Today I’m looking forward to talking to author Belle McInnes about Scotland, historical romances and her new book, A Love Divided. Thank you, Belle, for taking the time to chat to me. Please sit down, get comfortable and let’s begin.
About Belle McInnes
A native Scot who lives in the hinterland between Edinburgh and the Borders, Belle loves to write about Scotland and its history.
In addition to writing historical romance, she rides dressage, teaches skiing – and pens prize-winning Sci-Fi, Urban Fantasy and Contemporary Romance as Roz Marshall.
What’s the name of your new book?
A Love Divided
Tell us a bit about your book
Mary Queen of Scots is on the throne, and the frontier between England and Scotland is a powder-keg
More interested in raiding into Scotland with the rest of her clan than womanly pursuits like embroidery or finding a husband, Alexandra Graham is a feisty English heiress who rides and fights as well as any man. But when a daring rescue goes wrong, she ends up in the dungeons of Scotland’s most forbidding castle, prisoner of the notorious Earl of Bothwell and at the mercy of the queen’s justice.
As deputy warden responsible for keeping the law on the queen’s borderland, Michael Cranstoun is a Scottish laird with a reputation for fair-mindedness and the looks of a Viking warrior. But meeting the beguiling Alexandra puts both his life and his honour at risk—not to mention his heart.
If there was a film or TV adaptation of your book, who would you like to see play your characters?
I learned early on (when I wrote a red-haired character who looked a little like Ed Sheeran) that, wherever possible, you should choose the cover photo first before you describe the character – because some combinations (eg a ginger who looks like the guy next door) are very hard to find.
But because of that, the hero/heroine of the book ‘becomes’ that model – so Alexandra in A Love Divided is the raven-haired, feisty-looking model on the cover. Perhaps if she was to be played by a modern actress, Lauren Cohan who plays Maggie in The Walking Dead would fit the bill?
Michael, the hero, is fair-haired and described as looking like a Viking. I think Liam Hemsworth (who played Gale in The Hunger Games) would fit the bill.
For book 2 (A Love Beyond) again the heroine (Libby) is the blond model on the cover, but the hero is totally inspired by Luke Pasqualino, who played d’Artagnan in the BBC series, The Musketeers 🙂
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
Sometimes a name just seems ‘right’ for a character (like Alexandra in A Love Divided) – her character was inspired in some way by the model I used for the cover photo. She just looked like an Alexandra 🙂 Also I wanted a name – Alex – that initially (just briefly) would sound like a man’s name 😉
The hero, Michael, took longer to name. I wanted one that sounded like a hero (!) but also one that was appropriate for the period, and for Scotland. Too many authors choose names for Highlander heroes that are actually Irish in origin, or too fanciful for the time – at that period in history, most people were named after royalty, saints, biblical characters or family members. So plain names like Henry, Simon, and William would have been common in England, and Robert, James and Michael in Scotland. Because of the small pool of first names in use, nicknames were prevalent – so my book has ‘Iron Simon’ and ‘Little Jock’ (which was an ironic name, as he was quite lanky!).
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
In 2014 (writing as Roz Marshall), I was chosen by Hugh Howey as one of 5 prize-winners in an international competition to write a short story based on his YA/sci-fi/colonisation book, Half Way Home.
It gave me confidence (at a time when I had few book sales and even fewer reviews) that I could write, and inspiration to carry on writing 🙂
What are you working on now?
A Love Beyond, #2 in The Reivers series, telling the next part of the story of Mary Queen of Scots through the romance between of one of her ladies-in-waiting and the French physician who saves her life.
Can you give us a few tasty morsels from your work-in-progress?
“Lower!” hissed Lord Home, Libby’s step-father, his dark green cape billowing behind him as he swept into a deferential bow.
With a grimace–which, due to her bowed head would thankfully not be seen by the queen–Libby Preston dropped her curtsey even lower. My best dress! I shall never get the dust-stains removed from the hem.
But her step-father had stressed the importance of impressing Mary, Queen of Scots, and gaining admittance to her court. “We need to get you married to a suitable lord,” he had said last month, standing in the fire-lit solar of his castle at Wedderburn in the Scottish Borders. “Or an earl–a duke is probably out of the question. But once you are advantageously wed, we need no longer worry about your–” he cleared his throat, “–little secret coming to light…”
So here Libby was, wearing cramoisie silk, bedecked in her mother’s second-best jewels and with her hair looped fashionably under a lace bonnet, almost on her knees before Mary Stuart. Was it too much to hope that her life might change? For the better?
Has your environment or upbringing impacted your writing?
Absolutely! As a native Scot, born (and still living) just outside our capital city, Edinburgh, our scenery is an absolute joy to write about, and our history provides dramatic stories with no need for artistic embellishment.
For example, Mary Queen of Scots’ life was a real rollercoaster, with three husbands, rebel lords, a scheming half-brother, near-fatal illnesses and political assassinations to contend with. For the Catholics in Scotland, she was the legitimate heir to the English throne (held by Elizabeth I); to the Protestants she was a threat to the religious Reformation that had started with her grandfather, Henry VIII. So her life contains ample conflict for any novel, without having to stray from the truth.
Add to that the situation in the Scottish Borders, just to the south of Edinburgh and next-door to England, where lawlessness was rife and some of the clans could raise armies to rival that of the monarch, and you get the background to The Reivers series.
Why should a potential reader buy your book(s)?
If you enjoy historical fiction by authors like Philippa Gregory, or historical romances – particularly those set in Scotland, like Outlander – you should try this book.
Set in the time of Mary Queen of Scots, it tells the story of Alex and Michael – a feisty English heiress and brawny Scottish laird — who should be mortal enemies, but find themselves thrown together when Queen Mary sets off on a trip to bring her lawless borderlands under control…
Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?
Yes, I work part-time as a Web Developer (which is handy when making an author website!), and part-time as a Ski Instructor at our local artificial ski slope.
Available formats: ebook and paperback.