Friday, April 22, 2011

Why, Scotland?

I’m happy to have Elaine Coffman as my guest today. Elaine is a third generation Texan, claims she is a cross between champagne and apple pie, and feels taking risks is good for you.

She is a woman who has worn many hats in her life and says about herself: “...I worked as a lifeguard. Later on I raised Quarter Horses and Brahman cattle. That was when I owned ranches. And I've drilled oil wells, taught elementary school, and during all this, I miraculously managed to raise three well-adjusted children.”

Elaine has chosen various settings for her books but she keeps coming back to Scotland. She explains what it is about Scotland that draws her so strongly.

I am often asked why I choose Scotland for the setting of most of my books, and I find myself wondering, how I can cram the myriad of reasons flying around in my head, into a few words. I LOVE SCOTLAND—it has a rich, tumultuous history and calls to me in a way that I don’t know how to fully describe. Sometimes, I go so far as to ask, how much time do you have? For it would take more than a wee bit o’ time to tell ye why Scotland always lingers in my mind as a setting.

But the true answer goes much deeper than that, for my reasons are as varied as the land itself, for even the coldest of hearts cannot be moved by Scotland’s tragic past, so full of forlorn causes, thwarted ambitions, heart-wrenching failures, and the ultimate humiliation by England. Yet, in spite of it all, something about Scotland is eternal, for she is Niobe, turned to stone by grief, yet weeping still, the symbol of eternal mourning. Tempered by never ending sorrow, Scotland calls out to me, like echoes from the past . . . secret, mysterious, evocative, and eerily stirring, waiting for me to give them a voice. The call is strong— and I wonder if it is the voices of my own Scots ancestors, or mayhap it goes back even further, to the earliest inhabitants themselves: Pict, Celt, Norse, Dane, Scot, and yes, even the English.

The only thing small about Scotland is the size of the country, for it is a land long on history, with a strong heart, and wrenching sorrow. No other country can match it in sadness, conflict, haunting beauty, poignancy, or the enigmatic loneliness of the land itself. Simple and yet complex, beautiful and dramatic, Scotland rises out of the cold depths of the North Sea like a clenched fist.

Sadness and regret still run strong, and you’ve only to listen to the mournful tunes of a bagpipe to feel it, even now. And when the last notes have faded away, a great silence falls over your soul, while the images are still running around in your head, and you are reminded of all they endured, what they lost, and how much the rest of us were spared. When it comes to woe, Scotland wins, hands down.

In a land ignited by the flame of pageantry that smolders even now, one cannot help but think of Scotland in terms of obelisks and Celtic crosses, the bones of saints, the relics of Vikings, a stone for beheading, the bravery of the Black Douglas, and the heart of Robert the Bruce. You sense that since the first inhabitants arrived they have been haunted by conflict—and you begin to understand how a people could become as hard as Grampian stone; as flinty as the sound of a Highlander’s Gaelic.

Scotland is a haunting song that continues to play on my heartstrings; a tale that should be written with a generous spirit in sparse prose. One cannot help but admire the steadfast strength of a people who have taken the destruction of their clan system, the taking of their land, the eviction and emigration of their families, and the loss of their independence, who can stand upon the wreckage of their lives and build a stronger one where it stood. Yet, through it all, something as fragile and threatened as the genes for red hair and freckles has managed to survive.

And the stones of Callanish still stand near the sea as they have for 6,000 years, eerily reverent…

  • What draws you to stories set in Scotland?


He’ll Help a Woman in Need No Matter Where She Came From

Alysandir Mackinnon rules his clan with a fair but iron fist. He has not time for softness or, as he sees it, weakness. But when he encounters a bewitching young beauty who may or may not be a dangerous spy, but surely is in mortal danger, he’s compelled to help…

She’s Always Wondered if She Was Born in the Wrong Time…

Thrown back in time to the tumultuous, dangerous Scottish Highlands of the sixteenth century, Isobella Douglas has a lot to learn about her ancestors, herself, and her place in the world. Especially when she encounters a Highland laird who puts modern men to shame…
Each one has secrets to keep, until they begin to strike a chord in each other’s hearts that’s never been touched before… You can read an excerpt of the first chapter on Amazon

Since her first publication in 1988, New York Times Bestselling author Elaine Coffman’s books have been on the NYT, USA Today Top 50, and Ingram’s Romance bestsellers lists, and won four nominations for Best Historical Romance of the Year, Reviewers Choice, Best Western Historical, and The Maggie. Elaine lives in Austin, Texas, where she is working on her next book! For more information, please visit

.NEXT WEEK: Monday Musings, Wednesday, Lisa Dale with SLOW DANCING ON PRICE’S PIER Friday, Steve O'Brien with Bullet Work



Josh Hoyt said...

Great post it is very informative. Scotland is a beautiful country.

Mason Canyon said...

Elaine, enjoyed your wonderful post. There is something magical and every moving about Scotland. It's one of the few places I'd love to visit.

Sia, thanks for the introduction to another intriguing author.

Thoughts in Progress

~Sia McKye~ said...

Elaine, Welcome to Over Coffee. I'm so glad to have you visit with us.

Looking at my blog, you already know I have a strong attachment to Scotland. It is indeed a hauntingly beutiful place.

I know you've written some contemporary books, do you also lean towards using Scot characters in those as well?

Kat Sheridan said...

Hi, Elaine! It's clear from the passion in your words how much you love Scotland, and how it haunts you. I think I'm drawn to Scotland by the ruggedness of the terrain, the hardiness of the people, and their devotion to their history. And is this a time travel novel? Best of luck to you!

Jo said...

Being one of the much maligned English, I have to point out that James VI of Scotland did become James 1 of England.

~Sia McKye~ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
~Sia McKye~ said...

Jo, he did indeed. Love you anyway despite being one of those darned Sassenach, lolol!

Scotland does have a very interesting history. Many tragedies and, of course, many joys.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Elaine, I notice you also love Italy and have set several stories there as well. Italy also has quite a past.

Is it the drama of the history that draws you?

Kat Sheridan said...

Jo, I'm English as well, but I'd never let Sia know that! Well, actually, I'm a descendant of Archibald Douglas as well, so I think I have all sides convered!

Helen Ginger said...

I might be just missing them, but it seems like there aren't that many books set in Scotland. And yet Scotland seems fascinating to me.

~Sia McKye~ said...


My apologies. Apparently, Elaine couldn't get on the blog, today. But she did sent this message:

"Tell all your wonderful readers that in lieu of a blog visit, I'm writing Elisabeth's wonderful story, which, believe me, they will enjoy much more than my blogging. And hugs to all of you!"

Elaine Coffman said...

Apologies to everyone for being such a dunce! I did not realize I was supposed to participate in this blog after I posted the blog on my book. I came by a couple of times just to say “hi” and leave a message, but did not scroll down far enough to see the postings. So sorry for the oversight…

And now to respond to your posts:
I have written one suspense and two novella's that were contemporaries, but I did not lean toward using Scots in those books, primarily because they were contemporaries. The reason I decided to write historical romance in the first place was because I love history and doing research. Doing research on contemporary Scotland did not hold the same appeal for me.

And yes, James VI did indeed become James I of England on the same day that Queen Elizabeth died. And although I have Scots ancestors, I also have plenty of English ones. In fact, it was my English, Plantagenet ancestors that enabled me to trace my family back to Charlemagne, and William the Conqueror was my 32 times great grandfather. I have also set several of my historical novels in Regency England. But, there is something poignant that always draws me back to Scotland.

I truly enjoyed writing this book, which is a sequel to THE BRIDE OF BLACK DOUGLAS, which was the first appearance of the ghost, but it was set in the 1700's. I had so much fun with the ghost, I had to bring him back. I am now writing LORD OF THE BLACK ISLE, which is also sequel featuring the twin sister to the heroine in THE RETURN OF BLACK DOUGLAS.

Sia, I did write two books set in Italy. The first, THE FIFTH DAUGHTER was set in both England and Italy, and the second THE ITALIAN, featured characters from the first book, but it was set in Italy, shortly after the Napoleonic wars ended. I was drawn to write THE ITALIAN, after spending some time in Italy, and realizing that Italy was not a unified country until the 1860’s after Garibaldi conquered Rome. I took a house near Florence the next summer and stayed there five months, traveling all over to research the Italian Risorgimento, which eventually led to the unification of Italy. I also fell in love with Italy and the Italians and go back there whenever time allows.

And Sia is right on about the drama of the history being a draw . . . for me a HUGE draw.
And Jo is the first descendant of Archibald Douglas I’ve come in contact with. What a rich heritage you have!

In response to Helen, books set in Scotland have always been popular, but there are so many other settings that hold equal or more attraction to many romance readers. I’ve seen phases in romances since my first book in 1988, and many have come and gone, like pirate stories, Civil War stories, Russian and Arabian settings, and even the demise of Westerns, which I also wrote.

I do hope I've addressed all of your comments, if not, please feel free to contact me through my website I promise to respond.

And lastly, I have to admit that doing my first blog wasn't as trying as I thought it would be. You have all been very gracious and your questions asked with warmth and sincerity. Thank you for making me feel so welcome.

VA said...

I think I may be different than others, for when I hear Scottish gaelic I hear a lovely lilt that sings, a sweetness that I certainly don't hear in Irish gaelic or the northern counties of England. It is sublime.