Blogger: Michelle Ule
Sitting in for Wendy who is out of the office again today.
How important is a Scottish setting to a novel?
Today in my Zumba class, the women were surprised to hear I was a novelist and asked me how “juicy” my romances were.
Uh, not quite what they were looking for.
Gabaldon’s series is a time travel story between Jacobite Scotland and modern times. (The first one, published in 1992, moved back and forth between 1743 and 1946.)
One woman has read all the books, listened to audio versions several times, watches the TV series (on STARZ) and is headed to Scotland for a celebration soon.
The other women drooled. “I love Scotland,” more than one said.
I like Scotland, too.
And so do a lot of other people. Goodreads has 81 pages of listings for “Scottish novels,” leading off with my husband’s favorites by Sir Walter Scott.
Twenty years or so ago, Harlequin surveyed readers about what they liked to read.
(I’m sorry, I can’t find the link explaining this.)
The publishing staff weren’t too surprised by the answers until they came to the “Other” category. “Scottish historical novels” outperformed some of the standard options that required only a check mark rather than having to write in the category.
Surprised, they looked into past sales history and discovered that, indeed, Scottish historical romances almost always garnered strong sales. How could they have missed this?
As a result of the survey, Harlequin made the obvious decision to regularly publish Scottish historicals.
Liz Curtis Higgs’ 2003 Thorn in My Heart, launched the fascination in the CBA world for a Scottish setting.
What is it specifically about a Scottish setting that drives the interest?
Misty craggy peaks?
Bonnie Prince Charlie’s uprising?
My love for Scotland began earlier with Mary Stewart‘s romantic suspense The Ivy Tree. It segued into Mary Elgin’s fun series beginning with Highland Masquerade and elicited a long laugh with Elizabeth Peter’s merry Prince Charles doppleganger escaping the palace in the 1970s, Legend in Green Velvet (pre-Diana, Peters herself described this funny novel as “nonsense”).
Are the novels with Scottish settings describing a real place?
When my daughter-in-law and I visited Scotland in 2010 (finding her Hay heritage tartan while there), I insisted on a one-day tour around the country. Our time was limited, but I wanted to see some of the settings of these novels.
Of course we rode a boat across Loch Ness, admired the hillsides, got a gander at tartan making and ate scones with our tea.
The craggy mountains were moody, and while we didn’t frolic in any glens, I could imagine them by the chill streams full of salmon.
We hard a bagpiper or two and stopped at a forlorn, broken castle.
My camera hardly stopped taking photos.
But it was the tour guide who made me laugh.
“I don’t know what it is about Scotland that makes the tourists come. Have you ever considered, we’re just like Africa? Tribal, poor, ruled by others, swarthy-skinned and wild?”
Sounds like plenty of conflict opportunities to me!
What are your theories about the attraction of a Scottish setting?
What is it about a Scottish setting that makes readers swoon? Click to Tweet
Scottish setting, kilts, fighting men, red haired women, what’s not to like? Click to Tweet