Guest Interview with Heather McCollum, author of Captured Heart
Posted by What The Cat Read
Today we are pleased to have Heather McCollum, author of Captured Heart: a Highland Hearts novel, joining us here on What the Cat Read. Purrs and tail waves to you Heather!
WtCR – What attracted you to writing? Was it something you always wanted to do, or something that grew over time?
H.M. – My first writing debut was in second grade when my Christmas story was published in the local paper. Everyone was impressed with my use of the word “tip-toed.” I continued to write stories and poems through high school. Everyone was shocked when I announced that I was going to major in Biology in college.
“I don’t want people telling me how to write,” I told them. Even my college English profs questioned my choice in majors, but I persisted and even spent time in grad school working in cellular immunology. I worked in a drug development company for fourteen years too. But after a long day of work, I’d crawl home and unwind by losing myself in 16th century Scotland.
WtCR – Who were some of your favorite authors growing up? Favorite books today?
H.M. – Kathleen E. Woodiwiss was my favorite and then Julie Garwood. I read The Secret over and over again. Today I love anything written by Karen Marie Moning and my fellow 2009 Golden Heart finalist, Darynda Jones.
WtCR – Describe your writing style for us. Are you a plotter or a pantser?
H.M. – I’m a mixture. I like to have a general idea of where I’m going, but it’s really the characters that take off and pull me along on their journey. If I get stuck it’s usually because I don’t know enough about my characters. So I spend time figuring them out, finding their motivations, discovering their secrets, and then I’m off again.
WtCR – When you develop your characters, do you model them off of people in your life or do they sort of create themselves?
H.M. – Oh, they create themselves. Although when I meet someone really unique I try to observe how they act and dress and talk to use parts of them to create characters.
I know a lady that irons every single piece of clothing for all her family members, even underwear. Perhaps she has a need for control in her life?? I am definitely going to use this quirk in one of my future books.
WtCR – Your book has a lot of plant lore and Gaelic in it. What research did you do for both prior to writing?
H.M. – I love medical history. I worked in a pharmaceutical development company and saw first-hand how some medicines were born from plants. The Earth can supply us with many cures if we listen to folk remedies.
I have many herb/plant based medicine books as well as a book on Britain’s native floral. I’ve used them extensively in my research, and I also visit my Gaelic dictionary often.
When I visited Scotland in 1994 I tried to find some of the plants, but it’s harder for me since I wasn’t raised, like Meg, by an aunt who knew what she was looking for.
WtCR – What was your favorite scene when writing the book? What was the most difficult?
H.M. – Oh there are so many favorite scenes! I love all the scenes where Caden claims Meg, like with Girshmel in the stream at the beginning or when Ewan is angry that Caden slept in Meg’s tent.
I also loved the scene where Meg wins over the council by encouraging them to one up each other in their battle stories. Meg has a way about her that wins people over. She’s truly interested in people and that comes across in her healing.
And then there’s the labor scene with Caden’s sister. Meg tells Sarah that Caden flinched when she hit him even though he didn’t. This convinces Sarah that she has the strength to birth the twins.
Oh and then…like I said, there are so many : )
As for difficult…I’m claustrophobic. So writing the scene where Meg is in the pitch dark cave tunnel, trying to escape, my heart was racing as I typed. I was living it with her.
H.M. – My husband is Scottish and looks fabulous in his kilt : )
Okay – there was also the trip to Scotland where I got to smell, taste, hear and feel the amazingly rugged and historically sensational world of the Highlands. The people are legends there. The mountains, moors, and stone circles lend themselves to magic all on their own. It’s like being a kid in a candy shop for a writer.
WtCR – Can we expect to see more of Meg and Caden in future books? What do you have planned next in the Highland Hearts series?
H.M. – Meg and Caden are starting their family so they are quite busy (“nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more”) and unable to take a starring role in the next two books of the trilogy. However, they will be available from time to time to share a cup of heather ale or play a game of chess.
WtCR – Who would you say is your favorite character out of everyone in your book? Who surprised you while writing?
H.M – I love Caden. I mean, even without his obvious physical magnificence, he’s truly an alpha male, rugged, Highlander with integrity and honor. He’s been raised as a ruthless warrior but has an intellect that makes him question the reasons behind war. I love this about him! He’s built a system of accountability for himself by visiting ten cottages in his village every day to talk with his people. So when he is enraged and wants to react foolishly out of revenge or some other selfish emotion, he recalls the faces of the men, women and children who depend on him to act with honor and in their interests, not his own. It chains him to the right path in a time when many leaders acted recklessly to further their own pursuits.
Angus Riley surprised me. He’s a supporting character, one of Caden’s council, who had a past with Meg’s aunt Rachel. At the time I wrote it, I had no idea what that past was, but he knew : ) I found out about it when I wrote the novella prequel to CAPTURED HEART, called HIGHLAND HEART, which will be released from Entangled’s Flirt line hopefully in October.
WtCR – Must have writing snacks/drinks?
H.M. – Chai tea latte with cinnamon sprinkled on top. I love making it from scratch with all the herbs, but I also use the concentrated pre-mixed kind too. It’s a must have if I want my muse to come out to play.
WtCR – Place you most want to visit in Scotland?
H.M. – There is a ruin in the Highlands, just east of Oban, which I came across during my last visit there. The first part of Kilchurn castle was built in the 15th century with additions over the next century. It sits on a beautiful little peninsula in a lake surrounded by green hills and white puffy sheep. Although the castle has fallen into ruin, the historical society has fortified it with a structure for people to walk around it safely. I just love standing in it, hugging the walls and thinking of all the warriors and ladies who stood there over the centuries. It gives me chills!
WtCR – Please share three fun facts about yourself.
- I have a rescued golden retriever named Sophie. She was mistreated as a puppy so it took over a year to get her to trust us. Now she tumbles around with my three kids, gets lots of treats, and walks with me or my neighbor every day. She’s crazy, but so are we, so she fits right into the craziness.
- I love creating themed birthday parties for my kids. One year I made a life sized Candy Land game through my whole house. We had squares of paper for the kids to walk on. My mother dressed as Grandma Nut and we had 3 foot candy canes hanging down from the ceiling on fishing line to make the CandyCane forest. It was lots of fun!
- Well this isn’t “fun”, but it’s important so I’ll include it. Over the last year and a half I’ve been fighting a battle against ovarian cancer. Major surgery, 15 months of chemo, and now another 6 months of pain before the drugs leave my system. But it looks like I’ve vanquished the beast! Yay!
WtCR – Is there anything you’d like to share with our readers before you go?
H.M. – Okay – on the note above and because it’s my mission to save lives now, here are the symptoms of ovarian cancer, the deadliest of the GYN cancers. A Pap Smear does NOT detect it. A pelvic exam and a transvaginal ultrasound plus a CA125 blood test are the ways it can be found.
Bloating that is persistent
Eating less and feeling fuller
Trouble with your bladder
Other symptoms may include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation, and menstrual irregularities.
If you have any questions at all, feel free to contact me directly at Heather@HeatherMcCollum.com or go to the “SHOUT Against the Whisper!” facebook page.
I believe in happy endings. I’ve battled hard and found mine. I’m a believer that if you read and write enough happy endings, you’ll find you own : ) Thanks so much for having me today!
WtCR – Thank you again Heather for joining us today! And be sure to come back later this afternoon for Buggy’s review of Captured Heart! =^.^=
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