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Author Interview with Heather McCollum

The Highlander & The Queen’s Sacrifice is out tomorrow! It’s book one in The Queen’s Highlanders series. Heather was kind enough to answer some questions for us.

You can get your copy of this exciting historical romance HERE!

Did you always want to become a writer? How did you get from there to where you are today?

I started off writing little stories for my parents. In second grade my Christmas story was published in the local newspaper. Everyone was amazed that I wrote how the character “tip-toed” around the house. The hyphenated word apparently showed a budding literary genius!

By high school, all my writing assignments turned into mini romance novels with happily-ever-afters. I also wrote for my school yearbook and attended a prestigious writing camp. Which is why everyone was shocked when I went to the University of Maine to major in marine biology. I told my English teacher that I didn’t like people telling me how to write, so I’d major in science.

Four years for a bio degree and then nearly two years in graduate school for cellular immunology, and I realized that I didn’t want to work in a lab. So I left grad school and started working for a drug development company managing clinical trials.

But each night, I would go home and write a bit more on my Scottish historical romance, which my husband encouraged me to start. It took me ten more years of writing, polishing, and pitching my story ideas before I was a Golden Heart finalist, was picked up by an editor, and sold my first book. I’m about twenty-seven books into my published career now. I’m sure my high school English teacher would say “I told you so.”

How much research do you do into the time period and places you write about? Do you have any experience dressing in character?

If I wasn’t a writer, I’d be a historian. I love all eras of history but know the most about 16th century Britain. In about a week, I’m flying over to Scotland for the RARE Edinburgh book signing, and then I’ll be doing research and filling my creative well. I thoroughly intend to touch ancient stones, search castle walls for symbols, read every posted historical tidbit, and roll around in the spring wildflowers growing on the moors.

I love to dress in period clothing! My mother is a fabulous seamstress, so I’m taking a new Scottish dress that she made to the signing and for some photo ops in ancient ruins. I have ensembles from the Tudor period, Regency period, and 17th century England and Scotland. I’m just glad there’s a word for it now: cosplay. Instead of people just saying I’m that crazy lady who likes to dress up!

Do you know where the story is going before you begin, or does it come to you as you write?

I really try to know where the story is going before I start. I spend time trying to plot and creating collages to get to know my characters. However, I am a write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of writer. So even if I plot out my book, things change. Sometimes huge things change, and I’m just as surprised as the reader!

Does your writing process include any kind of ritual?

I write best in the mornings and plot best at night before bed. My muse must have a hot chai tea latte in order to show up to help me create – LOL! So every morning, after my youngest gets off to school, I:

  • sit in the chair by my window where the birds come to eat,
  • sip my chai tea,
  • nibble on my 0.5 ounce of lightly salted mixed nuts (no peanuts),
  • turn on the sound track I created for the series I’m writing,
  • look at my collage pictures of the characters and my brainstorming notes I took before bed,
  • and start to write fresh words.

I sprint with some ladies from 9AM until 12PM, but then I usually come back later in the afternoon to work some more, unless I’m running around being “Mom.”

What do you like to read when you’re not reading in your genre?

I love cozy mysteries, historical non-fiction, and some fantasy series (like Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series). Right now, I’m reading about the secret lives of the Tudors. It’s fascinating! Did you know that Queen Elizabeth I was so afraid of the dark, that she couldn’t sleep in a room by herself? She had to have one of her ladies in her bedroom at night. And yet, she stood up to her lethal sister, her counselors in the English government, assassins, and the Spanish Armada! So, I don’t feel so bad for being afraid of spiders and heights.