Let me just start by saying this: no one can heat up a carriage scene like bestselling author Julianne MacLean.
The trademarks of a Julianne MacLean romance are beautiful writing and deliciously troubled but strong characters. In her well-loved American Heiress and Pembroke Palace series, she’s taken Victorian romance everywhere from masquerades to mistress diaries to the middle of the English Channel.
This year, Julianne is conquering Scotland too, with a brand-new Highlander trilogy set in the 1700s. Her new books mix turbulent Scots-English conflicts with equally turbulent romance. Turns out campgrounds and castles can be just as hot as carriages…
Julianne graciously joined us this month for an interview about her new books, her old favorites, and the undeniable fun of a man in a kilt. And, of course, a book giveaway!
Your new trilogy has moved from the late Victorian England of your previous books to the Scottish Highlands of the early 1700s. Why and how did you choose a new time period and location?
Yes, after 9 books set in Victorian England, I’ve written more than my share of ballroom scenes. Sometimes a writer needs to shake things up a bit and explore new territory in order to stay fresh, which is why I was itching to dive into a different setting and time period.
I couldn’t have chosen anything more dramatic than Scotland during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. These were turbulent times, and ballroom etiquette had very little to do with anything.
I was eager to write about the outdoors, and the notion of the rugged, brawny warrior who borders on the barbaric has always stirred my imagination.
Your hero in CAPTURED BY THE HIGHLANDER, Duncan MacLean, seeks revenge on the family of heroine Lady Amelia Templeton. How did you turn these enemies from different worlds into the perfect match for one another?
This is what I love about writing romance – when two people share the same personal values, nothing can stand in the way of true love, not even war or politics. I always knew that Amelia and Duncan were similar creatures. They just didn’t know it themselves, and had to discover it along the way.
Your hero and heroine in CLAIMED BY THE HIGHLANDER, Lady Gwendolen and Angus MacDonald, come from rival Scottish clans. With two Scottish characters, how was the research or plot development different from CAPTURED, with its English heroine?
It wasn’t all that different, because even though they were both Scottish, they had opposing political beliefs. In reality, some Scottish clans supported the Hanovers, while others were Jacobites, which is what happens in this book. But that’s just what gets the ball rolling. After that, it becomes very much a battle of two wilful characters who are each vying for power at the castle. He has declared himself chief of her clan, and he also believes a wife should obey her husband. But she’s not that kind of woman. She is devoted to her clan, and she’s a warrior, too, in her own way. In fact, she points a sword at Angus to communicate that fact.
They were both fun to write, because even while she was negotiating, she was still fighting with courage and confidence. I loved that she didn’t cower before Angus, which surprised him, because he’s a beast of a man who expects to be feared.
The new Highlander trilogy has a short story prequel, THE REBEL. Was this the first time you wrote in a short format? How was writing a short story easier or more challenging than tackling a novel?
This was my first short story, and I just dove in and explored the process. I knew it had to be about 25 pages, so I tried to pace myself and not make the story too complicated. You can only do so much in 25 pages. It was challenging, yes, but I really enjoyed it. And I wrote it after I finished the trilogy, which helped because I already had a good handle on the setting and time period.
You’ve described your writing routine on your website—a dedicated schedule of 30 pages per week. What do you do if you ever get stumped for ideas?
That can happen sometimes, which is why I give myself a weekly goal, so that if I fall behind with plot problems, I can usually catch up later in the week, or even the following week, because I usually figure things out within a few days. If I can’t, I will brainstorm with my most excellent critique partner (or my husband, who has great instincts). Sometimes just talking about something will help me figure out the problem.
You’ve written about painters, yacht racers, self-made millionaires, American heiresses, and a flood-wracked family of scandal—and now you’re writing about the Scottish Highlands! What’s the most intriguing historical tidbit you’ve ever turned up during your research for a book?
Gosh, I can’t think of one specific thing, because history is full of scandal, drama, and heroics. But I will say this – the most fun I had researching was for SURRENDER TO A SCOUNDREL, which was the yacht racing book. I actually visited the Isle of Wight off the southern coast of England where the book is set, and I went sailing with friends here at home, off the coast of Nova Scotia.
After writing novels set in the American Old West, the contemporary US, Victorian England, and Jacobite Scotland—was one particular story or character your favorite to write, and why? How about the most difficult? (Don’t worry, we won’t tell the others.)
To ask an author to pick her favorite book is like asking a mother to choose her favorite child, so clearly, I will have trouble with this question. But I can certainly answer the “most difficult” question.
I had a hard time with MY OWN PRIVATE HERO, because I was dealing with a love triangle, and none of the three characters were evil villains. All three were honorable, nice people, but the hero and heroine were simply meant for each other, which left a very nice secondary character out in the cold. I had trouble keeping the hero and heroine honorable through all of that, because they were essentially cheating on the third character, which made me feel bad.
Which was the most fun? I enjoyed all three of my Highlanders, because they were old-school, sword-wielding warriors who fought for a cause and displayed great heroism in every sense of the word.
What are a few of your favorite books–romance novels or otherwise?
Favorite romances: Devil in Winter, by Lisa Kleypas, Windflower by Tom and Sharon Curtis, most books by Mary Balogh… I could go on and on.
Classic favorites: Jane Eyre, The Buccaneers, Age of Innocence, Washington Square, and Forever by Judy Blume.
I also loved The Thirteenth Tale and Through a Glass Darkly. And Who Moved My Cheese.
What’s next in your Highlander trilogy and beyond?
I’m working on a new historical romance trilogy set in the Regency period, and I also have a contemporary mainstream fiction novel out now called THE COLOR OF HEAVEN. It’s about a woman who has a near-death experience, which changes everything she imagined her life would be. I wrote it under a pseudonym, because it is very different from my historicals. If readers are interested in learning more about that book, I have a separate website for it: www.evmitchell.com.
Julianne, thank you so much for being here!
And now for the contest: We’re giving away copies of the first two books in Julianne’s new Highlander trilogy, CAPTURED BY THE HIGHLANDER and CLAIMED BY THE HIGHLANDER. (The third, SEDUCED BY THE HIGHLANDER, will come out this October.)
For a chance to win CAPTURED and CLAIMED, just leave a comment below telling us which you prefer–a Highlander or a duke?
Julianne MacLean is a USA Today bestselling author with degrees in English Literature and Business Administration. She is a three-time RITA finalist, and has won numerous awards, including the Booksellers’ Best Award, the Book Buyers Best Award, and a Reviewers’ Choice Award from Romantic Times for Best Regency Historical of 2005. She lives in Nova Scotia with her husband and daughter, and she is a dedicated member of Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada. Visit Julianne on the Web at www.juliannemaclean.com or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/JulianneMacLeanRomanceAuthor.
Contest Rules: To enter, leave a comment on this blog post. The contest will close at noon ET on Friday, April 29, 2011. I’ll select a winner from among all entrants using random.org. Your chances of winning depend on the number of comments – so don’t spam, but feel free to get all sociable-like to increase your odds. I will announce and contact winners no later than May 2, 2011. Winners will have one week after notification to provide me with their snail mail addresses; then an alternate winner may be selected. This contest is open to residents of the US and Canada.