Veronica Wolff introduces us to Master of the Highlands

Veronica Wolff was an aspiring art historian when she realized that academic writing was not the place to explore her romantic flights of fancy. She lived everywhere from South Carolina, to Hawaii, to India, finally settling in Northern California where she lives with her husband, two children, a dog and cat, and countless houseplants. Her unmarketable skills include snowboarding, speaking Hindi, gardening, and knowing an alarming amount of pop-culture trivia. She has two books coming out with Berkley in 2008, both time-travel romances set in seventeenth-century Scotland, based on the lives of real heroes.

Vonda Sinclair: Hi Veronica, welcome! I'm so glad you're a guest here today! Please tell us about your first book, just released by Berkley, Master of the Highlands. (And what a yummy cover! Nothing better than plaid over a muscular chest!)

Veronica Wolff: Master of the Highlands was based on the real life and battles of famous seventeenth-century laird, Ewen Cameron.

Lily Hamlin has finally realized that her life isn't as perfect as she once thought. Making a pilgrimage to Scotland, a land she's only heard about in lullabies, Lily hopes that she can find her place again. But while exploring the Highlands, she discovers an overgrown maze and a strange stone map--and lands in the Lochaber of 1654...

Ewen, Chief of the Clan Cameron, is a busy man who must figure out how to save his people from the brutal redcoats and has time for little else. Having sired an heir, the widowed Ewen has no need--or room--for another romance. Then into his life drops a saucy lass with a peculiar accent, no regard for his title--and an arousing body. Drawn to each other despite their differences, they both realize that they don't want her to go back to her own time. But with battles brewing between the Camerons, the redcoats, and a rival clan, staying is a gamble.

Vonda: This sounds like my favorite kind of book! What is the story behind the story?

Veronica: I was a fantasy fiction fan who hadn’t read much romance. My mother gave me Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER as a gift and, though I know Gabaldon wouldn’t call it a romance novel, that book made me realize how deeply satisfying a good love story could be. It also made me an avid fan of Scottish history! After I read everything she’d written, I went on to devour every Highland book I could find. Karen Marie Moning quickly became another favorite. But all these wonderful love stories spoiled me: Suddenly, a book felt lacking if it didn’t have a good, solid romance at the heart of it! And so I became a fan of all romances, not just those set in Scotland.

As for Ewen's story in particular, I am a history buff and web surfing addict, and have lost many an hour poring through the vast number of historical accounts, legends, and just-plain ghost stories there are to be found in Scottish history. I stumbled across this strapping and noble laird one day and got completely swept away by his life story. I couldn't believe that there weren't all kinds of movies and books based on his life--I felt like I'd discovered some secret treasure! I immediately set to work imagining what his life might have been like, inserting my own heroine into his family and amidst his real struggles with the MacKintosh clan and with the redcoats. I'm selfish, though! I wanted to get as close to the action as possible, which is why I sent a modern-day heroine back to him.

Vonda: Sounds fascinating! I can certainly see how your interests led you to writing the books you do. What challenges did you face in writing a time-travel?

Veronica: My biggest challenge is one that I imagine is faced by all writers of historical fiction: Accuracy! That is, I'll be jamming on a scene, the words really flowing, and then my hero will do something simple like pick up a glass from a table. Full stop as I proceed to lose fifteen minutes confirming just what kind of glass a laird would use in seventeenth-century Scotland. Leaded? Metal? And what would he drink?

Or, picture this: He pulls his sword from his scabbard, hearing the scrape of steel on... Another full stop! And twenty minutes this time, confirming period dress, sword type, scabbard material, and so forth. People have suggested that I simply flag these moments with an asterisk to return to later, but I like to really see the full scene as I write.

Vonda: I know exactly what you mean. Each detail must be researched and that research can eat up the time. Who is your favorite character in this story and why?

Veronica: Ooh--good question! It's a hard one, though. At the time, I most enjoyed writing Gormshuil. She's based on a real-life "good" witch who advised the Cameron clan, and I had such fun imagining what path would’ve lead a woman to such a role. That said, once I was done writing the book, the character I missed most was Ewen! So much so, I ended up writing a part for him in my second book (coming June 08), which takes place when he was a teenager. Now that was fun to write! In fact, I'm finding I get deeply involved with all my heroes, I think precisely because they are based on real historical figures. The stakes were so high in old Scotland--it's hard not to get wrapped up in the lives of these amazing men!

Vonda: Absolutely! I can't wait to meet your heroes. Your website is one of the most amazing and beautiful I've seen. Can you tell us more about how it was created?

Veronica: Thank you! I'm actually thrilled to answer this, since building the web site was such a rewarding and collaborative experience for me. First, I must confess, I have an unfair advantage in that I'm married to a software developer! I hired a wonderful designer, Sunni Chapman, who came up with the feel of the site, and Adam, my fabulous husband, put it all together, treating it as its own application, architecting it, optimizing it, and so forth.

For me, though, the photography is the real soul of the site, as is the music. I've been so blessed to come across such generous and talented people, and photographer Rebecca Cusworth is first and foremost among them. She's a young Glasgow-based artist whom I discovered on a photo blog. She sells her work online, and if you ever wonder why I'm constantly touting her and giving away her work, it's because she is one of the loveliest, sweetest, and most gifted people I've encountered.

Musician Áine Minogue was also a delight to work with. I literally teared up the first time I saw the slide show on my front page, so moved was I by her beautiful music set in tandem with those evocative photos.

Finally, Tom Cameron, Commissioner of Clan Cameron of North America, very generously supplied me with all those great shots of Lochaber. I'd been shy to get in touch with the clan, but when I finally did, Tom was so kind and enthusiastic! Getting shots of Cameron country from an actual Cameron was a heart-warming experience for me.

Vonda: Wow, that's wonderful! Thanks so much for visiting with us today. I've enjoyed it! Please point us to your website, contest (with a fantastic prize!) and where to buy your book.

Veronica: You're a sweetie, Vonda. Thank *you* for the time and effort here. I sincerely appreciate it. My website is here

Enter my contest celebrating the release of Master of the Highlands! You can win a gorgeous Rebecca Cusworth photograph, suitable for framing.

Order Master of the Highlands at

Vonda: Finally, in closing would you like to ask blog readers a question?

Veronica: Vonda asked me what stumps me in my writing. The question I'd pose back to you is, what brings you to one of those Full Stops while reading? Is it a difficult-to-understand bit of accent or language? Historical inaccuracy? A character who's not true to themselves? Weak love story? Please do tell!


Carol Ericson said...

Veronica, the photos on your website are gorgeous! I remember one beautiful drive we took on a family vacation to the U.K. a few years ago. We were driving from the Lake District to Edinburgh, so we headed north first. We drove along little mist-shrouded winding roads and occasionally the mist would clear and reveal a stunning green valley with rivers running through it. Breathtaking! Your book sounds great, and I love the cover.

What stops me in a book is silly dialogue that has me rolling my eyes. LOL

Anonymous said...

Thank you! All of the front page photos are by a young UK-based photographer named Rebecca Cusworth. I thought she captured that evocative "mist-shrouded" special something you mention just perfectly.

Silly dialogue *totally* stops me in my tracks too! Just reading things that people never really would ever say...

Monica McCarty said...

Great interview, guys! (Hi Vonda!). Having been fortunate to read an ARC of MASTER, I'm predicting huge things for my friend Ms. Wolff. You guys are going to love this book (and the next one as well).
As for what stops me...all of the things you mention. I think the biggie for me though is hard to follow plot or language. It's one of the reasons I don't use too much brogue or Gaelic in my books. I hope just enough to give a flavor, but not so much that readers stop and say, "huh?"

Eliza Knight said...

Hi Veronica!

Your book sounds so good!!! I can't wait to read it. I never realized that it was based off of a real hero, that is truly exciting!

Accents don't bother me in reading, it makes it more real to me. Historical inaccuracy, fake characters, weak love story, and weak plot all get me.

Congrats on the release!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Eliza! Yes, all my books are based on real heroes from Scottish history, and I reenact famous events, and include other real historical figures too.

Master of the Highlands addresses the real and bloody feud between the Cameron and the MacKintosh clans, and recreates Ewen's famous Battle of Achdalieu, when he was vastly outnumbered by the redcoats.

Thanks again for stopping by! :)

Cameron Sharpe said...

Your view of love is very well said.The problem with passion is it is selfish...its about how I feel at the moment.Love is never selfish.The real test of love is not when times are good,but when things get rough.I have a friend who stood by his wife when she got terrible cancer, and she shriveled from it.He never flinched from his devotion to his wife.That is an entirely different type of stand by your mate when things go bad.That is love.
Nice Blog.Keep Posting.

Carly Carson said...

Hi Veronica,

Why is Scotland such a fertile ground for romances? I've always wondered.

Your book sounds wonderful. I just happen to be reading another Scottish historical right now and what puts me off the story is the overuse of dialect. Some is good to immerse you in the period, but when most of the sentence is dialect, I tend to get thrown out of the story.


Vonda Sinclair said...

I don't think Veronica will be checking in here for a while so I'll respond. :)

Cameron, you're absolutely right about what love is. Well said! And thanks for visiting the blog!

Carly, Not sure I can answer your question even though I write romances set in Scotland. It is my favorite place to set historicals. I think several things come into play. Tough, alpha men in kilts carrying big swords (who are a bit wild and unpredictable.) Medieval castles. Incredibly beautiful landscapes. The culture. Lots of conflict. They sort of have the same appeal that the movie Braveheart has. Scotland was always sort of the underdog so we love it when an underdog comes out on top, even if for only a brief time. It's an opportunity to go back in time to be a part of the clan system which no longer exists (even if it is a romanticized version.)