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Friday, July 2, 2010

Places that Inspire – Isle of Skye

Today, I’m holding my latest anthology, Secrets Volume 29 Indulge Your Fantasies (which contains my novella Beast in a Kilt,) in my hands for the first time. Definitely a thrill! So I wanted to talk about the place that inspired one of the settings.

One of the most important parts of writing most fiction is bringing your setting to life for the reader. Even if you’ve never been to a place and you’re writing about it, you must find a way to bring in specific detail to transport the reader. You can do this through research, reading detailed travelogues of people who have visited the place and looking at photos. But the best way remains to visit the place.

In my historical paranormal erotic romance novella, Beast in a Kilt, the heroine lives on the west coast of the Scottish mainland, one of the most breathtaking places in Scotland (there are many, of course, but this is one of my favorites.)

My visit to Isle of Skye, especially the northwestern portion of the Trotternish Peninsula, is actually the inspiration for the heroine’s home. To show what it's like, I want to share photos and an excerpt from my novella. In this scene, the heroine is searching for her shape-shifting selkie older brother. (A selkie is a seal shape-shifter.)
She threw on her fur-trimmed, black woolen cloak, slipped down the back servants’ stair and headed toward the rocky shore of the North Atlantic. She glanced back at the five-story tower house perched on a cliff above the sea, hoping no one saw her. The harsh sea wind yanked at her cloak and ankle-length, belted plaid arisaid. She tucked them tighter about her as she descended. Shivering, she inhaled the familiar scent of brine and fish. A touch of rain hissed through the air, wetting her face.

Gazing first north, then south along the jagged shoreline, she saw naught but gray boulders and seawater reflecting gray sky. Mist wreathed the mountains and islands in the distance. Nothing moved but the white-capping waves, thundering against the crags, and the screeching birds, darting this way and that. No seals to be found lounging on rocks.

“Brodie!” She picked her way among the large stones and called out again. Nothing. “Blast!” He was no doubt having a grand old time. And she was being bartered off to a barbaric beast. She stumbled along the narrow trail to the cave her brother sometimes used and stepped inside.

“Brodie?” Her voice echoed, but no response. Empty, dark and dank. Less appealing than the unfriendly weather. She returned outside. “Brodie, get your arse back here, damn you! And take responsibility for the clan. I need your help!” Wind tore at her clothing and chilled her to the bone. The rain fell harder, stinging her eyes. It was turning into a gale.
Nicole North - Beast in a Kilt, Secrets Volume 29 Indulge Your Fantasies

What I tried to do here is put the reader into the setting (the landscape and weather) via the heroine. As the heroine experiences the setting, so does the reader. One of my favorite things about this setting is the islands in the distance, the Outer Hebrides, including Isle of Lewis, and the way the mist lurks about them. It is very enchanting and mystical.
What is one of your favorite settings that you've written about and how did you research it?
Beast in a Kilt: Scottish lady Catriona MacCain has loved Torr Blackburn, a fierce Highland warrior, since she was a young lass, but Torr only sees Catriona as his best friend’s little sister. When Catriona’s family promises her in marriage to a detestable chieftain, she desperately needs Torr to save her from a fate worse than death. But Torr is under the spell of a witch of the dark arts and is cursed to spend his nights as a kelpie water demon. He doesn’t believe himself worthy of the virginal Lady Catriona. However, she is determined to seduce Torr and claim him… body, heart and soul, if only they can banish the curse and defeat the enemies who have vowed to possess and enslave them both. (Release date July 25, 2010)


Teresa Reasor said...

Hands down one of my favorite places in Scotland was the Isle of Skye. No one could believe the setting until they've experienced it first hand. I couldn't get over the way the glaciers had carved out the mountains and valleys. They were so exaggerated. Like a teenagers face going through that awkward stage where his teeth or his nose is too big for his face.


I loved your pictures. They're much better than mine. We didn't get to go out far enough to the coast. We ran out of time and had to make it down the coast of the mainland to Troon for our two days in Ireland.
So I mostly had to stay inland. Darnit!!

Excellent way to use the setting in your excerpt.

I love to use setting as a character and let it be part of the conflict.

Write on,
Teresa R.

Nicole North said...

Thanks so much, Teresa! I agree Skye is amazing. I'm enjoying all your blog posts about your trip to Scotland!

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

When we visited Skye we ended up at the MacDonald Trust which is a castle in ruin, but a garden that blew our minds. They boast of having one of every kind of tree in the world there, but if not it has to be close. One tree (in the Fall) was the color of marachino cherries. It is one of my favorite photos we took. AND, I might add that Teresa has gorgeous photos she has been sharing. I am in heaven with both of you being so generous.

My favorite place to explore to write about is The Cary House, a hotel built in the gold rush town of Placerville in 1857. I worked in an art gallery across the street and made friends with the manager. He shared tales and let me roam the halls taking photos, dealing with one of the two ghosts (Stan who loved women and was killed because of it) and feeling the ambiance of history there. It is where my hero in my prize winning contest entry owns this hotel and the heroine lives there.

Anonymous said...

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Carly Carson said...

Great pictures. I love the Isle of Skye and all those other names are so evocative. Land's End is my favorite. Great excerpt too. Thanks.

My next story is set in the future so obviously I haven't seen the place. But I did do a lot of scientific research to make it believable. I wish I could see it though. lol

Nicole North said...

Paisley, I'll have to visit that MacDonald castle ruin and garden sometime. Sounds wonderful! Cary House sounds very intriguing and inspiring too. I love ghost stories.

Nicole North said...

Anonymous, thanks! I love the sexy and playful new Secrets cover. Happy birthday all around!

Cynthia Owens said...

Nicole, what lovely pictures, and a great excerpt to go along with it!
Setting as character is a great device, as it puts the reader into the picture. I guess you could say I went about it the wrong way, because I spent years researching the west of Ireland, wrote the book and got it published, and THEN visited Ireland. One of the nicest things a reviewer said was that my setting was almost like a character in itself. High praise, and much appreciated.
When I did visit Ireland last year, I was lucky enough to be able to visit Dunguaire Castle, the castle that adorns my book cover, as a friend of mine identified it for me (he'd actually worked there years ago). It was an amazing feeling to walk the grounds of the castle - I could almost feel my hero and heroine had walked there before.

Thanks for a great post!

Nicole North said...

Carly, thanks! I haven't been to Land's End though I'd love to go sometime. I have been to John O'Groats.

I bet futuristic stories require not only scientific knowledge but also lots of imagination to create.

Nicole North said...

Cynthia, thanks so much! I do love for my settings to be as vivid as characters. It is definitely possible to bring a setting perfectly to life without ever having visited. It just takes a different kind of research. I bet that truly was an astonishing experience to walk into the castle where you set your story, after the fact. We develop strong emotional attachments to the settings of our stories.

Pat McDermott said...

Lurking mist is a fabulous tool for setting a scene, Nicole. Well done! Great photos, and I enjoyed your excerpt. A critical chapter of my current WIP takes place on the Hill of Howth, the dramatic cliffs nine miles north of Dublin. In the story, the fairies have an outpost inside the hill. The area is famous as the site of an ancient fairy battle,as one of Finn MacCool's lookout camps, and as the landfall for the smuggling in of guns for the 1916 rebellion. I'm happy to say I've described the breathtaking views of the Irish Sea and the mounds of heather and gorse from my own visits there. Ah, research :-)

Pat McDermott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicole North said...

Pat, thanks!! Hill of Howth sounds fantastic. I'd love to visit that sometime. Research of this sort is fun! :)

Kathryn Albright said...

What wonderful photos, Nicole! I hope to get to Scotland in the next year or two. I have made note of this place as a "must visit" from your post here.

I used one of my favorite places as the setting of my first published book--the old lighthouse in San Diego. It is set high on a lonely peninsula that often would get fogged in. A few miles away was a whaling station. Cliffs, crashing waves, beaches.

Thanks for sharing your trip with us!

Nicole North said...

Thanks Kathryn! The top two photos were taken at Kilt Rock and the other two were taken on the northern tip of the island at Duntulm. Both are definitely must see places of Skye. Dramatic landscapes.

Your lighthouse setting sounds amazing too! I love lighthouses.