Guest: R.L. Syme & The Outcast Highlander
R.L. is here today to tell us about her new book, The Outcast Highlander!
He's lost his family, his title, and his honor, but he can't lose her...
The first in a new Scottish Medieval Historical Romance series, the Highland Renegades, from award-winning author R.L. Syme.
Kensey MacLeod returns home after a failed marriage alliance in France to find her world in turmoil: her best friend married to an English sympathizer, her mother at death's door, and her father imprisoned and thought dead. As an English lord descends to claim her father's lands, Kensey escapes north with her mother and brother, and runs straight into the arms of the outcast Highlander.
Driven from home and family by a crazed father, Broccin Sinclair refuses to stand aside while the English invade his beloved Scotland. But who should he champion? The freedom fighter who saved his life, the family who has forgotten him, or the woman who captured his childhood heart?
Q: Welcome R.L.! Please tell us about your latest release.
A: It just came out last week and is the story of a young man who's been abandoned by his lunatic father and left to die in the Highlands. He's rescued by a Scottish freedom fighter who takes him under his wing. When Broccin hears that his father is dead, he returns to see his father's grave and meets the girl he's been in love with since childhood who he thinks is betrothed to his brother.
Q: Sounds fantastic! I have this in my TBR "stack" on my Kindle and can't wait to read it. What inspired this story?
A: After getting interested in Scottish history as a very young person (my family are Scottish), I was frustrated with some of the things that Braveheart did to the historical person of Andrew de Moray, whom I had always considered to be one of the heroes of the Scottish Wars of Independence. So I decided to write a story that honored him and told his story. I didn't want to make him the hero, though, because he was married young, so I found another family who was connected to him and the story grew from there.
Q: I like that angle. What is the story behind the story?
A: As I said, I felt like Andrew de Moray was maligned in Braveheart in a way that made him seem like a cowardly sell-out. But in reality, he was fighting for Scottish Independence long before William Wallace came on the scene, but since he died not long after Stirling Bridge, he's often forgotten. But he was initially engaging in the kind of warfare that the Scots were best at: guerrilla warfare. And he was successful enough to be named Protector of the Realm, so he was quite a hero in his time. I wanted people to see a different side of what the Scottish nobility might have been like during those wars. And really, all of the stories in the Highland Renegades tell similar stories of nobility who struggle between the English overlording and their responsibility to protect their people. Each of the books somehow struggles with the idea of power in a society so familial.
Q: Why do you write romance?
A: I write romance because I believe in happy endings. And I believe that believing in happy endings can make life better. We all have experiences in life that would teach us happy endings not only don't happen but can't happen. But it's the hope that things will end well that can make the difference in the dark times, and make the sun return. I want to remember that always, and I want other people to remember it. Hope is the key. No other genre has this.
Q: I love that! What do you enjoy most about writing romance?
A: I love these people. I've been living with them for quite awhile now and they feel like family. When I'm writing them, I feel them and see them and hear them. I love that. It makes all the writing worthwhile, because then I feel like I'm sharing something private with the world. It's very fun for me.
Q: How did your story’s setting impact your plot or characters?
A: This is a very interesting question because it has a huge impact on the characters and the story. Because Kensey has spent so many years in France, she has a hard time re-acclimating to her surroundings when she gets back to Scotland, and that creates a lot of issues. She gets lost, she doesn't really know how to navigate. That creates a lot of reliance on others, and specifically on Broccin. That makes for some interesting scenes. :)
Q: Great! Why did you choose your setting and why was it perfect for your book?
A: Because their area of Scotland is so remote, they are largely ignored by the majority of what happens in the Lowlands at this time. Because of this remoteness, they take more risks than others might have, and it eventually backfires. But because they are still remote, they do feel a relative amount of safety when in their home, even though the king opposes them. That will change when some of the characters go to Berwick and places farther South, and when other characters join Andrew de Moray in the south. But for now, the setting is perfect to allow Broc and Kensey the time they need to fall in love. :)
Q: I love the remote places in Scotland. Which of your characters is most like you? Least like you? And why?
A: Oh wow, that's hard. I would say that Broc is probably most like me. He's so loyal and plays his emotions tight to the chest, but feels so deeply. His loyalty can sometimes get him into trouble because he wants to honor every oath he makes, even those that conflict with his responsibilities. He wants to help everyone and save everyone. That's a lot like me. :) Kensey, interestingly enough, is almost nothing like me. Great question.
Q: I'm glad you liked it. How do you choose names for your characters?
A: I had a dream about Kensey's name when I first wrote the book. Broccin used to have a different name, and to pick his new name, I searched medieval Scottish male names until I found one that fit who he was.
Q: Very cool! Did you choose the title of your book and if so how did you do it?
A: Also an interesting story. The initial name of this book was Whispers in the Night, but I judged a contest entry with that name not long after this was written. I went back and forth with my critique partner about the name for this book because i wanted it to be just about Broccin, and I wanted it to be a certain length and have a certain cadence. So I gave my CP a list of probably twelve or thirteen different names and after a lot of discussion, we finally settled on this one. Several of the other names will be used in this series, but this was definitely Broccin's title.
Q: Where is your favorite place in the world?
Q: Please tell us about your favorite character in the book.
A: My favorite character is probably Malcolm. It may sound weird because, if you read this book, he really does not make good choices. But I love that he's just so intent on his goal. He thinks of something or he decides something and that's just it. He's committed. He makes a horrible decision in the middle of the book and it costs him quite a bit. He'll come back in later books, to further explore who he is, but I love (on some level) his ability to have tunnel vision and just be ruthless in his pursuit. He's so young in this book--only 18--so he'll get some life experience that will round him out, but he does not lose this fundamental piece of his personality.
Q: Which element of story creation is your favorite?
A: Characters, for sure.
Q: Which element of this story was the hardest for you?
A: Having to hold back certain pieces of the story. I tend to be one of those people who tells "the long version" of a story because I want to get everything in. But in order to make future books work, I had to hold back some parts of this story so they could be told by the people who lived them. That was hard for me.
Q: What inspires you? What motivates you?
A: Reading other authors. I'm blessed to belong to Celtic Hearts Romance Writers, where the best of the best of Celtic Romance hang out, so I get to read some of the top books in the genre, and call the authors my friends. That inspires me.
Q: I love Celtic Hearts too! Please tell us about your other book.
A: I have a contemporary romance out that's set in Montana. Another story about a highly principled young man who has been dealt a raw deal by life and finds his healing by falling in love. But a very different kind of story.
Q: When did you know you wanted to be an author?
A: According to my family, I've wanted to be an author all my life. I do think that's the case. I think I've been a storyteller all my life, through various mediums. But I think I've always wanted to tell stories. I've only recently really committed to doing that through written media, and I'm so happy.
Q: Great! It's important to do what you love. What is your writing process or method?
A: It depends on the book. With a series like this, that has been living in my brain and waiting to come out, the characters have been chatting in my head for so long, I feel like I know them. I tend to let them do a lot of their own story direction. But with most books, I do try to plot. I'm not as good at the plotting stuff as I'd like to be, but I'm working on it. :)
Q: Please describe your journey to publication.
A: I started off with small publishers and then moved into self-publishing. I've been very happy with both experiences. I'm still writing books trying to get contracts with other publishers and hopefully even getting an agent someday. We'll see how that turns out. But for now, I'm just happy having books finished and getting to write the stories I love.
Q: What was the most important thing you learned (the thing that made all the difference) just before you made your first sale?
A: Belonging to a community of writers. There's something focusing about being surrounded by people who are all trying to write the best story they can and who care about not only their own career but the genre and the trajectory of the genre. I joined RWA in 2009 and it was the best decision I could have made.
Q: What do you wish you’d known before becoming published?
A: That you should wait until you have the best product you can possibly write before you try to get your work out there. It's frustrating to see a product that isn't what you wanted going out the door and representing your name. But you will get better every time you finish a book, so keep finishing books and wait until you have your best book before you put all your eggs in it.
Q: Can you share with us “the call” story?
A: My call story is SO long and convoluted. I initially sold my book to a publisher where my editor got sick and had to drop my book. Then, I had to make some hard decisions about that book, so I started shopping it around. I got an offer from a bigger publisher, but I wouldn't change a part of the book, so they dropped me. Eventually, the publisher I found was the right one, and I've had a great experience with Pelican. But they weren't technically my first "call". :)
Q: If you are self-published, why did you choose that route? Do you love it or what would you do differently?
A: So far, it's been great to have all the control. I'm enjoying both venues, however. I still like the experience of the publisher. I think I will likely continue to do both, for different books.
Q: Do you have any advice for unpublished authors?
A: Keep writing. Join a writing organization and start networking. Meet other writers in person whenever possible and write in community whenever possible.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I'm working on a YA book that has been mulling around in my head for about a year now. I'm also working on the sequel to this book (the Outcast Highlander), which will be the story of a man who's not in this book yet, but who is one of the Highland Renegades, and centers around one of the minor characters in TOH. I'm loving it, so far. My immediate project is to write a short novella (around 8K) that is a prequel to TOH and tells the story of two of the characters in this book that I really love, but who are already married when the book begins. That, I plan to release only to my Newsletter List, around the middle of February.
Q: Would you like to ask readers a question?
A: What is your favorite part/element of a romance novel/story?
R.L. is giving away an ebook copy of The Outcast Highlander to one commenter!
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Thanks so much for being our guest today, R.L.!
Thank you so much for having me!