Highland Lover Under the Covers Feature, Question and Answer interview with Hannah Howell www.RhapsodyBookClub.com May 2006
Q: What did you do before you were a writer?
A: I was a housewifeóor whatever the politically correct term is these days. I stayed home and took care of my boys.
Q: What inspired you to become a romance novelist?
A: I always liked to write. I was one of those annoying people who always had their reports done on time in school. And I usually picked very strange subjects, too, like the black plague. That one shocked everyone. But Iíve always been fascinated with history.
Q: What do you love most about historical romances, and more specifically, medieval times?
A: I just love the history, especially pre-firearms history. I feel a good battle scene can be instantly ruined as soon as a person pulls out a gun. With a firearm, a battleís over before it even begins. Whereas I think any other kinds of fighting are personalized. Also the advanced weaponry takes the tension out of the fight to some extent. And you donít get any of the drama, letís say, like a sword fight offers.
Q: Did you study history in college?
A: Yes, I was liberal arts. I was going to be either an English or history teacher. But at the time, it was the Ď70s, and there was a glut of English and history teachers. So I had a choice between continuing to be a teacher or getting married and thought ďOh what the heck, Iíll get married.Ē I figured I could always finish the education later. Never did, but thatís okay.
Q: What is it about highlanders that fascinates you?
A: Well theyíre very tribal. They have arguments with everybody. You couldnít simply go from one end of Scotland to the other without probably crossing scores of people you were having feuds with. And the highlanders didnít like the lowlanders. I think because there was so much conflict, itís a rich mine for plot ideas.
Q: Youíve also written a few historical vampire stories. Do you have any plans to write more or even explore other facets of the paranormal: werewolves, demons, time-travel, etc?
A: I would like to, but Iím currently on a one book every six months schedule that keeps me pretty busy. Iíll do another short story though. I really like the paranormal, not necessarily the vampires. I like time-travel or when someone has a special gift. Iíve actually given some of my characters such gifts. I just love that kind of thing when they visions.
Q: Will you ever write a contemporary romance?
A: Probably not. I donít feel the same attachment to them as I do to historicals. My stories come out of the fact that itís almost like fantasy. No one can be really sure what it was like back then. And like I said before, I love the history. I know you can research anything, but to me, the idea of researching what people ate in 1400 is ten times more interesting than researching how a computer person is putting the game thing together at a company. But one doesnít want to say no, neverÖ.
Q: In Highland Lover, what makes Alana and Gregor the perfect couple?
A: They just sort of click. They think alike and also have this great chemistry. Alana likes the fact that Gregorís strong, and he likes that she has her own opinions. They also have enormous respect for one another even when theyíre in disagreement. Because letís face it, nobodyís going to agree all the time.
Q: What is the most important element in this romance?
A: The fact that Alana and Gregor both hide something from each other. And for a while they play this little temptation game, fraught with doubts and uncertainties, from which they eventually build enough trust to finally share the truth.
Q: Your Highland series follows generations of Camerons and Murrays. What are the most endearing qualities about these clans?
A: For the women, itís because theyíre strong. And with the men, itís because they allow the women to be strong. Because again, this is history, and there were very set standards as to each. I really believe that if you go back in time and read certain stories, there were a lot of strong women there. Thereís even a Scottish ballad about a woman who held a castle while waiting for her husband to return from battle. So there are a lot of examples of strong women in history. And thatís what I likeóyou can have the strong women, but also the strong man who allows her to be strong.
Q: Have you ever visited Scotland? How was your experience?
A: Itís nice. Any of the places, of course, are nothing like the time periods from my novels. Even just the trees. Most of the lands were clear cut early on, so pines were planted. For the ships and fuel. And drainage and things like that have been fixed because there used to have a lot of swampy areas. But you can still get a feel for the history. And you can get a better sense of what the weather was like. I visited Culloden battle field in August, and there was this icy, icy rain. I woke up the next morning with laryngitis. And all I could think of was those guys that were lying on the field because it was the same kind of weather. You get that feeling from going to those kinds of places.
Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?
A: I like Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jill Beverly, Teresa Medeiros, Candace Camp and Loretta Chase, just to name a few.
Q: Which authors / books have most influenced you?
A: Definitely Julie Garwood and Amanda Quick. They write great dialogue and have wonderfully quirky heroines. I just love that, where each woman is just so much her own person. And theyíre some of the first authors I read.
Q: What can you tell readers about yourself that theyíd never guess from your books?
A: I really donít know. Because I think thereís a lot about me in there. You know I quite often mention that the women like gardening. There are cats that show up every once in a while. I love cats. And the sarcasm shows up, unfortunately [said with a chuckle]. I think a lot of writers put themselves in their stories to some extent. They write about what they like because they have to ultimately like the books.
Q: What is the best writing advice youíve ever received or given?
A: Write what you feel. Everyone has their own advice, but you have to do whatís best for you. That doesnít mean you shouldnít listen to people. Absolutely try everything, but stick with what youíre comfortable.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: I love to garden. I have a long, narrow backyard that Iím trying little by little to work on. Iíve lived here for six years, and itís about half done. The yardís about 60ft long, 26 ft wide, and Iím turning it into one of those little Victorian gardens. You know with little places to sit and pathways and flowers. I also love to read, play the piano and crochetóthread crochet. I have so many doilies, I have to occasionally stop and make a afghan for a change. After all, there are just so many tables to put doilies on. And I work on the occasional sweater. Thereís also one company that sells patterns for historical costumes for Barbie dolls. So I do those, too.
Q: You have 5 beautiful cats, one who is named Sir Oliver Cromwell III and has one good eye. Is he a rescue cat?
A: He must have had a hard life wherever he came from, but he just showed up on my back porch one day when he was five years old. And he was so desperate. By the time we got him cleaned up at the vetís, thinking weíd bring him to a shelter, we took one look at him and knew nobody would ever adopt him. He was such a mess. He was missing claws and teeth and had scars on his ears. So we kept him. Actually three of my cats were strays, and we simply couldnít get them adopted. And now they run the show.
Q: What are you working on next?
A: Iím working on Highland Barbarian. Keira and Alana arenít the only twins in their family. They have twin brothers, Artan and Lucas. This is Artanís story, which will sort of bring the focus back to the Murrays. Iíll work on Lucasí story next year.