Q & A with Joana V. of Romancing Romances about Highland Crown

Hi May McGoldrick, and welcome to my blog, Romancing Romances. Thank you for doing this Q&A to let my readers know a bit more about you and your books.

 Romancing Romances: For those that are reading your name for the first time today, what is the main thing you’d like them to know?

May McGoldrick is actually two people. We are Nikoo & Jim, a husband and wife writing team of fifty works of historical romance, suspense thrillers, YA, and how-to books. We’re lovers and friends and collaborators and readers and writers and teachers. We love what we do, but the road getting here had a few bumps and lots of sharp twists and turns. But we look back at all those moments as necessary. They’ve inspired us to be better people and more accomplished writers.

And, as you might have already guessed, we are definitely ‘the glass is always way more than half-full’ types of people. 😊  😊

RR: If a reader is new to your books, which one would you suggest them to read first?

MM: Definitely the most recent one. Right now, that would be Highland Crown, the first book in our Scottish Royal Highlander series.

RR: You write historical romances. Is this your favorite genre to read as well? Or do you prefer to read something different? What are some of your favorite authors?

MM: We also write romantic suspense, suspense thrillers, young adult, and self-help. But we read across all genres, all types of books, classics and new releases, fiction and research materials. We are readers first and writers second. And as readers, we can never walk away from a good book.

When it comes to favorites, the list is too long to mention. But Charles Dickens has a special place in our heart because of the way he portrayed his characters.

We both just finished Where the Crawdads Sing, and we have to say that Delia Owens moved to the very top of our favorite author’s list.

RR: Does your everyday life influence your writing? What inspires you to write?

MM: We write for the love of writing, just as we read for the love of reading. We say that writing is our passion; the career is incidental.

Jim has a PhD in sixteenth century British Lit, and Nikoo, despite her engineering degree, is a true storyteller at heart. Everyday life definitely influences our writing. No author lives in a vacuum. We know from our study of history that human nature and the nature of political systems never change. There is nothing new about the present political climate, and experiencing (through stories) other periods in history—including the ones we write about—helps us understand the conflicts we’re facing today. We’re constantly amazed at how history repeats itself.

RR: Do you see yourself in any of your characters? Have you ever created a character based on someone you know?

MM: All of our characters are, in some way, drawn from ourselves or our values or from people we have crossed paths with. As writers, we’re sponges, constantly watching, taking mental notes, storing impressions away for later to use. I (Nikoo) remember being a juror for six weeks in a trial and the judge telling me afterwards, “Send me the book when you’re done with it.” Jim says all of the strapping Highland heroes are totally based on him. 😊 

RR: Where do you get your ideas? Do you work with an outline/plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea leads you? Do you use any images to base characters/scenarios/objects on?

MM: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. We’ve tried it all. And each story has a life of its own. Each one has a process that is unique to that story. Thrillers lend themselves to more extensive, detailed outlines. When writing historically based fiction, actual dates and real people requires that we stay somewhat true to a time line, so that makes us outline, as well. I’m big on hanging pictures of leading men like Chris Hemsworth above my desk. Jim is a good sport, but he does use the photo as a dartboard.  

RR: Congratulations on your new book, Highland Crown. Please tell me a bit about it.

This novel delves into actual history that most readers might not be aware of. That doesn’t stop the story from providing a solid historical romance experience, however. It’s 1820 and Regency period England and Scotland are in turmoil. Isabella Drummond is a trained physician who’s been recently widowed, and Cinaed Mackintosh is a ship’s captain with a mysterious past. In our story, Isabella and Cinaed are thrown together in the middle of Scotland’s ‘Radical War’. Theirs is a relationship tested in fire by the ongoing social unrest. We believe that struggle makes their story timeless. Early reviewers are loving the novel, and more than one said it, “Gave me all the Outlander feels.” We can live with high praise like that.

RR: What will make us fall in love with the Cinaed Mackintosh? And what’s your favorite characteristic about Isabella Drummond?

MM: Cinaed is loyal, tough, and tenacious. He’s a reluctant hero with a dark past. He’s a Highlander who leads by example, knows his own mind, and will act ruthlessly when the situation calls for it.

Isabella has fierce willingness to fight for her beliefs. She is intelligent, logical, and tough.

RR: Do you have a favorite quote from Highland Crown?

MM: Cinaed is looking at a crowd of Highland men, women, and children and thinking, “They were fearless. With a gang of armed men, he had freed two so-called enemies of the Crown, but these people—born with the same Highland blood that flowed through his body—had come here with nothing but empty hands and raised voices. They'd come to this protest, crying out for reform, for freedom, for justice, armed only with a free, clear conscience...and their courage.”

 RR: What comes next? I know Highland Crown is the first book of the Royal Highlander Series, and that you already have the second book planned to come out later this year. Will this series be a duology? What are your next projects?

MM: We initially planned this series as a three-book project. But the entire series is already stretching to four…and possibly more.

The sequel, Highland Jewel, is scheduled to be released by St. Martin’s Press on September 24th, 2019. In that novel readers will get to know Maisie, Isabella’s younger sister, an early suffragist and one of the founders of the Edinburgh Female Reform Society. In her story, we’ll be thrown into the protests and battles of the Radical War.

In Highland Jewel the reader also gets introduced to Niall Campbell, an officer in the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment. He has spent his life serving the Crown. Battle-weary and searching for peace, he can’t help but step in when his sister’s activism risks her life—and leads him to Maisie. These two are immediately at odds. We don’t want to give too much away, but things will get wild for Maisie and her family in Edinburgh as the government bears down on reformers in Scotland, and more will be revealed about Cinaed Mackintosh and his past, as well.

By sheer coincidence, the film Peterloo is being released this month, and it depicts the slaughter of unarmed, peacefully protesting citizens by British government troops in Manchester at the same time our series takes place. Newspapers that were courageous enough to stand against the government and report on the violence called it the ‘Peterloo Massacre’. Over a dozen men, women, and children were killed by the King’s Dragoon Guards, and 600-800 more were injured. One of the women speaking on the platform was Mary Fildes, the founder of the Manchester Female Reform Society. Highland Jewel starts in the days following this actual historical event. 

We’re in the middle of writing the third book in the series, Highland Sword, which is Morrigan’s story. She is a firebrand who is ready to throw herself body and soul into the Radical War. Morrigan is a woman ready to raise both sword and pistol, and fight beside the Highlanders. But in the process, she meets Aidan Grant, a lawyer and a reformer who espouses a different method for achieving change. She wants war; he wants peace. She wants revenge; he wants justice. She is ready to spill blood; he believes too much has already been shed. Neither one will surrender their ideals, but neither can ignore the attraction for the other.

RR: Thank you so much for joining me in the Q&A, and I look forward to talking to you again!