Sunday, September 25, 2011

Curling Up By the Fire

No one would ever call me a perfectionist. I’m more of a big-picture, good-enough kind of person, but my environment, both writing and living, has always been important to me. My personal space has changed over the course of my career, adapting with the changes in my family and my finances. At first, when my children were small, my “space” was a small computer table and steno chair in the family room. My children played games, watched television and invited friends to play while I created and typed away, oblivious to noise, music and, occasionally, minor wounds.

As my family grew and square footage increased through moves and room additions, I graduated to my own office complete with desk and chair, a comfortable couch and, the most wonderful of inventions, a laptop computer which allowed me to move between desk and couch as the mood struck. Over the years, I’ve done away with the desk and straight-backed chair, choosing to, at first, keep files in a cabinet and, eventually, in bookmarked pages on my computer. I’ve come full circle because, now that I’m an empty-nester, my office has returned to the family room. I sit in a very deep, comfortable chair, usually cross-legged but, sometimes, with my legs stretched out in front of me on an equally comfortable ottoman.

I love color and my space reflects it. My chair and ottoman are a deep garnet-red. A chest hand painted in gold, black and more red serves as a coffee table for my tea habit and the shelves of my bookcases are painted a dark, lacquered green. Even more than writing, reading is my passion. I surround myself with books, hundreds and hundreds of books, written by authors who inspire me, as well as photos of my family to remind me of my focus, and prints of Ireland and Scotland, the settings for my novels.

CATRIONA, my current release, is a story set in Scotland. CATRIONA began at the ruins of Stirling Castle. After exploring the grounds, I climbed the stairs to the watchtower where Margaret Tudor, daughter to Henry VII of England and James IV of Scotland, waited for her husband to return from the Battle of Flodden Moor. This was a particularly difficult time for her because her husband and father fought on opposing sides. I read in the small brochure handed out, when I turned over my nominal fee for visiting the castle, that Margaret had carved a poem into the stone wall. The poem is no longer legible and no one really knows what her thoughts were, but standing there with a death grip on the parapet because of the terrifying wind, I imagined what they might be.

Jamie Stewart was a handsome, charismatic king who spoke 8 languages, fathered 38 illegitimate children, founded universities and demanded that the nobility learn to read. History tells us the marriage was not a love match. I decided, for purposes of my novel, that it would be. Why not, I thought, create a woman, with ties to both England and Scotland, a woman with a shameful secret who needed Jamie’s protection for her own purposes? Why not pair her with her equal in intelligence, Jamie’s favorite, a powerful border lord, who’d helped him win the crown? Why not set the two of them amidst the intrigue of the Tudor and Stewart royal courts?

Then it was time to create the contemporary plot of my novel: enter Kate Sutherland, her descendent, an American born 400 years later, an educated woman searching for answers to the odd circumstances of her birth and her frightening ability to see what others could not. This part I dreamed up at home, curled up by the fire in my bright red chair, along with the others that followed. There are still, I hope, quite a few more to come.

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