Just for Fun!
While writing, I often feel my characters come alive—I care for them and we become close friends. Here are a couple Just for Fun! character interviews I wrote shortly after the release of my first two books in The Daughters of Alastair MacDougall series. I hope you enjoy them.
Before I published Cameron and Heather’s stories, I took one last opportunity to interview the sisters. I’d like to share my visit to MacDougall Castle in Kilmarnock, Scotland.
It was late at night when I arrived. Large torches blazed bright into the darkening sky. Solid battlements, secured behind grey stone, ran across the outer gates surrounding the fortress. Guards patrolled the ramparts, ready to drop the portcullis and defend the castle at a moment’s notice.
The carriage rattled across the wooden bridge, through a large worn gate, and past guardhouses on either side. We pulled to a stop in the bailey before the stone steps leading to the keep. I tugged my wrap around my shoulders, climbed the steep stairs, and knocked on the heavy oak door.
A gust of brisk air swirled in the front hall as Fergus greeted me. “Welcome to MacDougall Castle, Mistress McFarland.”
“Thank you, Fergus. It’s nice to be back.” “Please come in, and I’ll show ye to the solar.”
I stepped into the dimly-lit hall. He lifted the cloak from my back and escorted me down the corridor. More torches secured in brackets lined the damp passage, their flames flickering in a cold draft.
He opened the solar’s worn door and swept his arm in the direction of the chairs positioned before the hearth. “Make yerself comfortable by the fire. I’ll let Mistresses Cameron and Heather know ye’ve arrived.”
I scooted into one of the massive wooden chairs, holding my hands out to the warmth radiating from the golden flames. Nerves strung tight, I couldn’t help but wonder what the MacDougall women thought of the stories I had just written about them. While rummaging through my briefcase for my notebook, the sound of footsteps and feminine laughter drifted from down the hall.
“Mistress McFarland,” Cameron said as she slipped into the room with Heather close behind. “What a pleasure to see ye again.”
I stood and smoothed shaking fingers down my skirt as Cameron extended her hand in greeting. Once again, I was struck by the women’s beauty. Cameron’s long dark hair and green eyes were in stark contrast to her sister’s blonde tresses and deep blue eyes. Friendly smiles lit their faces.
“Please call me Lane. I thank you for seeing me on short notice and at such a late hour.” “Gracious, ye’re always welcome,” Heather said, grasping my hand. “Please have a seat.” Rena, the cook, entered carrying a tray of warm spiced cider and her sweet cakes. She
smiled and handed me a mug.
The woman nodded and shuffled from the room.
“What can we do for ye?” Cameron asked, then sipped the drink.
“I hope you’ve had a chance to review the books I wrote about you and your families.” Heather leaned back in her chair. “Aye, we appreciated yer just account.”
Relief poured over me and I relaxed. “May I ask a few follow up questions? I want to ensure
I have correctly depicted your stories.”
“Certainly. Heather and I will try to answer whatever questions ye have.”
I flipped open my notebook and addressed Cameron. “When I first visited, you were
experiencing difficulties. Would you describe that hard time in your life once more?”
She stiffened slightly.
Heather reached over and squeezed her sister’s forearm.
Cameron smiled sadly. “It was indeed a difficult time. Mum had been so ill. I couldn’t find a cure for her wasting sickness. When she passed, I felt like a failure.” She shook her head. “It took a long time before I wanted to continue learning the healing arts.” “But you did,” I added.
Her eyes gazed at me, the light from the flames in the hearth flickering in the green depths.
“Aye, I could not stop my passion to heal the sick and injured.”
“What of the feud with the Grahams? Did it play a role in your decision to continue?”
She scoffed. “There was always some kind of skirmish or prank they played on each other.
Inevitably, someone was injured. Poor Fergus still has limited use of his arm.” “That was about the time Laird Graham kidnapped you, wasn’t it?”
“The very time. As a matter of fact, I was collecting medicinal herbs for Fergus when Robert snatched me. He was bent on revenge. Ye see, he found his younger brother and his elderly captain with my da’s arrows jutting from their backs.” She exhaled loudly through her nose. “Who could blame him for his actions? He had just sealed a truce with my da and was hurting over the brutal attack and outright betrayal.”
“You struggled with escaping or staying with the Grahams. Did you make the right decision?”
The corners of her mouth tugged up. “I did.”
“What, if anything, would you like to change about your life?”
“If there was anything I’d like to change, it would be the continued conflict with the
English. We’re on constant alert, forever fearful of attack. I pray someday we will live in peace.” “Thank you, Cameron.” She smiled, and I turned to Heather. “I would ask the same of you.
When I first met you, you were in a bit of a dilemma.”
“Aye, before Mum passed, I promised her I would help Da run the castle and protect the clan. It was a time of unrest. I couldn’t trust our neighboring Scots. Too many scoundrels lurked, waiting to pounce on us at the slightest opportunity. I had to keep them at bay.”
“Ye led your father’s warriors into battle.”
Her blue eyes narrowed. “I had no choice. I had to keep the clan intact while holding off
those who plotted to overtake our land.”
“What about Alec—I mean Laird Campbell? Could you not trust him?”
She sat straighter, her shoulders squared. “I no longer knew him. It had been many years since we last met. I couldn’t take the chance he would betray Da’s confidence.”
“What do you mean?”
“Da suffers an affliction of the mind. If other clans got word of it, they would storm in and overtake our clan. I had to protect his secret.”
“Alec had secrets of his own, didn’t he?”
Heather’s fingers fidgeted in her lap. “There were rumors he had failed his aging father and clan.”
“But you were attracted to him. That must have been difficult for you.”
Her eyes blinked several times and her gaze dropped to the floor. “It was indeed a hard time. My heart screamed to turn to him. It would have been so easy.” She smiled. “He was handsome and strong, leading his men into battle and caring for his people.”
“How do you feel about your life right now? What, if anything, would you like to change?” “I echo my sister’s sentiments on the rebellion and understand all too well what it entails to protect the castle and the clan. We will forever be on constant alert.”
A log rolled in the fireplace and red sparks flitted up the chimney. “I wish things were different for you. That is a difficult way to live.”
Cameron nodded. “Aye, but we make do.”
I hated to leave, but the hour grew late. “I thank you for your time tonight. I won’t keep you any longer.”
After shutting my notebook and tucking it away in my satchel, I stood. Cameron and Heather escorted me down the corridor to the great hall.
Fergus ambled toward us. “Ye are leaving already, Mistress McFarland?” “Aye, it’s time for me to be on my way. I have two books to publish.”
After our visit, I released the first two books about Alastair MacDougall’s daughters, Cameron and Heather. They are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in both eBook and printed format.
How did you celebrate Valentine’s Day?
Another visit with Cameron and Heather
I attended a party in Scotland. After I published the first two books of my series, The Daughters of Alastair MacDougall, the MacDougall, Graham and Campbell clans came together in honor of St. Valentine’s Day. They graciously invited me to their celebration, and I’d like to tell you
about the party at MacDougall Castle in Kilmarnock.
The Castle stood at the top of a steep hill. Torches lined massive grey walls surrounding the interior yard, their flames whipping in the frigid wind. Warriors patrolled the stone ramparts connecting towers at the structure’s four corners. Compartments for the blacksmith, barracks for warriors, and various dwellings hugged the sturdy bailey walls. Light shone between slats of shuttered windows, the glow inviting. It was a wondrous sight. Frozen and tired, I relished being back at MacDougall Castle.
The carriage passed through the worn interior gate and into the inner bailey. A lad with bright red hair hurried past, his cheeks pink from the cold and his arms full of firewood. Several women filled containers at the old well while a number of men stood around the blacksmith forge. Loud hammering and heat emanated from the smithy as the man worked the iron. The distinctive odor hung thick, the whooshing bellows circulating a fog of choking fumes.
The carriage stopped in the bailey before the stone steps leading to the keep. I pulled my cloak tight around my shoulders, climbed the steep stairs, and knocked on the heavy oak door.
A moment passed before the door swung open and Fergus greeted me. “Welcome to the party, Mistress McFarland.”
“Thank you, Fergus. I appreciate the invitation.”
Laughter and children’s squeals of delight drifted from the great room. My pulse raced in nervous anticipation of being surrounded by the Scottish clans.
“Please come in, and I’ll show ye to the celebration.”
I stepped into the dimly-lit hall onto one of the thick burgundy rugs scattered about the cold stone floor. Fergus escorted me down the corridor. Light from the great hall flooded the end of the passageway. A roar of mirth followed by loud guffaws greeted me as I followed Fergus into the great room.
Music filled the air. Jacob strummed a lute and Betsy played a harp. Cheers erupted as a group of dancers gathered on the floor. Cameron and Heather ran to join the revelers. Holding hands, they glided, sidestepping around a large circle. The sisters held the dancers’ hands on either side of them as the men and women twirled in time with the music. Children skipped around crowd, and the great hall resounded with merriment.
Fergus swept his arm in the direction of the revelers. “Make yerself comfortable while I tell Mistresses Cameron and Heather ye’ve arrived.”
I perched on one of the heavy wooden chairs positioned before the hearth. Holding my hands out to the warmth radiating from the golden flames, I breathed in a comforting smell of peat.
Someone grasped my shoulder.
“Mistress McFarland?” Rena, the MacDougall cook, handed me a mug. Her snaggletooth smile radiated warmth. “Would ye care for mulled wine?”
“Yes, thank you,” I answered and took a sip. The warm spicy drink cut a soothing path to my stomach.
Loud cheers erupted and I glanced over my wine as Robert took Cameron’s hand and pulled her against his broad chest. She gazed into his eyes as he lowered his mouth and kissed her passionately while wrapping his arms around her and bending her backward.
The rowdy crowd clapped and shouted encouragement.
Robert straightened and the promises his smile bestowed on his wife would have any woman melting in his arms.
Poignant melodies hushed the revelers as Jonathan blew into his bagpipe. The man forced air into the sheepskin bags and squeezed them hard, causing wind to rush through the reed pipe.
Fergus whispered into Heather’s ear. Her head lifted and her gaze swung toward me. Her hand rose in welcome. She patted Fergus’ arm and slipped across the room to where Cameron stood with Robert.
Laird Graham’s gaze lifted in my direction.
My breath caught.
Dark, shaggy hair hung to his broad shoulders with a single braid on either side of his face. Black stubble lined his cheeks and strong chin. The opening of his tan tunic revealed dark, curling chest hair, and the grey trews hugging his thighs disappeared inside his worn boots. A black and blue plaid draped his shoulder and rested under his leather belt.
Cameron was one lucky woman.
Heather grasped her sister’s hand and the two women weaved through the boisterous crowd,
making their way over to the hearth.
“Mistress McFarland,” Heather said as she approached with Cameron close behind. “What a pleasure to see ye again.”
“Please call me Lane. I thank you for inviting me to your St. Valentine’s Day celebration.” “And we thank ye for traveling all that way to join us,” Cameron said, holding my hand.
“Please have a seat.”
Rena entered again carrying a tray of sweet cakes. She smiled and placed the treats on a table between our chairs.
Forever watching my weight, my mouth watered in doubtful hope of even a small taste.
The old woman nodded and shuffled through the crowd.
“We celebrate St. Valentine’s Day with sweets and messages of love.” I took another sip of wine. “Tell me about your first kiss with Robert, Cameron.”
A slight blush eased over Cameron’s cheeks and she glanced at Heather. The corners of her mouth tugged up. “I was stuck in a tree when I first met Robert. He helped me down and…” She paused as if considering her next words. “He wanted a reward for his help.”
Heather’s eyebrow rose. “And ye rewarded him with a kiss?”
Cameron squirmed in the chair. Her head tilted to the side with an impish smile pasted across her face. A shrill squeal interrupted them as a little lad with dark hair and green eyes flung himself onto Cameron.
“I’d say he got more than a kiss,” Heather teased.
We laughed as Douglas climbed onto his mother’s lap. Cameron kissed his plump, soft cheek and settled him in her lap as he sucked his thumb and snuggled into her chest.
“And ye, sister?” Cameron asked. “When was yer first kiss with Alec?” “We shared our very first kiss years ago at Da’s tournament.”
“What?” Cameron straightened. “And ye didn’t tell me?” “Even sisters don’t share everything.” She laughed.
“And at what point did you realize you loved him?” I asked Heather.
Her teeth raked her bottom lip. “I think I fell in love with him the first day I saw him.” I turned to Cameron. “And you? When did you realize you loved Robert?”
“Unlike my sister, I didn’t fall in love so easily.” She kissed the top of Douglas’ head. “Robert and I were at odds over our families’ feud. But I do remember the very day I knew he held my heart. He had escorted me to the northern loch to search for herbs to heal his sister, Isobel. After fighting my attraction to him, I realized it was futile.”
Smiling at the women and little Douglas, I felt the bond between them. St. Valentine’s Day simply provided a time to celebrate their love.
The hour grew late and I had miles to travel. “I thank you for your gracious invitation, but I must start home.”
“I hate for ye to leave,” Cameron said.
“I won’t be gone long. I’m writing Lindsey’s story and will be back to speak with her.” Heather patted my hand. “We’ll look forward to that day.”
After placing my mug on the table between us, I stood and the three escorted me down the corridor to the great hall.
Rena ambled toward us. “Please don’t leave, Mistress McFarland. Ye just arrived.”
“I’m afraid it’s time for me to return home.” As I faced the group, I too realized how much I looked forward to the day I returned.
“Happy Valentine’s Day!”