Laurin Wittig’s blog tour for her new release Highlander Betrayed is officially over, however I wanted to share both an interview with you and tomorrow I’ll be posting my review of her first book in her new series Guardians of the Targe. Hint: (It is superbly well-written and I’m chafing at the bit for its sequel.)
I ‘sat’ with Laurin and asked her a few questions about her style of writing, how she etches out her characters, and what series she’s writing. Here follows the interview.
Question: Everyone has their own style of putting a story together. What about you? In particular I’m interested in whether you have a ‘message’ you want to get across and work the plot around it or do your characters, through their creation and development carry the story and give you the message?
Answer: I always start with one character in mind, usually my heroine, and then I create
a hero to challenge her. Next I find a location, then a piece of history I can use. In Highlander Avenged I already had the heroine, Jeanette MacAlpin, and the location, Glen Lairig, set from the first book in the Guardians of the Targe series. I created an injured warrior, Malcolm MacKenzie, as her hero, then found an obscure, but real battle that just happened to take place near my setting and near my specific time period for the series.
I don’t ever set out with a particular “message” in mind when I write, other than the general love conquers all sort of message but I find in hindsight a lot of my books have the message that despite any troubles in the family you are born into, you can create a wonderful life and family of your own. That’s the story of my personal happily ever after, so it doesn’t surprise me that it is a common theme in my stories even though I don’t set out to spread that message.
Question: What’s your technique in creating characters for your books? Do you clip pictures? Is their personality already honed before you start writing? After the first draft do you make major shifts in the story to produce a tight plot?
Answer: I have several tools I’ve picked up over the years that help me sketch out my characters before I start writing, and sometimes I do look for pictures to inspire me, but it’s in the first draft where they really come to life. They have an amazing way of surprising me as I get to know them better, as if they were real people. I write my stories in layers and the first one is almost all characters/dialog and very little in the way of description or even plot. As a result my second draft is more work than the first as I weave in the plot and adjust what happens in the first draft to fit the evolving story. I actually completely rewrite the story from scratch in the second draft most of the time, though the more stories I write, the better I’m getting at including plot into that first draft, too. These days I can usually write a book in three drafts, not counting the editorial revisions that polish it to a fine shine. My first book went through ten or eleven revisions before it finally sold, so I’m getting faster, thank goodness.
Question: Tell us about your series. Do you have a favorite and which ones are you still adding to?
Answer: I have two series currently, The Guardians of the Targe, my newest. Book two in the trilogy, Highlander Avenged, releases on June 24th, and the third one will follow in the early part of 2015. I also have my Legacy of MacLeod series, which is only two books at the moment. I have plans for at least one more book in that series, maybe more given the requests I continue to get from readers for more stories about the characters in this series. I’m also spinning off a new novella next month from my debut novel, The Devil of Kilmartin. I have at least one more spinoff novella in mind to write, so I now have my Kilmartin Glen stories which are more a set of stories with connected characters than a series with a common plot like my other two are.
Which is my favorite series? Right now I’d have to say Guardians of the Targe is my favorite. It’s a story I’ve been wanting to tell for a long time, and it’s a bigger story than I’ve written before, with one major plot arcing through all three books, so that’s been both terrifying and gratifying as it unfolds. Plus, I adore the strong heroines and the ancient gifts/magic that I have in this series. It all started when I asked myself what if Robin Hood and his merry men were Highland women? The story has veered a little away from a true Robin Hood story since then, but I still have fun weaving bits and pieces of the Robin Hood characters into my own. For example Rowan, in the first book, Highlander Betrayed, is Robin – a reluctant hero who leads her “merry men” against an English spy. In the second book, Highlander Avenged, the heroine is Jeanette/Little John, a gentle soul put into a difficult situation requiring heart and intellect to help Rowan save the “merry men.” And in the third book, Highlander Redeemed, I’ll have Scotia/Will Scarlet as the heroine, a feisty spoiled brat with revenge on her mind. I’m having a blast with these incredible women and their wonderful heroes.
Question: Do you prefer writing novellas over full-length novels?
I’ve actually just finished my very first novella, MacAlister’s Hope, which will appear in The Winter Stone anthology next month (preorders are up now!) and I had a blast writing it. With the Guardians of the Stones novels I have so much information I have to keep in my head and a plot that has to be woven through every scene in every book that it is both exhilarating and exhausting to write. With the novella, I was free to focus in on the romance with only enough plot to keep the conflict strong. Novellas, by necessity, are simpler stories and MacAlister’s Hope has been a great palate cleanser, if you will, between novels – quick and focused on the romance in a different way than I can do in novels. I love writing both, and plan to write more novellas in the future.
Question: It’s nice that your parents were influential in sparking the interest in Scotland. Are they new immigrants to the U.S. or was the Scottish tradition kept alive through generations?
Answer: My grandmother traced our Scottish roots back to one Alexander Magruder (MacGregor clan) who was transported from Scotland to the Caribbean for being a thief in the mid-1600s, and he eventually made his way to Virginia, so definitely not new immigrants. The part of Mississippi where I grew up, known as the Delta, up in the northwestern part of the state, was heavily settled by Scots, so the tradition was strong in the frequently intermarried families. I remember when I was little hearing my grandfather mumble “Damned Campbells” anytime the name was mentioned — even if it was the soup! Campbells and MacGregors are ancient enemies. It wasn’t until I was 11 or 12 that I learned I didn’t have to hold a grudge against anyone named Campbell. My husband’s grandmother was actually born in Scotland, but he wasn’t raised with the heritage and unfortunately, he refuses to wear a kilt. It’s a pity, too. He has cute knees.
Highlander Betrayed ~ Now available.
Highlander Avenged coming June 24th!
The Winter Stone – One legend, three enchanting novellas ~ Preorder now!
Five Unforgettable Knights – Five medieval romance novels