Guest: R.L. Syme & The Outcast Highlander

R.L. Syme works at a youth theatre, teaching kids performing arts and musical performance classes/camps when she's not writing. Otherwise, she's putting her Seminary degree to good use writing romance novels. Let not all those systematic theology classes go to waste...

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?
A: Disneyland.
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!
Please visit her online:
Thanks so much for being our guest today, R.L.!
Thank you so much for having me!


Ella Quinn - Romance Novelist said...

Great interview!! I tweeted.

Cathy MacRae said...

Great interview! I love your approach to history. I find it both guides the story and allows the author to be creative. Best wishes for your writing!

Sarah Hoss said...

I'm so happy for you and I can't wait to read this book! Good luck in it's sales!

Lana Williams said...

Wonderful interview! Your book sounds awesome! Can't wait to read it! Tweeted as well.

C. T. Collier said...

It's so interesting that you self-publish and have a major publisher, too! Enjoyed the interview very much, and the book sounds complex and interesting.

Dawn Marie Hamilron said...

Great interview! Congrats on the new book!

Carly Carson said...

Just wanted to drop in and say hello. My favorite part of a romance is the happy ending. I also like good dialogue. Your characters sound fascinating. Good luck with the book.

Gossip Cowgirl said...

Thank you so much, everyone! I love Vonda's questions so much... this was such a fun interview!

Alicia Dean said...

I enjoyed the interview. I agree completely with doing both kinds of publishing. I love working with a publisher, but I also am very happy with self-publishing. How awesome is it that authors have so many options these days?

In answer to your question, my favorite element is the angst, the conflict. I'm a bit sadistic, and I love watching characters suffer and earn their HEA :)

Carole St-Laurent said...

That's a great interview. I love Scottish history.

Suzy said...

Great interview and love the cover...

Eileen said...

Highland stories are so exciting and yours sounds wonderful. Enjoyed the interview and signed up to follow your blog. Would love to read your book.

Linda Andrews said...

I love the cover. You said you plan a prequel novella and one other sequel, how many novels do you see in the series?

dstoutholcomb said...

I loe the history with the story, a solid HEA, and an epilogue never hurts.

Julie Robinson said...

Since history is basically written by the conquerors, I love that you took a more obscure historically known part and made a story that includes its relevance at the time.

Interesting about Pelican and self-publishing.

To answer your question, I like the HEA the best---not the newest HEA, 'for now.' It helps me to believe in lasting love. But I must say that I do like the journey as well, especially when I can relate to a conflict.

So will Malcolm have a future story?

Pat McDermott said...

What a wonderfully comprehensive interview, ladies! Very enjoyable. Congrats on the new release, R.L. To answer your question, I always love the moment the hero and heroine realize they can't live without each other and tell each other so. We know it's going to happen, but every author orchestrates that moment in different ways. Always a treat. Best to you and your writing, R.L.!

Unknown said...

Great interview!
Answering your question! The best part for me is feeling the anticipation of what will happen next to the characters and getting slowly hooked to their adventure!

Anonymous said...

I have to admit that i havent read you before but i seriously love finding a new author. To me it is like finding a new treasure to enjoy over and over with each new book. This book looks very good and one i look forward to reading.

Rhonda Kirby

Gossip Cowgirl said...

Thank you so much, everyone. And to those of you who are picking up the book, thank you as well. Wow. What gracious responses.

I love all the answers to my question... so many different answers, and yet all incredible parts of the romance arc. That's what I love the most--there's so much capacity for incredible story.

To answer some questions:

I'm planning seven books in the series, but am open to more. I'm also planning at least two prequel novellas and potentially two more interim novellas. The timeline of the series runs from 1296 to 1328 (all the way through the first war of Scottish Independence). But one of my critique partners asked me, if I love this family so much, why not just keep going after 1328, so I may consider that, too. :) But seven novels planned so far in the series just about these characters.

Someone asked if Malcolm would have his own book. He definitely will. In fact, his book is planned to come out third (so, hopefully, around July or August of 2014) and is my absolute favorite storyline so far. Malcolm has such an interesting personality... his love story will definitely be full of both passion an melancholy.

Thank you again, everyone who's stopped by to read the interview. I'm so excited to get a chance to talk to so many fans of the genre. I am a huge fan of Vonda's books, so if you're visiting this blog, you already have good taste. :) I can't live up to her, but I do love to read her books. Thank you, all, for stopping by to read my interview!

-Becca (R.L. Syme)

Amy Jarecki said...

Congratulations on your release, Becca! I'm looking forward to reading The Outcast Highlander!

Norma said...

Great interview and the book sounds wonderful!
Liked and Shared on FB!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Oh thank you so much, Becca! That's so sweet of you! I can't wait to dive into your series and experience all the Highland greatness! Thank you for being our guest today!

Thanks also to everyone who has visited and commented!

Mary Marvella said...

Loved your interview and adore the story and your cover!

Lani said...

Congratulations on the release! Great interview!

Unknown said...

R.L., it's my experience that very few people have even heard of de Moray, but as you say, he was a major player and great hero of the first Scottish War of Independence. I've never understood why Wallace and Bruce are so well known, but de Moray is not. I love that you honored him.
I'm not sure I have a favorite element of romance novels. But if I had to pin something down, it would be the relationships between family and friends. For good or ill, they bring a 'life' to romance stories that no other element can manage.

Gossip Cowgirl said...

Thank you so much, everyone.

Mairi, I've found that, as well. In fact, the first time I had a discussion about this with someone, they couldn't even remember who he was in Braveheart. I guess because I admire what he did (and he had SO much to lose), I remember him more from the stories of history than I do others who were turned into legends.

In fact, there is significant evidence (despite what some Braveheart fans would like to think) that Wallace was not the architect of Stirling Bridge at all, but that it was de Moray and his band of guerella fighters who came up with the plans, based on the difference between the battle strategies at places like Falkirk (where we know Wallace had more of a hand, and because de Moray was dead by then).

Anyway, it's great to meet a fellow history lover. My second Highlander book has much more of Andrew de Moray in it, and either the second or the third book will have the battle of Stirling Bridge in it (still not finished plotting timelines for the end of book two yet). I'm very much looking forward to putting more Andrew de Moray on the page. :)

Thanks again, everyone, for stopping by! It was so much fun to be here.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Waving! Loved reading through the comments. As you know, Scots in hero form are my favorite kind of hero. ;) I do wish you the very best with lots of sales. Some times the prize is a lot more appreciated if we have to work extra hard to get it. Huggles on a job well done.