Monday, February 15, 2010
Welcome to Allie Mackay's guest blog
Welcome Ms. Allie Mackay / Sue-Ellen Welfonder to Love Romances and More, thank you for joining us.
I’m delighted to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me.
Did you always want to become a writer?
No. My dream job was to be a flight attendant and see the world. I did that for 23 years and still miss flying sometimes. I kept meticulous travel journals throughout my airline career and that was the extent of my writing. A wonderful author friend, Becky Lee Weyrich, encouraged me to write romance. Without her urging, I would surely still be with the airlines.
What is the most, and the least interesting fact about writing?
Most interesting is how magical writing can be. An inconsequential tidbit that appears in an early chapter can be just what you needed when you reach a later point in the story. Yet at the time you wove in that tidbit, you weren’t aware of how important it might be later on. Or you’ll think something is so unique, so original, and then you’ll discover that such a living historical character actually existed, or that such an event or circumstance really happened. Such things can be eerie and often similar enough to give you a shiver.
Least interesting is the cold, hard truth that writing is very hard work.
How did you celebrate your first release? What was it like to see your book in a bookstore? Do you have a special ritual for celebrating a book release?
First release celebration? I sold the guest room furniture and claimed the room as my writing office. That was my treat to myself. It’s been my turret ever since. That was many years ago when my first Scottish medieval, Devil In A Kilt released. I write my Scottish medievals under my real name, Sue-Ellen Welfonder.
Seeing books in a bookstore remains a thrill. Most exciting is to find them in Scotland. I’ve seen my books at Glencoe, near Culloden, and even on Orkney.
Special rituals? - I used to plant a tree. Nowadays, writing for two publishers, releases usually race right past me because I always seem to be at the bad end of a deadline when a new book hits the shelves. Or buried under revisions, copy edits, etc….
How did your family react to fact that you write romance novels? Have your family read your book?
My family was surprised I left my airline career. I really loved flying. But they knew I’ve been a bookworm since birth, so they were and remain supportive. Some read my books, some don’t. My dad would have been so proud, but he passed away before I sold. He was always so sure I’d sell, believing in me when I didn’t. I like to think he knows. I dedicated my Scottish medieval, Wedding For A Knight, to him and it was my first title to hit USA Today. That made the excitement all the more special.
Most authors are also avid readers. Is this the case with you? If so, who are some of your favorites? Have any influenced your writing?
I’m absolutely an avid reader. I’ve loved books forever and could read before kindergarten. In my flying years, I’d pack half of my crew luggage with romances. Forget clothes. I had to have my book stash with me always. Heaven forbid I’d be somewhere and run out.
Favorites? - I grew up on Nancy Drew, devoured gothics, and came to romance via Rosemary Rogers “Sweet Savage Love” and “Shanna” by Kathleen Woodiwiss. Jude Deveraux’s classic “Knight In Shining Armor” made me a devoted fan of time travels. Nowadays, I really enjoy Regency-set historicals and cozy mysteries. Pat Cody and Victoria Alexander are two favorite Regency authors. I also love Kate Angell’s baseball romances. They’re wonderfully fun books, full of great heroes, lots of humor, and wonderful dogs. Loving dogs, I’m a big fan of Judi McCoy’s “Dog Walker Mysteries.” Research books on all things Scottish, medieval, and ghostly make up the bulk of my pleasure reading. I don’t read in my own subgenre.
Influences – I’d say gothics. Daphne DuMaurier, Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt. I love atmosphere and appreciate a strong sense of place. That’s why I read: to be transported to a another time and place.
Do you feel each of your characters live with you as you write? Do their lives sometimes take over a part of your life? Can you name an example? Do you have living role models for your characters?
My characters definitely take over my world. During a deadline, they can feel as vital as real people and often invade my dreams. After a deadline, they’re like old friends I haven’t seen in a while. Not right in front of me, but still in my world, somewhere.
I don’t use living role models. I don’t watch TV and rarely go to the movies, so I’m not up on film celebrities. I see my characters in my head, each one very much their own person. My personal life experiences, likes and dislikes, all find their way into my characters. So there’s a lot of ‘me’ in them.
Where do you get the inspirations for your books?
My great love of Scotland, my interest in the paranormal and Celtic myth and legend, also my passion for medieval history. Visiting Scotland really helps. I’ve been traveling there all my life and always return with new inspiration. For example, Highlander In Her Bed was inspired by my stay at a Scottish castle where my room was decorated in 14th C. style. It was a suite in the oldest part of the castle, the vaulted undercroft, and even had the original medieval well inside the room. All night, I’d imagine a knight crawling up out of that well. By about 2 a.m., I was imagining the knight in my four-postered medieval-y bed. And so the story idea sparked.
Studying medieval history also inspires. The tiniest historical fact in a research tome can provide the launching point for a book.
Do you find it difficult at times to write love scenes?
No. I’d be uncomfortable writing erotica. But I’m fine with the scenes in my books. Each author has to know their own comfort zone. I prefer sensual to overly graphic. And because I dislike profanity, I don’t use certain descriptive terms. The wonderful thing about romance is that there’s something for every taste.
Do you have a problem with deadlines and have you ever suffered a writers block?
I’m not fond of deadlines, but they’re a necessary evil. You have to say no to things that will cut into your work time, develop a knack for blocking distractions, and stay focused, protecting the book always. It can be hard, but if you’re disciplined, deadlines aren’t scary.
I don’t believe in writers block. I’ve never had it. I think there’s an underlying reason when a writer stalls. And that reason is the true culprit, not a lack of words or not knowing how to move forward in a story. Stress, health issues, money concerns, so many things can cloud your mind and make it difficult to get words onto the page.
Do you prefer stand-alone books or series (As a reader or a writer) ?
I prefer series. As a reader and a writer, I enjoy revisiting beloved characters and settings. But I also prefer it when series books can be enjoyed as a single read. That’s ideal.
If you could change places with one character from your book, who would it
be and why?
Kira Bedwell from Highlander in Her Dreams. She’s very much like me and she gets to live my dream of exploring a cliff-top castle ruin in Scotland and slipping back to the 14th C. The **castle in that book was inspired by a very real cliff-top ruin on Skye. It’s one of my favorite places in the Highlands and every time I’m there, I imagine slipping back in time as Kira gets to do.
(**see my answer to the ghost question)
What is your favorite book from the books that you have written so far? Who are your favorite hero and heroine, and why?
Some Like It Kilted. And not because it’s my latest release. I loved the premise and had such fun writing the story. I also love the Hebrides (my family comes from the Hebrides, from a small island called Colonsay) and so I really enjoyed setting the book in such a special place.
Bran and Mindy are my favorites. I absolutely love Bran. He’s my ideal hero: he’s a Highlander (always tops the list) he’s big, strapping, and rugged, a great sense of humor, he’s big-hearted, generous with his friends, has a fierce love for his land and heritage, he loves dogs, and he gives great neck nuzzles. Mindy is an ex-flight attendant like me. All the things she was sure she’d dislike about Scotland were the very things I love so much there. So it was fun to watch her come around and fall in love with Bran and Scotland.
Do you believe in ghosts yourself?
Absolutely. I’ve even lived in a haunted house. Highlander In Her Dreams was inspired by a ghost I saw at the cliff-top ruin on Skye that became the castle in the book. I was picnicking there alone at the time, just like Kira in the story. Anyone wishing to see my photos of the ruin can visit my website
If you were placed in one of the situations from your "Kilted" series, would
you rather go back in time or stay here and have your ghostly highlander
become flesh and blood?
I’d definitely go back in time and stay there.
Which of your heroines is most like you?
There’s a great deal of me in all my characters, especially heroines. Mindy Menlove in Some Like It Kilted shares my flying background, but personality-wise, I’d say Kira Bedwell in Highlander In Her Dreams. She loves Scotland as passionately as I do, lives for cold, misty days, loves rain, can’t stand ‘flash and brass,’ is keen on anything medieval, appreciates and believes in the paranormal, loves dogs, and hates leaf blowers. There’s a mention of ‘leaf blower brigades’ in her book and I was grinning evilly when I wrote those lines. That was me. Leaf blowers turn me into a she-devil like nothing else.
If you did go back in time, how would you communicate to those of us "now" that all is well?
I’d try to leave a permanent message hidden somewhere significant. Or I’d try to communicate through a dream. I believe people who are very close have a soul bond that can’t be severed by time, distance, or even death. Not everyone can sense such things, but I believe such ties exist.
Have you ever spent a night in a Scottish Castle? If yes was it a haunted one?
I’ve stayed in lots of Scottish castles and visited many more. Most claim to be haunted. As do many hotels, inns, and B&Bs there. I’ve had interesting personal experiences in several of Scottish castle hotels and am sure they were truly haunted.
I love the idea of One Cairn, don't you wish you could have a real one
nearby? (I do).
Thank you. I do wish I could move to One Cairn Village. It’s my idea of heaven. All the charm of the past, the quaintness and peace, the beauty, but with hot showers and electricity.
If you could plan to go back in time, what three things would you take with
A never-ending supply of my favorite shower gel, potatoes (I’m a potato zealot and would make everyone converts), and my dog.
Would you like to give another genre a try?
No. I’m writing what I love: Scottish-set paranormals and Scottish medievals. All my passions are in these books and I have no interest to write anything else. My heart wouldn’t be in the books. I write Scotland because I love Scotland so very much. I weave in the paranormal threads because I’m fascinated by such things and have fun using these elements. If someone said I could make millions writing vampire-serial killer-steampunk-demons out to save the world, I’d shrug, smile, and keep penning my medievals and light paranormals because my vampire, serial killer, steampunk, demon heroes would be no more than ink on the page. Writers should write what they’re truly passionate about and enjoy. Not the latest hot trend.
Which book was the hardest to write and which the easiest?
The hardest book is always the one I am currently working on. Writing is hard work. In part, because of the all the extraneous responsibilities and requirements that come with writing under contract, as a published author.
The easiest book is the first, written before you sell. You’re writing in a bubble then, blissfully free from all the icky stuff that sets in to take whacks at you after you’re published. Fortunately, the positives are greater than the negatives in this business.
Even so, some books are ‘gift books’ that seem to write themselves and are a joy to work on. I’ve had several of those. Some Like It Kilted was such a book.
If you could choose of your books for a movie, which one would it be and who
would you as the cast?
H’mmm… I’d love to see them all in film. What fun that must be for an author. Sigh…. If I had to choose, I’d say Some Like It Kilted because I think it’d make a really fun and cute movie with a happy-tears ending. Hero? I love men who aren’t ‘pretty boys,’ but are big, brawny, and rugged. Always with a sense of humor. Lusty and bold. And who love their heroine so fiercely, they’d stop the world for her. Dimples don’t hurt. I’d love to see Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Bran. I adore him. Heroine? She should always be a woman readers would love to have as their best friend. I could see Mindy well represented by a young Goldie Hawn or Meg Ryan.
If you could travel through time to visit a special time period or famous
person, what or who would it be and why?
Robert Bruce. He’s my number one all-time hero. I’ve loved him since childhood and have even visited all the places in Scotland that were significant in his life. He was Scotland’s greatest hero king and must’ve been a powerhouse of a man. His followers loved him and his enemies respected him. He also struggled through very hard years and fought incredible odds to win Scotland’s independence.
Do you listen to music while you are writing and if so what music is it?
Yes. I listen to classical music, which I love. Mendelssohn, especially his Overture “The Hebrides.” Dvorak (I don’t have the accent keys for his name), Wagner (powerful stuff), to name three favorites. I also enjoy Celtic music, but only without lyrics. If I hear words/singing, I lose my concentration.
Big congrats to your latest release, can you please tell us something about
Thank you! Here’s the original blurb. It was cut down a bit on the back cover, but this version gives a good summary:
A ghost's home is his castle--and she's about to storm the gates…
A woman's heart needs a loving home…
Swept off her feet by a wealthy first-class passenger, ex-flight attendant Mindy Menlove finds herself living in a castle transported stone-by-stone from Scotland and rebuilt in Pennsylvania. But when her cad of a fiancé dies in the company of his mistress and Mindy decides to sell the gloomy estate, her plans to start anew soon unravel. Instead of escaping to her dream destination of Hawaii, she’s bound for the Hebrides, the one place she’d hoped to avoid forever. And rather than putting the past behind her, she must face another complication: her castle’s original builder – who just happens to be maddeningly irresistible and seven-hundred-years young.
But a man's home needs a loving heart…
Centuries ago, Bran of Barra was a legendary Highland chieftain. Since then, the proud and burly Hebridean has enjoyed the ghostly realm, throwing feasts and carousing nightly in his great hall. But his high-spirited existence is disturbed by the feisty female who crosses the Atlantic, claiming she’s demolished and now intends to restore his ancestral home. It’s a task she hasn’t accepted willingly and if the roguish Bran doesn't find a way to change the fetching American’s mind about his bonny homeland and him, neither of them will ever find the peace--or passion—they didn’t know they’d been searching for.
But love can be most powerful when it comes unexpected, and a happy ending that’s well-deserved is always the sweetest…
Are you working on anything right now, and can you tell us a teaser about
I’m superstitious about talking details of upcoming books. But I can share that I’m contracted for many more Allie Mackay titles and Welfonder Scottish medievals. I have running back-to-back, dual deadlines that will keep me busy for the next few years, and I’m grateful. I don’t take anything for granted in this business. It’s tough, crazy competitive, and brutal.
My current Allie Mackay deadline is for Must Love Kilts, releasing from NAL in Jan. 2011. This is Margo Menlove’s story and a time travel romance. I’m really loving it. She’s the sister of the heroine in Some Like It Kilted. Margo is a rabid Scotophile like me and the Highlands will never be the same once she gets there. An excerpt is in the back of Some Like It Kilted.
On the Scottish medieval front, my next book is Sins of a Highland Devil and will release from GCP in March 2011. This book is the first in a new Scottish medieval trilogy, with the series title, “Highland Warriors.” Sins of a Highland Devil is now in production and I’m just beginning the second book in the series, as yet untitled.
Thank you so much for inviting me to visit today. I don’t do guest blogs often, so it is always a special treat to ‘get out’ and be able to say hello to readers. I’ll look in throughout the day to chat with everyone.