History Hoydens

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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

21 August 2007

Welcome, Monica McCarty!

Highlander Untamed (the first in the MacLeods of Skye Trilogy)
By Monica McCarty
Available NOW!

She has a year to make him love her… Isabel MacDonald agrees to a handfast marriage with Rory MacLeod, her clan’s bitterest enemy in order to end a deadly feud. But the handfast is only a cover to gain her access to his castle—and with a little seduction, his heart. But her treacherous plans are immediately tested by the fearsome Rory, a powerful Highland chief who embodies everything she admires. Soon Isabel has found the place in the family she’s always dreamed of with the man she must betray, and her only hope of happiness is to escape her own dangerous web of lies.


Keep your friends close and your enemies closer… Rory’s duty as Chief of Clan MacLeod is clear: He’ll obey the king’s directive to handfast with the MacDonald lass—but under his own terms. As a handfast is only required for a year, at that point Rory plans to return this unwanted handfast bride to her family and forge a different marriage alliance. But his plan to keep his distance from his unwanted bride is challenged by the beautiful seductive siren who proves impossible to ignore. And when he catches her snooping and removes her to his bed to watch over her, Rory finds himself wishing that the year would never end.

Monica will be mailing one lucky poster a copy of Highlander Untamed, which is sure to have you waiting on tenterhooks for then next two books (which, lucky for us, are coming out in rapid succession). So be sure to include your email address in your post!

Ok, I have to admit to a small bit of prejudice here. Monica is not only a fellow Wild Card (Golden Heart 2005 Finalist) but she's also a good friend and local RWA chapter-mate for me here in San Francisco. I got to snag a copy of Highlander Untamed last month, and all I can say is those of you who miss the grand, sweeping, highly-emotional romances of the past: THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU!

Highlander Untamed is set in 1603, Scotland. How did you become interested in this time period and location? What do you love about it?

My interest in Scottish History stems from two events. While attending Stanford Law School, I took a Comparative Legal History class and did a paper on feudalism and the clan system. Not long afterward, I picked up (or maybe my mom passed on) a new book called OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon. I became completely fascinated (I have this weird personality quirk where I get REALLY into things—ask my hubby about Lord of the Rings.J) and devoured everything I could find on those yummy Highlanders.

As a reader I never really focused on a certain time period, but while doing general research for my first book I became drawn to the period known as The Age of Feuds and Forays—loosely, from 1493-1620—particularly the end of the period when the a new strong central government (James VI of Scotland/I of England) started to exert authority over the chiefs. The struggle for the chiefs to hold their power and protect their way of life seemed ripe with tons of great conflict. For me, it is kind of the last big hurrah for the chiefs and the beginning of the end of their political power and Gaelic culture. I have a section on my website devoted more to the particulars.

What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?

The only thing that I wasn’t loving about the period (which Kalen might appreciate!) was some of the court clothing. The books start at the very end of the Elizabethan era which meant lots of ruffs and wide skirts with farthingales for my heroines (all of whom, it happens, have something to do with court). I tried to downplay some of this and even have the characters dress like it’s a masque a few times. Since my heroes are all Highlanders to the core, it wasn’t as much of a problem. The few times they had to wear court clothing I made sure they weren’t in any of the “pumpkin” pants. J

In terms of things to plot carefully around, boy was there ever! In deciding to write about actual historical figures for this first trilogy, at times it was really difficult to make the timing of events work. I also had to take what history I knew about these people and try to spin something that would be conceivable even if not historically based. Although romance, and not historical fiction, I tried to stay as true as possible. So make sure to read the author’s notes. Also, I’ll be adding extended author’s notes to my website over the next few months in the special features section.

What sparked this book? Was it a character? An historical event? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?

To this point, the ideas for my books have all been sparked by historical events. For HIGHLANDER UNTAMED it was a small mention of something called “The War of the One-Eyed Woman”—a two year long feud between the MacLeods and MacDonalds. While researching that event, I became fascinated with the revered Rory “Mor” (the Great) MacLeod who happened to be the brother of the one-eyed woman. When I discovered that he’d actually married a MacDonald (star crossed lovers anyone?), the story kind of unfurled itself.

Did you have to do any major research for his book? Did you stumble across anything really interesting that you didn’t already know?

Research is probably my favorite part of writing. I love rifling through history books and completely immersing myself in a time and place. For the first book I probably did about three months of research before even thinking about a story. The second book, I did at least two months and by the third book about a month. If at some point I decide to do a different time period, it will take at least three months of research before I would even think about starting to write.

There were so many things I didn’t know, but the biggest one that springs to mind is just how much King James detested his Highland subjects. He often referred to them as “Barbarians,” but it went far beyond that. In what some historians have referred to as an attempted genocide of his own people, he tried to wipe out entire populations (Isle of Lewis) under the euphemism of “colonization.” This actually drives part of the plot of book #2, HIGHLANDER UNMASKED (available August 28th).

What do you like to read?

I read pretty much everything except for paranormal (although I love time travels and I did enjoy JR Ward’s books). My non-romance reading is mostly historical fiction and the occasional classic. Like quite a few other people I imagine, right now I’m reading Harry Potter.

Care to share a bit about your writing process? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

For such a “type A” personality, you would think I would be an extreme outliner, but I actually prefer to have the major plot points clear in my mind—and that’s about it. Unfortunately, as I have to provide my publisher with a synopsis before writing, I need to plot a little bit more than I’d like. When I first conceive a story, I usually have the black moment in mind and write to that.

More true to personality, in terms of revising I’m definitely a perfectionist. I can’t just write and plow forward until the end. I revise heavily along the way, so that when I’m done, I’m done. Of course, my cp’s (Bella Andre and Jami Alden) and editor don’t always agree. For the past couple of books I’ve also been very lucky to have Tracy Grant give me her two cents. Nothing like having one of my favorite authors reading the WIP!

I know your first three books are being released by Ballantine back-to-back-to-back. What’s in store for readers in the rest of this first series?

HIGHLANDER UNMASKED (August 28th) belongs to Rory’s brother, Alex, a fierce warrior fighting against injustice and the demons of his past. HIGHLANDER UNCHAINED (September 25th) is the story of their half-sister Flora, a headstrong heiress who vows to be a prize for no man.

What are you planning to work on next?

I’m already knee-deep in my next project. I’ll be doing one more back-to-back trilogy, this time centered on Clan Campbell. It will probably be released sometime in early 2009.

15 Comments:

Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Monicaaaaa! I'm also a member of the Wild Cards, so I'm biased also. But I'm reading her great book right now and loving it! Very well done, Monica! I love the hero and heroine already!

8:23 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Hi Monica,

Wow, three books back to back and a fourth underway! How do you do it? Tell me you don't have small children at home. ;-)

Love the Highland family sagas...keep 'em coming!

Cheers!

8:55 AM  
Blogger Monica McCarty said...

Hi Vicki and Kathrynn, thanks so much for having me here today. I'm glad you are enjoying the book Vicki, it's so strange having my friends read the book. :) Kathrynn, yes, I do have children at home although they are growing up quickly. My daughter just turned 8! Sigh. They are (usually) pretty understanding about Mommy needing to get work done, but I'm also TRYING to do a much better job of writing while they are at school.

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Tracy Grant said...

Great interview, Monica and Kalen! I'll admit to biases as well, but "Highlander Untamed" is such a fabulous book. Brainstorming plots with Monica and makng research trips to the library, I'm fascinated by the process of building a plot around protagonists who were real people and fleshing out what's known about them. Monica, did you go in knowing you wanted to write about real people or was it reading about Rory that made you decide to do so?

9:48 AM  
Blogger Monica McCarty said...

Hi Tracy,
Thanks for popping in. :) I've always been drawn to "real" people in historical fiction and/or historical romance so I think I was slightly predisposed to write about an actual person. But it wasn't until I read about Rory that I actually decided to do so.

3:11 PM  
Blogger seton said...

Good interview, MM & KH!

It seems that releases back to back to back are popular these days. Look what it did for Tracy Ann Warren but I admit to being ambivalent about it. I wouldnt like it if I then have to wait over a year for the author's next book, even if it does even out in the end.

3:50 PM  
Blogger Keira Soleore said...

Monica, hello and welcome to the Hoydens. I adore that cover, and your book is on my list for my once-a-month (September) run to my favorite bookstore. I'm so bummed I missed meeting you in Dallas. I'm glad I can at least "chat" with at the Divas, CH's board, and elsewhere in the blogosphere.

My question for you is: Do you speak any Gaelic?

My first manuscript is based in the Grampian Highlands of the Late Middle Ages. So, I took one class in Gaelic here in Seattle, but boy, is it was a toughie of a language to acquire. The pronunciation was a huge part of the struggle.

A huge congratulations to you again on your debut release!!

3:58 PM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

I'm so glad I came by History Hoydens today and discovered your interview... your book sounds so exciting! I just finished a year-long postgraduate course in Scotland, and I really fell in love with the country and its history and people during the time I was there. Some of my most cherished memories are of trips to the Highlands, and to various castles and ruins near Edinburgh and the Borders. I'll definitely be looking forward to your books -- I'm missing Scotland pretty badly! :)

Michelle (appleberrie@gmail.com)

4:10 PM  
Blogger Monica McCarty said...

Seton,
Glad you enjoyed the interview! The back-to-back releases have gotten popular in the last year or so. I personally like them, but as you said, it does all even out in the end. I won't have another book out for quite a while between this first trilogy and my next.

Hi Keira, it's good to "see" you over here and thanks for the congrats. :) How cool that I'm on your September buy list--make sure you let me know what you think. I'm bummed I missed you in Dallas as well! As for the Gaelic . . . I'm afraid not. I looked into some online classes at one point, but was easily discourage by how completely different it is from the "romance" languages. So kudos to you for making it through a class, I'm impressed. The pronounciation is SO far from what I would think--even names of places. For example, one of my villians is the MacDonald of Sleat. We would pronounce this as "Sleet," but in Skye they say "Slate." Congrats on the manuscript--hope to buy it in the stores soon!

Michelle,
Welcome! I'm so glad you stopped by today, too. I can completely commiserate--I fall in love with Scotland every time I visit. How cool that you did a year of study there. I wish I'd taken advantage of things like that when I was in school. Hope you enjoy the books!

4:26 PM  
Blogger KimW said...

Welcome, Monica! I enjoyed reading all your interview answers. I like the back to back releases and I love Highlander stories. Highlander Untamed sounds like a great story!

7:28 PM  
Blogger Monica McCarty said...

Hi Kim! Glad you enjoyed the interview--I thought Kalen asked some great questions. I hope you get a chance to check out HIGHLANDER UNTAMED--I'm a huge Highlander fan myself. :)

8:33 PM  
Blogger Keira Soleore said...

Monica, those guttural sounds that Gaelic has were always my downfall. I have to say though that once you figure out how the pronounciation works, the words by and large follow the rules (unlike French where everything is an exception). So in that sense it was easy. But you're right... the language is so far removed from any I know that I couldn't piggyback the learning using what I know.

However, I did have a fabulous visit to Aberdeenshire and the Grampians. I loved the wildness of the North Sea, the sturdiness of the stony fortress ruins, those carved Pictish stones that still stand centuries later.

OK. This is a rather long comment, but I could hold forth at length on Scotland. :)

9:49 PM  
Blogger Monica McCarty said...

Keira,
You and I love the same things--I went on an amazing tour last year throughout the Western Isles and saw tons of ruins and stones (including Scara Brae and Maes Howe). I haven't visited the Grampians or Aberdeenshire, but it's going on the list. :)

Many thanks to the Hoydens for having me guest blog today! Signing out . . .

11:28 PM  
Blogger CrystalG said...

Hi Monica. Great interview. Your trilogy sounds awesome. I love highlander books.

Crystal816 at hotmail.com

8:37 AM  
Blogger Sue A. said...

I enjoyed the interview and my respect for authors writing historicals has gone up several notches. I'm always amazed by the research involved to realistically portray a bygone era. KUDOS-My hats off to you!

2:53 AM  

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