. Her father was an Irish military commander in Napoleon’s defeated army and her mother, an exiled Scottish Jacobite. When Grace took shelter in a warehouse, running from her father’s murderers through the harbor alleyways of Antwerp, she never anticipated bad luck to deposit her at the Scottish Borders home of Hugh Pennington, Viscount Greysteil, Lord Justice of the Courts, a grieving widower and hero of the wars against the French.
Q – Why do you think more readers and authors are being drawn to Scottish-based historicals? Do you think the filmed series of Outlander has anything to do with it, and if so how much?
Outlander has been a phenomenal success as a Scottish-based historical in its literary form and later as a series production. The superb television adaptation has successfully drawn legions of non-readers to the history and the Scottish setting.
That said, Scottish history has always had a tremendous hold on our collective imagination. Scotland stands as a beacon of resistance against outside invaders, and its history is permeated with romantic and tragic heroes. Few people in western cultures are unfamiliar with the stories of Robert the Bruce, the Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Flora MacDonald, Rob Roy. Even Shakespeare drew on Scottish legend for his greatest tragic hero, Macbeth. The image of the Highlander battling against overwhelming odds, battered but never truly conquered, appeals to all of us.
As authors and scholars, we too were drawn to Scotland and its heroes. When Jim wrote his doctoral dissertation on the court of the great Stewart king, James IV, we instinctively felt the drama and romance of the time and the place. That court’s poet, William Dunbar, became a character in our first novel, The Thistle and the Rose, and we placed our heroine in the middle of the chaos that followed the Scots’ devastating loss at Flodden Field, where King James, nearly all of the Scottish nobility, and twenty thousand Scots were wiped out by English cannon in a single afternoon. The future of the nation lay in the hands of our heroine in that novel.
Since that first book, we’ve written a score of tales set in Scotland, weaving connected stories of families and generations of heroes. Our newest series, featuring the Pennington family, continues that tradition.
Q – Does the setting become a character in your books? How big a role does it play? Do you ever set your novels in Scottish cities like Edinburgh, or do you prefer to use rural areas like the Highlands?
Our stories have taken place deep in the Highlands, in the Western Isles, on the Isle of Skye, in Aberdeen and Glasgow and Stirling, and in the Borders, and Scotland plays an integral role in our characters’ stories. For us, the place and the time are essential elements in the creation of the personalities of our heroines and our heroes. Setting provides more than the background brush strokes for our tales. It creates the tone that complements the plot.
For a ‘Beauty and the Beast’ story like Taming the Highlander (a 2017 RITA Award Finalist), a mist-enshrouded castle on a cliff overlooking the sea creates the perfect setting for a wounded earl and a woman who could see into the deepest recesses of his soul. In a novel like Romancing the Scot, the Borders is a place that complements the journey of a hero who is both English and Scot, and whose loyalties are tested when the woman he falls in love with is an enemy to the crown.
Q – What makes a Scottish hero different from an English one? What do you think are reader expectations on the main characters?
Heroes share many qualities, regardless of where they are from. But the Scottish hero is distinct from the English hero in his or her connection to the earth and to the clan. Traditionally, the Scot and the Highlander are always the underdog: tenacious, loyal, undaunted even when badly outnumbered by better-equipped foes, romantically stoic in the face of death.
Without exception, our main characters are very human: flawed, fearful, scarred, and sometimes jaded by the lessons of life. But within all of them, a spark of nobility exists that drives them to greatness they often didn’t know existed within them, to acts of courage and nobility and selflessness. In our stories it is love that nurtures and stirs that spark into a flame.
Q – Do the tensions between Scotland and England ever play a role in your novels? How?
We love to use the conflict between Scotland and England in our novels. The first nine stories we wrote deal with this directly, using real and fictionalized warriors and noblemen from both sides in our tales. Heart of Gold begins at the Field of Cloth of Gold summit and tournament where a Scottish warrior bests the English king’s champion and falls in love with the Boleyn sister the Tudor king lusts after. Our novel The Intended even takes place in the court of Henry VIII, where the laird of Dunvegan Castle is being held prisoner while a Highland heroine fights to save him. In our Scottish Relic Trilogy, a rogue English commander who prides himself on his reputation as the ‘Scourge of Scotland’ is wreaking havoc even to the Highlands in search of a stone reputed to wield great power.
Q – Do you see any changes underway in readers’ preferences either for time periods or types of stories?
Change is constant. Predictions are dangerous.
Readers are different than they were just a few decades ago. Our world is more chaotic. Our lives speed along pell-mell. And when we want to shut it out for even a few moments of leisure, so many things pull at us and demand our attention. A thousand television channels. Movies at our fingertips. Games of every kind to play on our phones. Social media that connects us with family and friends and celebrities in ways that were never possible before.
For those who still understand the joy of reading, the types of stories that appeal to us will continue to evolve, but we believe readers will be increasingly drawn to stories that have a lightning fast pace, that are visually compelling, and that feature characters who seem real to us. Characters we can love and hate and identify with. Characters who reveal the inner truths of the human condition…our emotions, our failures, our hopes, our fears, and our indomitable spirit.