1. How did you get started writing?
I’ve always enjoyed words, and took some writing classes in college. My bachelors degree is in Wildlife Science though (Auburn University, Alabama – War Eagle!), so I didn’t do a lot of creative writing. But in 2016 I took my first trip to Scotland, wandering around the country on my own for 5 weeks, and story telling soon followed. For the last 4 years I have been telling stories about Scotland on my blog, “Find Her in the Highlands.”
2. Why Scotland?
I have both adoptive and biological ties to Scotland. I was born and raised in Maine and adopted when I was 8. Since then I have been part of a family with a Scottish ancestor named Mary Turner who immigrated to the US in the early 1900s. My family cherishes its Scottish roots – and in times when I’ve felt conflicted about my identity, they have encouraged me to claim this heritage as my own. So a love for Scotland has been cultivated in me through this connection. But it also felt like there was more…And then a few years ago I had a breakthrough in my research of my biological roots when I discovered my MacKenzie ancestor, a mariner from Nova Scotia who died in Gloucester Massachusetts in 1904. This was the tie I needed to ultimately confirm the blood that runs through my veins is from a Highland weaver from Inverness. His son immigrated to Nova Scotia during the Highland Clearances in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden.
3. If your friends were asked to describe you in one word, what would it be?
4. What is your favorite thing to do outside of writing?
I love to hike and summit camp, its an amazingly wild feeling to climb a mountain and sleep on top of it, tucked away in the clouds while the world falls asleep below you. I also love to look over Ordnance Survey maps for castle, settlement, stone circle and other ruins and enjoy the challenge of finding them off the beaten path.
5. What do you love most about the genre you write?
I’m passionate about Scotland, and have discovered a huge group of global kindred spirits who feel the same way. It is so rewarding to bring them stories and photos of my wanders, to help the feel close to Scotland too. The world is full of things that divide us, and its so refreshing to write about a topic that brings people together in a common love.
6. What do you want readers to take from your books?
I value transparency and authenticity, and prioritize that when I share my stories. My hope is that if people who view themselves as average, lacking courage, boring, past their prime etc can see an ordinary American woman out giving life a go, maybe they will be inspired to take their own steps to finding their best most authentic selves. People don’t give themselves enough credit, and are capable of far more than they know. They just need to find the thing deep inside themselves that gives them the courage to take the first step of curiosity and resolve to discover more about who they are and what brings them joy. The other thing I value most is kindness, and I love to share stories of kindness I encounter in my journeys. We are not responsible for the happiness of others, but kindness is free, and a little bit can go a very long way to impacting someone else’s life, and breaking down needless barriers.
7. Describe yourself in 3 words.
Hopeful, authentic, independent
8. How much of your characters are based on your traits or someone you know personally?
Thats going to be the million dollar question as I begin my journey into fiction! The female lead in my Hellcats story is my first fictional character ever, and she definitely has some of my own characteristics. But I’m confident she will shape up in her own way as I write her book, she already has a mind of her own, writing herself onto the pages in her own way. As for others, I definitely anticipate a lot of people will show up in my writings, I’ve had the joy of meeting a lot of interesting folks in my travels, and I have great characters in my family and friends circles as well – I believe we internalise a bit of everyone we meet, and I hope they all find themselves on the pages of my books.
9. What are you working on now?
Hellcats was my first foray into fiction and short stories. Up until now I have blogged about my own adventures, and about Scottish heritage. This experience of writing A Cat for the Keeper has shown me a lot about myself, and that I have been hiding behind a lot of excuses. Those excuses just don’t hold up anymore. So now I’m excited to now have 3 books I am working on! The first is a full book around Catherine, Calum, and his lighthouse, the characters I introduced in Hellcats. The second is a book of Scottish short stories. The third is a historical novel set in 7th Century Scotland.
10. What do you do when a flash of inspiration hits you at an inopportune moment?
I get inspiration a lot when I am hiking, and I use the voice to text feature on my phone to record things that come to me.
11. What’s next for you?
If everything goes according to plan I will return to Scotland for 6 months in spring 2021, and continue my wanders and blogs. I’ve even had an invitation to stay in a Scottish lighthouse with it’s own cat, as part of my research for my next book! I have some pretty epic adventures planned in Scotland and Iceland for 2021. I am hoping to save up enough money to attend grad school in Scotland in 2022, studying archaeology.