Wednesday, December 3, 2014

“Scotland for Christmas”: How the Book Came To Be (and a giveaway)

(Subtitle: More than you might ever want to know about how a creative-writer’s imagination works)

by Cathryn Parry

To begin with, I’ve always been interested in Scotland. I’m from Boston, and several of the branches on my family tree originated in the Western Isles of Scotland. My people were shipped to Cape Breton Island, Canada during the time of the Highland Clearances, which I always thought was one of the great untold tragedies of history. My forbears then later sailed to Boston, on their own, for work and better economic opportunity. Though they ended up staying in America, they kept their love of their heritage and passed it on to the next generations. I grew up learning Highland dance (can still do a mean sword dance and a vigorous Highland fling) and seeking out everything I could find about Scotland and its history. So that’s probably where my original idea to set a Superromance in Scotland was born.

Here’s the backcover blurb for The Sweetest Hours (December 2013 Superromance) which ended up being the first story in the Sage Family of Scotland series:
Kristin Hart has romantic notions of Scotland. Yet she never expects to find a real-life Scotsman in her Vermont hometown! Despite her instant connection with him, Malcolm MacDowall isn’t the Prince Charming she thought. Because no prince would shut down her factory—the one that means everything to her town.

Really, she has no choice. Kristin hops on the next flight to Edinburgh, determined to convince Malcolm her workplace should remain open. But the distraction of the man is almost too much. Still, the magic of the Highlands makes anything seem possible…even a happily ever after of her own.

About midway through the story, after Kristin realizes she needs to learn everything she can about Malcolm in order to have any hope of reaching her goal, she’s shocked to discover that his family lives in a castle and is quite wealthy. While on the grounds of his family’s estate in the Highlands, the two have the following exchange:

She rolled the purple flower between her fingers. “So…are you the heir apparent to John Sage’s empire?”
He grunted. “You know how to ruin a Saturday evening, lass.”
“I’m just trying to understand you.”
He opened one eye. “Very possibly, but none of us knows for sure who will inherit it. One of my cousins is studying international finance in New York City. Much more ambitious than I am.”
“Is he after your position as heir apparent?”
She. She is.”
“Who’s winning, you or she?”
“I don’t know. Does it really matter anyway? We’re all in this together, Kristy. We live together as a family, or we die alone.” He sat up and took a sip of whisky.

 In the margins, my editor wrote: “I’m interested in the cousin. Is she the heroine of a follow-on story?”
I honestly had no idea. The cousin’s story hadn’t been relevant to Malcolm and Kristy’s romance, so I’d “shut that door” in my brain. I find that I can get into a lot of trouble being carried away in reverie and never getting anything done if I let my imagination have too much free rein. I can tell you humorous stories of my misadventures as a head-always-in-the-clouds kid, but that’s a topic for another blog post.

For my own sanity, I taught myself to plot. Superromance stories are long (85,000 words) and deeply complex, so when I sit down to write one, I find it most helpful to do extensive pre-writing character work and detailed planning before I draft one word of the story. Naturally, though, I’m still a “pantser,” which is someone who enjoys letting the characters jump onto the page without thinking about it too much. To reconcile this, I’ve come up with a hybrid-compromise for myself: I plot the character-growth arcs and external-goal plots for the hero and heroine, but let the romance and all the secondary characters show up on the page and do as they will. I’m happy writing this way, and since I need to entertain myself first before I can entertain anybody else, this works for me.
Let me tell you about Isabel Sage: she is quite talkative. She’s capable. She has a great attitude, and it seems that everything she sets her mind to succeeds just beautifully. In the enneagram, she’s a classic “3”—the achiever/performer—though Isabel is a “3” who’s deeply unhappy inside. She’s lonely in New York City, and she’s envious of Malcolm and the relationships he’s made—both the working relationship with their Uncle John and the loving romantic relationship he has with his fiancée, Kristy.

Scotland for Christmas opens with Isabel getting set to attend Malcolm’s wedding in Vermont. For security reasons, her uncle has arranged a driver/bodyguard to transport her from Manhattan to Vermont. And the driver isn’t just anyone—he’s the son of a policeman killed during the kidnapping/rescue of Isabel’s young Sage cousins, years ago.
From the back cover blurb:

Jacob Ross needs Isabel Sage. She’s a beautiful, brilliant heiress to Scotland’s wealthiest family fortune—but Jacob isn’t interested in her looks or money. Isabel holds the key to questions about his past. And when he gets a weekend assignment as her bodyguard, Jacob finally has a shot at getting the truth. 
But Jacob never expected Isabel to be anything other than a spoiled rich girl. Never expected to feel such a connection. And when Isabel realizes why he’s really there, she’ll be furious at being used. Jacob will have to convince her that she’s become so much more than an assignment…

There’s one last Sage story in the works for August, 2015, and that’s Rhiannon’s story.

I have one copy of either Scotland for Christmas or The Sweetest Hours to give away, and I’ll choose randomly from those who comment to this post, with winner announced on Saturday. Here’s a question I’m curious about: What are your feelings about connected stories? Do you prefer standalone stories?

Thanks for reading!

Cathryn Parry’s website is


Colleen C. said...

I loved reading The Sweetest Hours... you have me very curious about this next book. I do enjoy connected books... getting to see characters we have met and see others have a turn showing us their story... the only time it bugs me is if you have to read a bunch of books to find out something that happened in book one... I tend to miss books or give up on it, because I read so many others.
Happy Holidays!

Cathryn Parry said...

Happy Holidays to you, Colleen! And thanks for your editor made lots of notes to make sure that important things that happened in the first book were explained/shown well enough in the second book. The goal was to make every book completely stand-alone. I hope I achieved the goal, lol!

bn100 said...

prefer standalone

Anonymous said...

I love connected stories. I mainly read series books these days.

Mary Preston said...

I like both connected & stand alone stories. I guess it depends upon my mood & if I can get my hands on all the connected books & read them in the proper order.

BW said...

I usually prefer stand alone stories.

Christy Olesen said...

I prefer connected books over stand alone, but read and enjoy both. I, too, have been interested in Scotland for many years. My grandfather used to tell us that his family immigrated to the US from Scotland. My cousin and I traced his family through Kentucky, to Tennessee and finally to North Carolina. We never were able to make a definite connection to Scotland. I've been to visit twice and I love to read books set in contemporary Scotland, there are too few of them. I'm looking forward to reading this series.

joye said...

I am always looking for new authors to read. Your story sounds like the kind I enjoy reading.

Cathryn Parry said...

I enjoyed reading your comments--thanks for commenting, everyone!

I'm just about to draw a winner from the hat...Joye, I notice from my notes that you won last month but never claimed, so I'll drop you an email and we'll get that sorted.

This month's winner is BN100. Congratulations! Here's the link to send your name, mailing address and choice of book.

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