Welcome to Romance Junkies, Nikoo and Jim McGoldrick! As a fan of your May McGoldrick Royal Highlander series, I’m thrilled to introduce you to our readers.
May: Thank you so much for this opportunity. And we’re so thankful for all the support for our stories that you’ve sent our way over the years.
Romance Junkies: First, can you tell us about your current release and any upcoming projects a Romance Junkie will be interested in?
May: Highland Jewel, our second book in the Royal Highlander Series, is a September 24th release. And the next, Highland Sword, is scheduled for publication March 31, 2020.
In Highland Jewel, The Radical War of 1820 has extended into the Highlands. Maisie Murray and her family have found shelter at Dalmigavie Castle, the heart of the rising in the north. The dangers of their past have followed them, but they are committed to Scotland’s fight for freedom. A messenger brings the promise of an important ally to their cause, but only Maisie recognizes that falsehood and betrayal have also arrived at their door.
Six months earlier, Maisie was the picture of docility, quiet and compliant in the eyes of her family. To her activist friends, however, she was a fearless crusader for women’s rights. In the wake of the Peterloo Massacre, Maisie and a friend founded the Edinburgh Female Reform Society, and she carried the banner for universal suffrage. Caught up in the wave of her enthusiasm, Maisie never expected to fall in love with the brother of her friend and fellow reformer, the man who saved her life during one of their protests.
Niall Campbell, a hero of the wars and a decorated officer of the Royal Highland Regiment, is battle weary and searching for stability in his life. A fierce warrior by training and a poet at heart, Niall walks away from the shining career that lies ahead of him, to the dismay of his superiors.
Niall is frustrated by his inability to curtail his sister’s involvement in the women’s reform movement. A widow with two children, she is determined to ignore the dangers of her radical positions. In saving his sister when a protest turns violent, he meets Maisie. Their relationship begins as one of experience versus idealism, of scars versus hope. Soon, however, he finds in Maisie the heart he longs for.
When Niall’s sister is arrested and disappears, he quickly realizes his life is not his own, for the British authorities have a mission for him to accomplish in exchange for his sister’s freedom.
Overnight, Maisie loses Niall, her friend, and her home. In the wake of the riots that sweep through the cities of Scotland, her own sister Isabella is branded a traitor to the Crown, and the family must flee to the Highlands. They take shelter at Dalmigavie Castle, under the protection of the charismatic Cinaed Mackintosh.
Here in the heart of the Highlands, Maisie runs into Niall again. He carries a message of hope…but has a terrible task to complete.
Maisie and Niall’s future rests on their ability to overcome the forces that divide them, or—for the future of Scotland—she must stop the man who owns her heart.
Highland Sword is the conclusion to the Royal Highlander series. In this novel the reader meets Morrigan Drummond.
Independent and fiery, Morrigan lost everything when her father was killed while caring for Scots wounded by English dragoons during a day of protests in Edinburgh. After fleeing to the Highlands, she discovered her gift. Training with Mackintosh fighters at Dalmigavie Castle, Morrigan can now shoot a pistol and handle a dagger better than any man. She is ready to use her deadly skills on the enemies of her nation. And she wants revenge on Sir Rupert Burney, the English spymaster who ordered the attack on peaceful people and the death of her father.
Aidan Grant is a Highland lawyer, at odds with the Crown for his fearless stands against the government on issues of representation, slavery, and the violent Highland Clearances. Quick-witted and popular with the Scottish people, he is a nemesis in the eyes of the repressive Crown forces seeking to crush reform across the land.
These two meet, and the battle of wills begins. She wants war; he wants peace. She is after revenge; he is after 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 their attraction for the other.
Highland Sword is an emotional ride, but we feel reasonably confident everyone will be satisfied with how everything wraps up at the end. That being said, there is still one more very cool historical event connected to our series that may just need to be explored in another book. We’ll see.
In between writing the historical, we’re also writing a contemporary suspense novel. Stay tuned for more about that one.
RJ: I just have to know how you write together so seamlessly. Do you each write a character's point-of-view, then combine them? Does one research while the other writes? How do you split the efforts to get to the final product?
May: We both write everything. We’ve tried many methods over our twenty-five year career. But each book has its own life to consider. As you know, Jim has a PhD and I’m an engineer, but that doesn’t stop either of us from delving into the other’s areas of expertise. It’s the same when we’re writing a historical or a contemporary suspense thriller under our Jan Coffey name. We wear many hats and do it all.
Also, we each have our own writing space and habits. We still occasionally sit side-by-side as we try to wrestle a difficult plot point to the ground, but we mostly work separately on whatever scene is next. Then we swap and revise each other’s work. It takes about three times longer, but we both have to be happy with it before we move on. As far as brainstorming plots and characters, we walk and talk and walk and talk and walk and talk. And then walk some more. One of us (Nikoo) needs to move to think creatively.
Years ago Heinemann Publishers asked us to write a book about our process. Marriage of Minds: Collaborative Fiction Writing explains some of our evolving process, as well as how a dozen other writing teams manage it and remain friends (with some casualties mixed in, unfortunately).
RJ: Maisie and Niall are strong characters. Did you base them on real people, or did they come to life on their own?
May: Maisie was modeled after a reform activist named Mary Fildes, who was on the speakers’ platform at the ‘Peterloo Massacre’ in Manchester, England, a few months before our story starts. In real life, she was actually run through by a sabre wielded by a soldier who was part of the militia who attacked the peaceful, unarmed citizens who had gathered to protest the government’s actions. Mary survived and went on to lead the movement for women’s suffrage until her death decades later.
Niall’s character is based on many Scottish officers who were useful to the British Empire during the years of the Napoleonic War and after. Many never returned to the Highlands because the Crown was afraid of allowing them back in Scotland at a time when discontent and the threat of rebellion was on the rise.
RJ: I found Maisie's political involvement fascinating, which made her an unusual heroine in my reading experience. Do either of you have political knowledge that helped form her passion for it?
May: Yes. Yes. Both of us love politics, and we’re fascinated with history. We believe that human nature doesn’t change, and we also believe there’s so much to learn from the past. It goes with that old saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
RJ: When you’re envisioning a series, do you plot it in advance, or let the first book determine future books as you’re writing?
May: We plot heavily because it is the two of us working together. Even though we like to brag that each of us reads the other’s mind, that goes only so far. Also, plotting is another carryover from writing so many suspense novels.
RJ: Do you see your spouse’s qualities in your characters? Do either of you see yourself in them? Does anyone else influence your characters?
May: Actual history heavily influences us. But also, we have a good understanding of what we’re about, what our core beliefs are, and what the message is that we want to infuse into our novels. After nearly fifty books, we recognize that we have consistent themes. So yes, we definitely see parts of each of us in every novel we write.
RJ: What do you hope readers will find when they settle in with one of your books?
May: Entertainment. Memorable characters. People who you’d like to become friends with and follow through their lives. Snippets of history to engage your mind.
RJ: What is the funniest or strangest thing that has happened to you while researching a book?
May: Our fiction have a strange tendency of being prophetic. That has happened a number of times with our Jan Coffey novels, in particular.
One of our YA novels for Harper Collins (Jan Coffey’s Tropical Kiss) was set in Aruba and featured an American student who was abducted at one point in the novel. Not long after Tropical Kiss was published, an American girl named Natalie Holloway went missing. Our story turns out happier.
The premise of our Jan Coffey novel Five in a Row became the topic of a New York Times article “Can a Virus Hitch a Ride on your Car?”. The journalist even used experts we talked to in researching the novel. In our story, a cyber-terrorist is taking control of people’s cars. Now, we’re not saying Elon Musk is that guy, but those Tesla vehicles ARE self-driving!
We can go on and describe a dozen other instances. Very strange, indeed.
RJ: If I came to your house and went through all your closets, what would I find that would surprise me?
May: Nikoo’s closet is in complete disarray while Jim’s clothes are neatly sorted by type and color and texture and whatever. 😊 And that includes our desks and everything Jim gets his hands on in the house, from the garage to the drawers (his drawers) to the dishes to the dog’s toys, all neatly organized and categorized…and it’s all alphabetical, if he can manage it. Even the dishwasher can only be loaded by him. So I let him. 😉
RJ: You've decided to throw a dinner party. What will you serve and will it be an intimate affair or a wild one that the neighbors will be talking about next year?
May: Our house is a gathering place for friends all the time. And the parties are lively and frequent and a lot of fun. We like to cook so the menu is always changing, and we have lots of fun with it. We have to admit that Southern California weather is MADE for outdoor grilling!
RJ: What animal best describes the personality of May McGoldrick and why?
May: Nikoo’s spirit animal is the snake. I often play the role of a guide and emotional healer. The spirit of the snake represents positive, spiritual transformation. I am the sought-out friend when advice is needed. The snake facilitates life events to go smoothly – a connector of dots who reveals the big picture.
Jim’s spirit animal is the whale. Jim has a strong inner voice, and always follows his own truth. Because he’s so in touch with reality, he’s self-aware and doesn’t get involved in drama. He has strong bonds and emotional ties with those he loves.