Thursday, March 26, 2015

Returning to old friends--Tricia McGill 

Writers who read this will know what I am talking about, but if by chance there are perhaps a few people who just like to read, then this is for you.

I am in the process of editing an old book of mine and to me this is just like catching up with old friends and acquaintances. Perhaps I am peculiar but I love the process of going over old work and doing my best to improve it.

I’m currently re-writing Book 2 in my Wild Heather series. Book 1—The Laird is available now and this next one will be titled Travis (previously published as My Highland Love)

For non-writers only, I thought you may be interested in my personal researching process that goes into creating a story. Because the Wild Heather series is Time-Travel obviously there is a marked difference to writing a contemporary. We not only need to know a lot about history for the protagonists living in the present but also a great deal of how life would have been in the past when they get back there.

And this series is set in Scotland, creating a whole range of questions needing answers. The research in my case starts just after I have the idea of what the book will be about. It would be no good writing pages about the castle they found way back in 1050 if I made it a stone construction with battlements etc. which weren’t built until the 13th century onwards. 

I needed to know some of the history of Stirling Castle, which features prominently in The Laird, as my heroine Liz is extremely interested in it and its past.

This information taken from:

“Stirling Castle is the grandest of Scotland's castles and one of the most popular visitor attractions in the country. 250 feet above the plain on an extinct volcano, Stirling became the strategic military key to the kingdom during the 13th and 14th century Wars of Independence and was the favourite royal residence of many of the Stuart Monarchs.

Many important events from Scotland's past took place at Stirling Castle, including the violent murder of the eighth Earl of Douglas by James II in 1452. Stirling Castle played an important role in the life of Mary Queen of Scots. She spent her childhood in the castle and Mary's coronation took place in the Chapel Royal in 1543.” 

I needed to know what flora and fauna would be around in that time. Also what food the Scottish folk ate now and what they would have eaten then. I had to know what clothing the people wore in 1050, how they wore their hair and how they went about day to day living. I had no idea the kilt as we know it today didn’t evolve until the 16th century and the Scottish word for kilt derives from the Old Norse word ‘kjalta’. I would have looked silly if I had my 1050 laird wearing a modern day kilt.


We end up with reams of notes, most of which never enter our stories, but come into the ‘need to know’ category to get a feel of the time and place. Then there are the weapons used in the time period we send our protagonists back to.
 (apologies for my rough sketches, but you get the idea)

I didn't know wolves once roamed the Scottish hills until the last one disappeared two centuries ago. The elk have also gone, but the eagles remain, along with the red deer. I abhor all kinds of sport that includes the slaughter of animals for enjoyment. In Travis’s time they killed purely for food but the practice of shooting deer still goes on in the highlands. The stag casts his antlers each spring around March or April and new horns grow quickly. The stags are not considered suitable to kill until the velvet has left the horns, a fact I had to learn in my research.

Lucky for me I enjoy the research entailed as I haven’t stuck to one sub-genre in my writing career. I’ve also had to learn about the Vikings (who intrigue me), the Ancient Brits (who fascinate me), early Australian settlers (who have my utmost admiration), and London during WW1 and WW11 (a period I learned a lot about through my older siblings). Perhaps the easiest to research would be my Beneath Southern Skies series as these are all set in present day Australia. Then there is my venture into futuristic, the easiest of all, as this is set on another planet. In this book my imagination was allowed to run riot and create characters, mode of transport, and setting as the fancy took me, and who could challenge me on my facts.

The Laird: Wild Heather Book 1

Australian Andrew reluctantly answers a plea to visit his ailing uncle in Scotland. His PA, Liz, persuades him to take her along. In the dilapidated castle, while exploring an attic, they set off a course of events that propel them back in time to 1050 where they meet The Laird.

Travis: Wild Heather Book 2

In Book 1 we met Travis and his clansmen. In Book 2 we are reunited with them. Driven by revenge and set on annihilating all his enemies, Travis has little time in his life for another woman from the future. Amid the violence and bloodshed a great love grows.

My Books We Love books can be found here
My Books We Love books can be found here