Welcome, Willa Blair, author of The Highland Healer, a Scottish historical novel from The Wild Rose Press. Here's a blurb:
Toran Lathan never expected to become Laird, and never expected to meet a woman like Aileana Shaw. Her healing ability is just what his people need, but Toran cannot resist her beauty. Yet will loving him destroy her ability to heal?
Aileana Shaw has a healing touch – and a special talent she must keep secret. Stolen from her home by a marauding army, she’s kidnapped again by the Highland Laird she heals. Is she a prize of war, or the prize of his heart?
While Toran battles the invading lowland army, he also battles his desire for Aileana. And Aileana must decide if she can trust her secrets to this fierce warrior who needs her talent, but wants her love.
Thanks for having me here today!
We are so happy to have you, Willa. What jumped out at me about this book is everything Scottish. How familiar are you with Scotland and the language? And is that hunky Jimmy on the cover?
Last question first: Yes, that is Jimmy Thomas on the cover. Besides being a hunk-and-a-half, he is a genuinely nice guy. I got to meet him a couple of weeks ago, at the Dreamin’ in Dallas conference put on by the Dallas Area Romance Authors. He spoke to the conference about how important your book cover is to your brand, and how important your brand is to your success as an author. He is totally focused on our industry and he’s a great proponent of authors both as artists and as professional business people.
I have never studied Gaelic or any of the other dialects in use in Scotland (such as Doric), but I’d love to at least learn the simple things - how the spelling and the sounds relate, the alphabet, how to say “thank you” or count to ten. I find it frustrating not to be able to pronounce the Gaelic words some authors use. As I’m reading, they create a frustrating silence in the movie going on in my mind, so I avoid using them in my books. I do like glossaries and pronunciation guides, but if I don’t study them before I read the book, flipping back and forth to look up a word pulls me out of the story.
I have done a lot of reading and research on Scottish history, first to pick a time period for my series, second to add depth, detail and flavor, and third because I got more interested in it the more I read. A trip (or several) to Scotland is on my bucket list.
You've done the reading and research on Scottish history, did you do research on healing? Is the talent of Voice for real?
I’ve picked up bits and pieces over the years, as anyone would, about faith healing, the laying on of hands, and recent research into the failure to thrive of infants who aren’t held, and so forth. I don’t claim to know whether it’s actually possible to heal someone with touch. But for purposes of the story, Aileana’s talent is a form of telekinesis combined with her empathy - when she touches a person, she can sense the extent of their injury and telekinetically stimulate the body to repair it.
Her Voice is another form of her healing ability. She influences the brain of the person hearing her Voice just as she influences the body to heal. She has to touch the person, not just speak to them, to make that same telekinetic connection that she also uses to heal.
I noticed fighting stuff popped up in the Highland Healer between clans. Was this based on actual events? You write these scenes vividly. How do you do this? Do you actually get out a sword and go for it?
Thank you! Clan warfare is a fact of Highland history, as is warfare with the English. I used the leadership vacuum following the deaths of James IV and his nobles, lairds and their heirs in 1513 at Flodden Field (an actual, tragic event) and invented the Lowlander army and its leader’s determination to take over as much territory as he could.
I’d never held a sword until last weekend when I got a chance to wield a broadsword and a claymore at the local Highland Games. When you tell someone you’re an author, most people are very willing to help you. The sword master confirmed some things I’d imagined - or seen in TV and movie sword fights. The swords were not particularly heavy - for a minute or two. And fighting one-handed with a claymore, normally a two-handed sword, is not only possible but necessary as you shift your stance and balance. I wish I’d asked someone take pictures, but I was too wrapped up in what I was doing to think of it at the time.
We know you are an awesome writer, but how did you get from a traditional career to writing historical romance?
The short answer is that I retired. I tried to write while I was still working my day job. I started several books, but commuting and climbing the career ladder leached the creativity right out of me. Once I retired and took some time to unwind and de-stress, the words started flowing and haven’t stopped since.
I have to say I love historical and especially those hunky Scottish men. What is the hardest part of writing--drafting, editing, research, or marketing? Why?
Getting that first draft finished is tough, but it’s the most critical step and it’s the one thing many - even most - aspiring writers never manage to do. Instead, they polish and re-polish the same few chapters, then start another book, and another, and do the same thing with those.
Getting one book all the way to “The End” is a game-changer. I can’t overstate how important it is, or how satisfying an accomplishment it is. Not only do you learn that you can do it, you learn by how you did it, so it’s a bit easier the next time.
I spent years as a pantzer, trying to let the story tell itself. Eventually, I wised up and wrote an outline and synopsis to figure out where the book was going and how it would get there. I don’t always stick to the outline exactly as written, but it helps to keep me from wandering off into the sunset. So I’m not quite officially a plotter. A plontzer, maybe?
Ha-ha, my friend calls us Plot + ster = Plotster. So what is your newest project? Anything else you want to share?
Plotster. Plontzer. Either way, it seems to be a productive meld of methodologies for me.
Book 2 in my Highland Talents series, Highland Seer, is due out later this year. The heroine can see the future, just not always clearly. Here’s the blurb!
Donal MacNabb is loyal to his adopted Lathan clan, yet he resents being a pawn in their treaty negotiations with the struggling MacKyries. The MacKyrie clan needs his skills as an arms master, but its Laird is bartering for more than Donal is prepared to give.
Ellie MacKyrie knows the Lathan treaty will help protect her clan from the neighbor determined to seize her holdings any way he can—including forcing her into marriage. But she has another reason to want the Lathan alliance. She has Seen the stubborn Donal MacNabb reaching for her in her dreams.
While Donal fights to save a clan in trouble, his desire for the MacKyrie Seer wars with his obligation to his Laird. Before she is forced into a marriage that will destroy her clan, Ellie must find the heart behind Donal’s gruff exterior and convince him he is the man of her dreams.
I’m writing book 3, which I’m calling Highland Troth because the heroine is a soothsayer. Troth is an old word for truth, and of course, it’s still used in wedding vows, so it’s perfect for a romance.
There’s a romantic suspense waiting in the wings for me to finish. I’ve also started a contemporary and I’m planning out a science fiction romance series. Psi talents figure into both of those. Once I finish Highland Troth, I’ll decide which to tackle next.
Wow, you are so busy. Let's do a fun speed round:
Favorite color: anything in the teal/ocean blue family
Favorite drink: Water, then a big-shouldered red wine or a margarita
Favorite movie: I’d have to say either the Avengers or the 2009 Star Trek movie. Both mix great storytelling with nonstop action.
Favorite accessory: Besides my husband (should I call him an accessory?), my wedding ring, then my kitty, who follows me all over the house, then my iPad.
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Buy Links for Highland Healer:
Amazon | Amazon paperback | Nook | iBooks | The Wild Rose Press |
Thanks again for having me here today!
Thank you, Willa, for being with Coffee Time and me.