Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Welcome, Scottish Seduction Blog Tour

What's better than having one historical romance author come to one's cyber home to chat? Having two. I'm delighted to welcome Sue-Ellen Welfonder and Margaret Mallory. I first discovered Sue-Ellen's books through her wonderful blog, Tartan Ink. Anyone who knows me can tell there's no way I could resist a series titled Return of the Highlanders, which has firmly made me a reader of Margaret's books as well. Both have brand new releases in ongoing series: Sue-Ellen's Seduction of a Highland Warrior brings readers back to the Glen of Many Legends, while readers of Margaret's series finally get Connor's story in The Cheiftain. Both books combine history, romance, family ties, and a touch of magic. Give the same ingredients to two talented chefs, and you'll get two different and delicious dishes. It's the same with writers. How does that play out here? Read on.

Sue-Ellen Welfonder

SEW: It’s a pleasure to be here to celebrate Seduction of a Highland Warrior’s recent release. Must say, I adore the title of this blog. It’s clever, smile-inducing, and original.

TWWN: Thanks, Sue-Ellen. We're happy to have you here. What draws you to Scottish historical romance?

SEW: On a personal level, I have a Hebridean/Highland family background and so was raised to appreciate that heritage. I’ve also been traveling to Scotland all my life, so loving Scotland and its past is very much a part of my world and always has been. I’m also keenly interested in medieval history and archaeology. These were my interests before I ever considered writing and will remain so when I no longer write.

In more general terms, I appreciate the possibilities offered by medieval Scotland as a setting and time period for romance. There’s the magnificent landscape, a proud and fearless people, a colorful and turbulent past, many layers of fascinating history and an irresistible blend of cultures (Pictish, Celtic, Pagan, Viking, etc). The clan feuds offer a wealth of plot possibilities. I also love Highland magic, the legend and lore, myth and superstition that abounded in medieval Scotland. And that, to a degree, remains. My grandmother had the sight, for example. My first book, Devil In A Kilt, featured a heroine gifted with the sight and so have some of my other titles. I enjoy writing characters with such extraordinary talents or weaving in other magical threads. As such beliefs were an integral part of Highland Scotland in these centuries, using such elements is natural and fitting. And a pleasure for me as I find every aspect of ‘Highland magic’ fascinating. I also collect medieval weaponry and love studying medieval warfare. I really enjoy writing medieval battle scenes. So my genre reflects by personal background and interests.

TWWN: What are the best and most challenging aspects of writing connected books?

SEW: I love writing connected books. Because I enjoy writing series/connected stories so much, I don’t see any part of the process as challenging. One thing I do watch is to end a series before beloved main characters grow old. It’s fun to write stories for the children of the original hero and heroine. But I do not want to write the first protagonists as grandparents. That’s why I ended my popular MacKenzie series when I did. Devil In A Kilt’s hero, Duncan, is still well-loved by my readers. I don’t want him hobbling about as a bent old man. Not going to happen.

What I love most about connected books is revisiting beloved characters and settings. In the writing of a book, the story comes to life and the characters soon feel like living, breathing people. It’s always a pleasure to work with them again. To see what they’re up to after an earlier book has ended. I know from my readers that most of them also enjoy seeing the characters again. As noted above, you just have to know when to move on. But even then, I like adding ‘magical touch-points’ to new series. Such as Devorgilla, the well-meaning yet meddlesome cailleach in my MacKenzie series. She makes cameo appearances in other series and whenever she does, I always hear from readers who tell me they loved seeing her on the page. Frankly, she is so real, I worry she’d hex me if I didn’t let her dip a toe in the ink now and again.

TWWN: Surprise! You have time traveled to the past -the day before you wrote the first page of your first novel. You may speak only one sentence to your past self. What is it?

SEW: Beware, here be (deadline) dragons.

Thank you so much for inviting me here today. It’s been fun. And I do adore the name of this blog.

Highland Blessings!
Sue-Ellen Welfonder

Thanks much, Sue-Ellen, and for what it's worth, Duncan would be an awesome senior gent.

Margaret Mallory

TWWN: What draws you to Scottish historical romance?

MM: I love history, and I have a serious weakness for stories involving castles and heroes who swing swords. I suspect I’m drawn to the British Isles, in particular, because of my Scottish-Irish-English heritage.

TWWN: What are the best and most challenging aspects of writing connected books?

MM: The most challenging aspect of writing this particular series was having four heroes who were the same age and who were all in each other’s books. Each needed to be heroic, yet distinct. I had to work to make each hero stand out as an individual, particularly when all four were in a scene, without slowing the pace with extra description. And, being heroes in their prime, naturally these guys wanted to take over each other’s books!

I’ve had tremendous positive feedback from readers about the “bro-mance” among my four Highland warriors.
So, despite the challenge, I am really glad I stuck with my original vision of these four heroes who’ve been close friends since they could walk.

TWWN: Surprise! You have time traveled to the past -the day before you wrote the first page of your first novel. You may speak only one sentence to your past self. What is it?

MM: I know you got a lot of satisfaction from working for good causes—improving care for the elderly and services for abused and neglected kids—but I wish you’d quit a couple of years sooner to write romance novels.

Thanks, Margaret. I'm glad you stuck with the original vision, too.

Readers, what's your favorite aspect of a good Scottish romance? Where should a new reader start with either of these writers? Drop a comment and make some noise.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Happy Dance Friday #114 & Son of Saturday at the Movies #3: Smash

I've been a snow bunny as long as I can remember, and according to family, even before that. My mother used to have to make me come inside and change snowsuits after a couple of hours because I'd soak the first one through; snowy days were the only ones where I insisted on playing outside all day long. There are many pictures of a very young me with snowmen, on sleds, etc. In short, snow always makes me want to happy dance.

As does the return of Smash for a second season, so that made picking this week's happy dance easy. No snow in this one, but we do have a full on Bollywood explosion of opulence, gorgeous costuming, a great set, plus choreography that makes me want to jump to my feet and join in.

This is another clip I've watched countless times, because there's so much to see - the colors, the huge ensemble, the character tableaux that say quite a lot in a very small frame, and above all, the storytelling. Which is also a huge part of Smash.

A drama about putting together a Broadway musical? Sold. With Katharine McPhee? Sold again; I remember watching her when she was on American Idol and hoping I'd get to see more of her work. Debra Messing is in it, too? Triple sold. I am also weak, weak, weak for British characters in NYC (I thank a friend of my mom's when I was tiny for giving me this bent; Mrs. Bloomer, did you know the seed you planted?) Quadruple sold. Drama and intrigue surrounding the audition process? Ah, they know how to sink their hooks into my very heart. I love, love, love the audition process. In college, I would audition for parts I had no chance of ever getting (including musicals, and I freely admit to having been kicked out of high school robe choir for having a bad voice - teacher's own words, in front of everyone) as well as the ones I could and did get, all because of the rush of standing on that stage and having the full attention of whoever was in those seats, watching to see if I had what they were looking for, feeling the give and take of creative energy.

Then the rehearsals begin, and things get crazy. Though I like Raz Jeffrey's character, Dev, and hope to see more of him in season two (don't burst my bubble yet if you have spoilers, please) I had to sypmathize with Ms. McPhee's Karen, who responded to Dev's proposal with "I'm in tech! Even the financial backing can get insane and everybody has an angle. For some, chaos. For me, bliss.

I can't let this go without mentioning Megan Hilty's character, Ivy. One of the first characters I ever created, back when my day still involved homework and catching a big yellow bus, was named Ivy Lynn, and yes, she was a singer. Bit of a moment there when I first heard Ms. Hilty's character introduce herself. While I'd assumed I'd be rooting for Karen to get the role, then I saw all the work Ivy put into the workshop, and my head did more flip-flopping than a bin of rubber sandals on opening day at the beach. Karen, no, Ivy, no, Karen, no, wait, they're bringing in someone else? Then multiple Marilyns in the shadow selves, then the show's off, then it's on, and now a rival musical may be in the works.

Have you been watching Smash? Who's your favorite Marilyn? Favorite new twist/cast addition? Share in comments, and if Nemo's finding you this weekend, stay safe.