I’m really pleased to be part of Lizzie’s blog tour for Girl in the Castle. It’s a fabulous read and great that she’s been able to spare some of her valuable time to come along to chat…
Where did the inspiration for Girl in the Castle come from?
We were touring Scotland in our caravan and decided to travel as far north as Fort William. Rounding a bend, we saw cars double-parked in a layby and tourists taking photographs of the loch. When I looked over my shoulder, I saw Castle Stalker for the first time in all its glory. We pulled in to Castle Stalker View café and walked down to the side of the loch to get a better view. Something about the castle made shivers of excitement run down my spine – so solid, unexpected and unashamedly Scottish. As a writer of romance I was hooked. I discovered that the owner organised tours of the castle, and picked you up in his launch to take you to the castle. Well, colour me tartan! I hurriedly booked two places and the next day we enjoyed a two hour guided tour of the castle. You can imagine how my mind ran on – imagining a disgraced academic, hiding away from the world in the castle, falling in love with the impoverished laird. Castle Stalker became Castle Tèarmannair (meaning guardian) in my novel and the rest is history. I plan to return there this summer to make a live video of me reading extracts from Girl in the Castle with inspirational Castle Stalker in the background.
Taking you right back to the beginning, when you created Ruairi Urquhart in Tall, Dark and Kilted, did you propose to make all your future heroes Scottish? Or did that decision come afterwards?
I opened the story in Notting Hill because I’d been researching that area and was consciously looking for locations which would be familiar to readers around the world. After London/Notting Hill, Scotland, seemed an obvious choice. There are many Scottish ex-pats in the USA, Canada and Australia and I hoped they might buy the novel. Some publishers/agents told me that readers don’t like novels which change location a third of the way through, but sales of Tall, Dark and Kilted have contradicted that opinion and after almost six years it is still selling well. I was born in Scotland and this has had a great influence on my writing, so for me to write Scottish-themed romance is a no-brainer. My second novel Boot Camp Bride (set in Norfolk) did well, but my heart really is in the highlands so I’ve returned there for Scotch on the Rocks and Girl in the Castle. My next novel, currently being prepared for publication this summer, is set in Wisconsin. It involves a hundred and fifty year old feud between two families of Scottish descent: the Buchanans and the MacFarlanes and the hero/heroine are last of their ‘clan’ – can they bring the feud to an end? Read the novel and find out.
Who are your favourite authors and have any of them influenced your writing?
I’ve always been a great Jilly Cooper fan and was lucky to meet her recently and plucked up enough courage to ask her to sign one of her novels for me. I love her rollicking rom com style. Looking back, I think her novel Emily has had the biggest influence on my development as a writer. (It’s partly set in Scotland so maybe, subconsciously, that’s what made me set my novel there.) I also enjoy Sophie Kinsella’s novels, my favourite being: Can You Keep a Secret . It’s so funny and taught me how to keep the reader turning the pages and, hopefully, wanting more. Looking around my book shelves I see many novels by Carole Matthews, Mary Wesley, Georgette Heyer and Barbara Erskine. I love history and would like to write a novel in the paranormal vein, one day.
If you had the opportunity to write something completely different, what would that be?
The answer to that would be historical fiction set in the time of the English Civil War. I have shelves groaning with books on the period and would write a time slip where the heroine (possibly a forensic archaeologist) is working on a battle site which is about to disappear beneath a new motorway. She finds a skeleton wrapped in modern-day clothing and wonders . . . how did that get there? Oh, now I want to write that novel and not the one I’ve plotted out for beginning after the summer holidays. Typical.
If you could relocate to any one place in the world where would it be, and why?
It’s a no-brainer for me – the answer would have to be Scotland. However, much as I adore Wester Ross I think I’d have to live on the slightly drier north east coast – Inverness or the Black Isle. It’s full of romance and the way the light changes and shifts over the lochs stirs something in my blood which I can’t explain. I’ve seen the perfect house. I found it when I was researching Holy Loch for Scotch on the Rocks so I’d have to move it stone by stone and rebuild it there. Inverness has an airport so I wouldn’t have to leave all my family and lovely friends behind and, in the summer months, I would organise writers’ holidays there. Also, there are fewer midges on that coast!
When you are writing what’s your criteria for a good hero?
He has to be someone I could fall in love with. A beta hero rather than Alpha Man. Once I’ve fallen in love with my hero the novel practically writes itself. I’m not interested in businessmen in suits, CEOs of large companies or Arab sheiks. I prefer photographers and free-lance reporters who have the skills and wit to survive in war zones. Men who can hold their own in the world they inhabit but have a tender side which the heroine encourages him to reveal as the novel unfolds. I quite like tortured or damaged hero, maybe haunted by the past; a man with demons to fight. I mean, who doesn’t adore Cormoran Strike in the Robert Galbraith novels? I quite like artistic heroes, too: playwrights/authors/artists etc. but not too fey, thank you very much. Above all, I love a laird in a castle, even an impoverished one. Someone who has to consider others; his tenants, employees, family. He has to care deeply for the heroine – even if, initially, they spend most of the time annoying the bejeezus out each other. They might argue, but the making up will be all the sweeter for that. Last but not least, my hero has to be a tender and considerate lover and be man enough to laugh (and cry) with my heroine.
And lastly, if you were holding a dinner party and could invite three celebrity guests (live or dead) who would they be, and why?
I’d invite funny, witty people who would enliven a dinner party with a well-delivered quip or phrase. For that reason I’d choose: Groucho Marx (king of the one liner); Victoria Wood (her scripts with their self-deprecating, deadpan humour are hilarious). Also, Billy Connelly. I saw Billy in concert many years ago and the stories he told about his Scottish childhood had a resonance for me. I laughed so much I thought I’d cracked a rib.