How do you get the idea for a novel? What is your writing process like? Could you give us an example of you got the idea for any or all of these three books: Dangerous Illusions, Highland Fling, Border Bride.
My writing process varies from book to book, depending on what strikes chords in my imagination. Sometimes, I begin with a character. Other times, it's a particular setting that I want to use, like the Borders or the Highlands, or a castle with an interesting history. I think of the process itself as a sort of jigsaw puzzle. That's the same for every book. I find a piece here and another one there, and pretty soon they begin to add up to the outline for a story.
Border Bride began with the idea of a lass from the Highlands marrying a powerful Border lord, simply because men's attitudes toward women were very different in the two areas. In the Borders, on both sides of the line, traditions and attitudes were similar. Not that Scotsmen could not generally insist on doing things their way all over Scotland, mind you, but few men in the rest of country felt as if they had a God-given right to order their women around.
In sixteenth-century England, a woman had no legal standing except as her father's daughter or her husband's wife. Only widows who did not remarry had standing of their own. In Scotland, a woman had as much right as a man did to plead her case before a clan chief or laird, or the King for that matter. The King of Scots was just the chief of chiefs. Women could inherit wealth and titles in Scotland. They had many, many rights that Englishwomen did not have until the 19th or 20th centuries.
So, I asked myself, what if a Highland lass accustomed to offering her opinions and receiving generally respectful hearing marries a Border lord accustomed to instant obedience of his every command, who will dismiss most of her opinions and react badly to defiance? And what if her father orchestrates the marriage to suit an agenda of his own and arranges things in such a way that she has little choice but to comply, despite the Scottish law protecting women from unwanted marriages? What if both main characters have fiery tempers? What if he has a secret and she knows what it is? What if revealing it could get him hanged for treason? What if it concerns Mary Queen of Scots? The "what-ifs" are always the fun part of the process.
With Dangerous Illusions, the primary pieces were the Regency period and English versus Scottish laws pertaining to marriage, to women, and to children. In the case of children, there were literally no differences except that they were possessions of their fathers in England, just as wives were. In Scotland, wives had more rights, but children belonged to their parents, which generally amounted to the same thing as it did in England. The biggest difference was in what happened in cases of divorce, and that's what I chose to focus on for at least the first two books of the four-book series. But, having decided that much, I began to collect the pieces, and for Dangerous Illusions, I began at the Battle of Waterloo and the hero's 'meeting' with the heroine. After the battle, he finds a gilt-framed miniature of her near a dead soldier's body and decides to inform her himself of the man's death. Her family lives near his in Cornwall, and since his father and hers have not spoken for decades, the two of them have not met. What follows is a combination of mistaken identities, a bit of Romeo and Juliet, with a more sinister subplot that will lead to the second book and beyond.
Of course, research always provides numerous pieces for my books, and Dangerous Illusions was no exception. The heroine's niece, Charlotte (Charley) is horse-mad, and it occurred to me that at the time I knew almost nothing about training horses or how women learned to ride sidesaddle. So, when the local libraries failed me (no Google yet), I called the Smithsonian, told them my problem, and an expert talked to me for about twenty minutes after having recommended two excellent books on the subject. I've used details from that conversation and those books in many other stories, too. As a result, I was able to make both Charley and her aunt sound as if they knew what they were doing and what they were talking about. The heroine of Dangerous Illusions is Daintry Tarrant. Tarrant is a Cornish name, and when I traveled to England and Wales
Highland Fling actually began with a serendipitous, chance finding of three items at nearly the same time: a coffee-table size picture book at the University of California (Davis) library, detailing the River Thames through London in 1750 right down to shops on London Bridge, the steps from river to street level; a copy I bought of a fold-out, detailed drawing of London in 1750, showing the river and skyline behind it and including such details as individual houses (with their names) and garden layouts; and last but hardly least, the simple fact that Bonnie Prince Charlie had returned to London secretly in 1750 (having fled Britain after the '45) to persuade English supporters to stir up the whole conflict over the 'rightful' king again.
That gave me one setting for the book, so it was a simple matter to decide that the heroine should be another Highland lass but one whose father had lost his land when the English surged into Scotland. The hero, naturally, would be the English lord who had acquired their land for his own service in defeating the Scots. Add a father who is making illegal whisky, mix with wonderful stories of how such men smuggled their product past English officers wanting to seize it, send the heroine to London to meet her hero Bonnie Prince Charlie to offer Highland support and get herself arrested in the process…Then, when the only name she knows in London is the beast who stole her father's land… =and there you are.
In the process for any book, I do a detailed outline before I begin writing. I also, however, sketch out and write the first few scenes as soon as I know what they will be, and then I figure out what the other big scenes will be. I try always to write the big scenes as soon as I get a handle on them, because I find it easier to connect the dots, so to speak, if I know exactly where I'm going. The more road signs I can create for myself and my characters, the better and faster the work goes.
Leave a comment with your email address for your chance to win! One winner--ebook of your choice: Highland Fling, Dangerous Illusions or Border Bride!
About the Author
A fourth-generation Californian of Scottish descent, Amanda Scott is the author of more than fifty romantic novels, many of which appeared on the USA Today bestseller list. Her Scottish heritage and love of history (she received undergraduate and graduate degrees in history at Mills College and California State University, San Jose, respectively) inspired her to write historical fiction. Credited by Library Journal with starting the Scottish romance subgenre, Scott has also won acclaim for her sparkling Regency romances. She is the recipient of the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award (for Lord Abberley’s Nemesis, 1986) and the RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award. She lives in central California with her husband.
For more information on Amanda Scott’s novels, please visit the official website.