Laura grew up in the military, visiting castles in England, pig fests in Germany, and the historic sites of America’s east coast. She earned a degree in music, and worked for many years as a freelance musician, music teacher, band director, and instructor in private music lessons on a winds, brass, piano, and harp. Laura is the mother of nine, living in Minnesota. Laura’s debut novel is a romance set in two different centuries. Blue Bells of Scotland is historic fiction with a time travel twist. The first in a trilogy, it is the story of two men, polar opposites but for their looks and love of music, who switch places in time and are caught in one another’s lives. Laura has an interesting mix of inspirations for her writing, which we’ll find out about.
Shawn Kleiner has it all: money, fame, a skyrocketing career as an international musical phenomenon, his beautiful girlfriend Amy, and all the women he wants—until the night Amy has enough and leaves him stranded in a Scottish castle tower. He wakes up to find himself mistaken for Niall Campbell, medieval Highland warrior. Soon after, he is sent shimmying down a wind-torn castle wall into a dangerous cross country trek with Niall’s tempting, but knife-wielding fiancée. They are pursued by English soldiers and a Scottish traitor who want Niall dead. Thrown forward in time, Niall learns history’s horrifying account of his own death, and of the Scots’ slaughter at Bannockburn. Undaunted, he navigates the roiled waters of Shawn’s life—pregnant girlfriend, amorous fans, enemies, and gambling debts—seeking a way to leap back across time to save his people, especially his beloved Allene. His growing fondness for Shawn’s life brings him face to face with his own weakness and teaches him the true meaning of faith.
Blue Bells of Scotland is both a historical adventure and a tale of redemption that will be remembered long after the last page has been turned.
Laura your story sounds fascinating.
Where does it come from? Books are born of multiple inspirations. For Blue Bells of Scotland, a historic adventure with a time travel twist, a lifetime of experiences brought the story to life: my favorite childhood book about four children who go into a Scottish keep and come out in medieval Scotland; the lyrics of the trombone showpiece Blue Bells of Scotland; and a flash of an image of a musician gambling away his instrument and conning his girlfriend into getting it back for him.
You have a degree in music: how much has music played a part in inspiring you? My life in music plays heavily (no pun intended) in my writing. I considered having Shawn play a more typical star soloist sort of instrument, like saxophone or trumpet. But Shawn is unique and able, as his conductor says, to turn even a tin whistle into stardom. It’s part of his charisma and confidence. Also, as the lyrics which loosely inspired the novel come from a trombone piece, it made sense for my hero to play that instrument, and it was a great chance to bring to life some of the pieces I have loved playing, myself, as a trombonist: not only Blue Bells, but Monti’s Czardas, a beautiful piece of music with a gypsy flavor, which Shawn plays at a medieval fair, while his pursuers watch. I reference music pieces quite often throughout the trilogy, and have made a page at my site that links to many of those pieces on YouTube.
Tell us about your research. Music is the ‘write what you know’ part of my story. But a novelist cannot possibly write only what he or she knows. I knew almost nothing of Scottish history when I started. I’d never heard of Bannockburn until I looked into battles which might be a backdrop for the noble deeds and streaming banners of the Blue Bells lyrics. The deeper I got into writing, the more I loved researching. With my youngest three not yet in school when I started, I relied on anything I could do from home: a wide variety of internet sites, books, movies, and DVDs on Scotland, castles, medieval life, warfare, and more. Caltrops, murder pits, and Bruce’s guerrilla strategy have all been topics of conversation at our dinner table. My poor children!
My favorite part of the research was traveling to Scotland to visit the locations in my book—Inverness, Loch Ness, Rannoch Moor, Stirling, Bannockburn, and the Monadhliath Mountains. I took over 1300 pictures and dozens of pages of notes. I changed a few things in the final draft as a result, while many other experiences show up in book two, The Minstrel Boy.
Is historical accuracy important to you as a writer? There is debate among both readers and writers regarding the level of historical accuracy in novels. As a reader, I enjoy a good story regardless, but as a writer, I lean toward being as accurate as possible, partly because I don’t want to destroy the suspension of disbelief for those who know their history, and partly because I love learning and want to know, myself, what it would really be like to go back.
Time travel … and the inevitable comparisons with The Time Traveler’s Wife. What are the pitfalls facing a writer when it comes to time travel?
Many time travel stories fail to explain how the time traveler gets along in a new world. It is passed off as simply part of the time travel mystique, for instance, that the traveler inexplicably speaks the language. I prefer explanations. Niall is of the educated, multi-lingual upper class of his time and a quick learner—the primary reason he is the laird’s future son-in-law, and hence in the tower that night with the laird’s daughter. As a musician, he has a sharp ear. When he arrives in the twenty-first century, he struggles with modern English. He relies on a head injury to explain his difficulties, while he listens, watches, and learns.
Your average modern American does not speak Gaelic. However, of all the things of which Shawn has been accused, average is not one. He pushes for the orchestra’s Scottish tour exactly because of his background—a grandmother from Skye and a father who embraced that heritage, including his mother’s native Gaelic. Like Niall, Shawn struggles at first. Like Niall, he is a musician with a good ear. In addition, he excels at lying and deception, and quickly learns of Niall’s head injury, all of which help him until he adapts to the unfamiliar accents.
This is a first in your planned trilogy—what can readers expect in the future? Just as a book grows from multiple inspirations, sometimes an inspiration grows into multiple books. In addition to a non-fiction on the history behind the story, look for the story of Shawn and Niall to continue in The Minstrel Boy and The Castle of Dromore, in which Shawn and Niall’s own inspirations and self-revelations culminate in final choices which transform the futures of many.
It sounds fantastic, Laura. Thanks for sharing this amazing story with us. Readers can visit Laura’s interesting and informative site and purchase on Amazon. By the way, stop by to read some of the excellent reviews Blue Bells of Scotland has garnered.
Copyright 2017 Fiona Ingram