The following interview is intended to give readers a greater insight
into what motivates certain storytelling decisions, what goes into
constructing a story, and what challenges I've faced along the way.
Pursuit of Eliza Cynster Interview
27th September, 2011
Eliza is a subtly different sort of heroine to your usual type.
Why is this?
simply, Eliza is the middle sister. Any middle sibling has different
character traits to either the oldest or the youngest. So Eliza
emerged as the sister who was less inclined to outdoor pursuits
- who in her own words, enjoys embroidering! She plays the pianoforte
and the harp and sings like an angel. She's quieter, but neither
shy nor truly reserved. At the start of the story, in her eyes,
and that of society, she is the quiet, softer, gentler sister-and
she believes she's less adventurous, and, even if she never puts
it into words, she believes she's somehow less capable than Heather
or Angelica. What happens during the story challenges, tests, and
ultimately rescripts that view. The physical journey of her kidnapping,
rescue, and escape to safety parallels a personal journey of self-discovery
as she is lifted out of her comfortable world and placed into another,
more difficult and dangerous world, and faced with hurdle after
hurdle which, together with the hero, she must overcome. More than
any other heroine of mine, Eliza is a heroine who transforms. And
love - falling in love, learning how to deal with that and fighting
to hold onto it - plays a big part in her end result.
Jeremy is also a new play on the old archetype - what were the
reasons for him being so?
is a character I established long ago (The Lady Chosen) and have
had simmering on my back burner ever since. I needed the right heroine,
and the right sort of plot, to bring him to the boil, so to speak
- to fully realize him as a hero. I had to have the right challenge.
We first met him as a scholar; he is now a world-renown expert on
hieroglyphics. His identity is firmly established as "scholar,"
not just in his mind but in that of all others. He is comfortable
and his life appears full and rewarding, except...his emotional
future looks empty and potentially bleak. At the start of the story,
he has accepted that all is not perfect in his world, that he wants
wife and family, as all those around him - warriors though they
may be - have. But of course, being a scholar, his view of the wife
he needs is of someone quiet, mild, and capable. But the thought
has barely occurred when he is distracted by having to rescue Eliza.
Only he can, and he accepts that he must. What Jeremy discovers
through the chase, rescue, and escape, is that he is not just a
scholar, but that he, too, possesses a "warrior" side.
His interaction with Eliza evokes this warrior side, and through
pursuing a relationship with her, he merges and embeds this until
now dormant side of his personality into who he becomes. He, too,
changes through the story, although in his case, it's more in the
way of adding and integrating the missing piece of himself into
his whole. And because he is not solely a "warrior" but
a "scholar-warrior" and therefore potentially something
more, this changes how he, at the end, approaches the question of
acknowledging love - what he does is very definitely a new twist
on the old archetype!
Were there any special challenges in plotting this book?
writing the second work in a trilogy, there's always a balance to
be struck between what can be revealed and what must be withheld
for the third book. Book 1 is usually easy, because you have so
much to set up and can race into the story. Book 3 - well, in this
case, I knew most of what happens in the last book before I started
writing the first. But Book 2 is often the hardest to pull off -
in this case, I was very grateful I had two such strong and fascinating
characters as hero and heroine to claim center stage
the background our mysterious laird and his motives are being more
and more revealed. However, in this trilogy, there was an additional
challenge - both book 1 and book 2 had to involve abduction, chase,
rescue, and escape - in other words, a journey. In the first book,
the "journey" was pretty evenly divided between chase,
rescue and escape, and the escape wasn't under serious and immediate
threat. In this second book, it needed to have a different feel
- so book 2's journey is quick on abduction and chase, has more
rescue, but is mostly about the escape - and that escape is under
serious and constant threat. So book 1 and book 2, although moving
through similar plot sequences, "read" very differently
- the experience the reader gets from each book will be different
Most of the action in the trilogy occurs in Scotland, but each
book thus far goes to different places - what led you to use the
regions you do in the first two books?
choice of routes for the kidnappers was largely dictated by what
the laird, in the circumstances, would specify. In book 1, there
was no reason not to go up the Great North Road at a pace that wouldn't
attract attention. However, the laird wanted the kidnappers to bring
Heather to Gretna Green - yes, there was a purpose behind Heather's
kidnappers taking her there, and we'll learn what it was early in
Book 3. Once Breckenridge rescued her, it was obvious that they
would head to Richard and Catriona in the Vale of Casphairn as that
was the closest place of safety. However, with Eliza's kidnapping,
the laird would obviously specify a different route to avoid the
Cynsters, and that landed Eliza in Edinburgh - a wonderfully romantic
city - from where Jeremy rescues her. He and she then face the question
how best to get south to Wolverstone Castle - their closest safe
place - while avoiding the kidnappers and the laird, who come after
them. The answer to that took us on a journey through the Scottish
lowlands, an area I hadn't visited, either in real life or story
life, previously. It was fascinating learning about the towns, hills,
rivers and valleys. But to return to your question, in the first
two books in this trilogy, the story itself - primarily the laird's
motivations, and then how the girls and their rescuers respond -
is what determined the regions through, and the routes by which,
the characters travel.
Continuing the question above, where in Scotland will the third
volume in the trilogy take us??
- into the highlands! The majority of Book 3 is set on the laird's
highland estate, his clan lands. As he terms it, glen, loch and
castle - and we've already had a small glimpse of the castle in
the Prologue of book 1.
Once again in this book we see a hero we've met before, in this
instance when he was considerably younger, and in a book, The Lady
Chosen, which was published a long time ago. Is it difficult to
go back and pick up a character who you originally wrote a long
if he's been set up in the original book correctly. As mentioned
above, Jeremy was, from the first, clearly a hero in waiting, with
definite potential, but the question was how to develop it. The
essential elements were there. I've done this - gone back to an
earlier secondary character and developed him into a hero - a few
times (Dillon Caxton - A Rogue's Proposal originally, and What Price
Love? for his own story; Gerrard Debbington - A Rake's Vow and The
Truth about Love; Charlie Morwellan - A Secret Love and The Taste
of Innocence), and it's always a special challenge, but also very
rewarding to see characters blossom from adolescence into full blown
adulthood. I have a much deeper sense of their history, and I think
that shows in the depth of the character in their own book. I think
readers respond to this sort of storytelling, with characters the
readers see as they mature - I know I enjoy writing such stories.
the latter sections of this book, we revisit Wolverstone Castle,
and a number of scenes take place there. Is it difficult to go back
into an imaginary building and keep the internal structure and layout
of the rooms consistent with what you've described before?
have a very accurate visual memory (against that, I'm hopeless with
anything people tell me). If I've read it, or seen it, I'll remember,
and I have a very good memory for buildings and places, and roads,
for instance. So for me to return in my mind to a place I've been
before isn't hard. It almost as if I call up a video of the place
in my mind, and I can walk through it, see the same tapestries on
the walls, the same fireplace, the same stairs with their same carpet.
I don't forget the spaces, or how they interconnect - how you get
to the library from Minerva's sitting room, where the door to the
battlements is - and I remember the furnishings and the atmosphere
of rooms as well. Very useful in this profession!
The villains of this story seem to be evolving and changing -
was this deliberate plotting, or did it come about as you wrote
notion of a villain who wasn't a villain - namely an honorable man
forced by circumstance to act in a villainous way - was a key feature
of the trilogy from its inception. The story of the laird and what
he's up to and why provides the backbone of the trilogy, and culminates
in the third book, when we learn all the answers. So that's one
level of villain, but in addition there's the laird's hired henchmen
in each book, who are villains in the customary sense. And there,
too, we have progression as we move from book1 to book 2 - from
Fletcher, Cobbins, and Martha in book 1 to the distinctly more dangerous
Scrope, Taylor, and Genevieve in book 2. As for the laird, at the
end of book 2 we are left with more questions than answers - which
is what book 3 is all about.
is the second and middle book in the trilogy. In terms of style,
what can we look forward to in the third volume?
rollicking adventure. Book 3 is the volume I've dubbed: Elizabeth
Bennett rescues Errol Flynn in the Scottish highlands. Book 3 is
Angelica's story, and as a heroine she is shaping up to be quite
a handful, and as for her hero, he is so over the top, so very much
larger than life; put the two together and the sparks will fly -
which will be immense fun for us all. The six original Cynster cousins
play cameo parts, and Lady Osbaldestone and Aunt Clara play small
but crucial roles. I have a feeling Book 3 might well be the most
humorous book I've ever written - there's certainly a lot of scope
for repartee - but in terms of overall style and atmosphere, it
will continue the trilogy theme of the high adventure, drama, and
passion of the first 2 books, culminating in a romantic grand finale
of epic proportions. Book 3 is definitely a case of "live large."