I don’t do many interviews, it’s not that sorta site, but today I’m honored to have the lovely and talented C.S. Szarek on my blog talking about her latest piece, a highlander time-traveling novella entitled the Tartan MP3 Player. Seriously, this girl finishes books faster than I finish chapters.
First I want to say, thanks so much for subjecting yourself to my blog of awesome! We’ve actually known each other for a few years now, though I think it was at least a year before you let me see anything you wrote. But for everybody else, why don’t you tell us some of the intimate details of your personal life that don’t involve writing. Examples of this would be a maniacal obsession with Yahtzee or hoarding binders of 80s sitcom trading cards.
Okay, you made me laugh as you often do. Not a shocker there. I am actually pretty boring, to tell you the truth. I’ m a workaholic, I have two jobs in addition to writing. I work with kids at both, being the Juvenile Case Manager for two city courts locally and also I work at a Shelter for Teens. I very much enjoy both, and I feel like the passion for them and kids in trouble is as great as my passion for writing. I also love to read as much as I love to write. There are so many awesome authors out there, yourself included. I love to scrapbook, but I am behind because of the writing. I watch WAY too much TV, too.
I’ve been familiar with your writing for a while and I have to say that there were quite a few things that surprised me. Not the word ‘cock’, I totally saw that coming. But going into the book, I was fully aware that it was a novella and a part of a trilogy. Knowing that you love a full story with detailed characters and rich worlds, what inspired you to restrict yourself to such a sparse word-count, and then commit to it two more times?
So I can write them FAST! LOL. Originally this piece was supposed to be a 15k story and for anthology. As I kept going, I had too much story. But I really love it, and I don’t feel it was rushed. The world unfolded before my eyes, as well as the characters for the next two books. While I can’t say I won’t write in this world again, this first set is definitely going to be completed in three. Three relatively short reads, but they’re still satisfying. If another character stands up and demands a story from this world, I will address it then. (No, that is not a dare, dear characters)
Right out the gate, I was pretty excited about this read. I’ve got a soft-spot for historical fiction, especially when it’s told in such a way to throw science to the wind and just have fun with ghosts, goblins, magic and legends. Even more so when I saw it would be based in Scotland, a premier fantasy destination of my own. So what drew you to this area, and more specifically, this time period to play around with?
I am addicted to historical romance. I have been for the last few years, especially Scottish Highlander novels. I am fascinated that while England became “civilized” much quicker than its neighboring country, the Clans of the Highlands (especially in the Hebrides) stayed to themselves, and lived, well, tribally, much longer than most of Europe. They were strong, and tall, and in my mind, super hot. LOL. Even if reality has more violence and color, I’m still fascinated with this history. They were settled by the Vikings, and that’s even cooler.
The clan in this book, The MacLeods actually trace their history to the Fae. There are three different legends that date back to the 9th or 10th century and one of which is that the Laird married a Fae Princess, so I played on that.
They still have what the call a Faery Flag and there is a legend that it came with three wishes. Cool stuff when magic is so acceptable.
As for the time period, I don’t know how it happened. The year kinda popped into my head and I went with it, and made sure my research centered on 17th century. I took some liberties, as all authors do.
From the moment that one of the two protagonists, Claire, arrives naked on the beach, it becomes pretty obvious that this is going to either be yet another American Pie comedy flop, or a straight-up lust story. Imagine my relief when I realized it was the latter. What I found unique was that you drifted between the heads of the two main characters. While I couldn’t argue much with Duncan’s pain and strife of self-restriction to keep from stabbing everything he sees, and killing people with a sword, what does Claire, the woman from the future with a life and family, see in Duncan aside from the obvious muscular stature?
Um. He’s hot. Oh, wait. That’s muscular stature, isn’t it? I think she sees that he cares for his family above all else and he’s a good man. She falls for him quickly, as this is a novella, and she’s drawn to him from the start, all looks aside. They have immediate chemistry, looks aside. I’m sure there’s also that dreamy factor that he can protect her. All girls tend to swoon over that kinda thing.
As a guy, I’m going to go ahead and say ‘Thank you’ from myself and all potential male readers for not going into details of length, girth, taste and aroma of Duncan’s claymore. You did, however, mention a lot of discomfort and hardness of the poor man while parading around the castle in a kilt. So I’ve gotta know, what kind of research went into studying up on attire, furnishings, and the like for the time period. What interesting things did you come across that never went into the book? Or are you saving any of it for future installments?
I did some research on Gaelic, since I use a few words. I also did garment research, because I already knew Scots didn’t always wear kilts, and I wanted to be accurate, despite the fantasy twist in this story—this series. I also had to do some geographical and clan research. I have been reading these types of books, plus straight historical for years, so a lot of the rest fell into place. One thing I didn’t pull back was the phrase “All right.” They didn’t really use it then, and I have it in there. Oh well. My readers are from the 21st century, not the 17th. I might get zonked in a review from a hard-nose historical reader for a thing or two, but I still think I did a good job with this story.
Now I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t read the story yet, but there is a certain amount of magic that appears in the story. Most of this is derived from a specific magic creature, but one that has appeared in many different styles and iterations over the years. What were your inspirations for these creatures and how did you alter the style, if at all, to make them your own?
Nothing conscious, actually. I wrote the story, the characters, and the lore as the words flowed. Not a lot of planning on my part, because I don’t plot. If what comes out works, I leave it. LOL.
Music is a BIG part of my writing process and I’m constantly scouring the indie scene for the next new sound to help fuel my fingers. Going with the theme of the Tartan MP3 Player, what were some of the artists or styles you listened to while writing?
Rock and Alternative. Like Claire, lol. But she likes Heavy Metal a bit more than me.
What song was she listening to when she first arrived on the beach? (if it was a specific song)
Indestructible by Disturbed.
I don’t think romance is a genre anybody just up and decides to write without a bit of reading first. Who are some of the romance artists you admire? How have they influenced your craft?
Oh, gosh. There are too many. Here are some of my faves. JR Ward, Pamela Palmer, Monica McCarty, Robin D. Owens, Julie Garwood, Julia Quinn. And of course, the great great great Anne McCaffrey. But honestly, these ladies are a drop in the bucket. There are so many awesome authors out there, including friends of ours (and you, though you don’t write romance). If you know anything about the genre, you’ll know even the ones I listed are vastly different from each other. LOL! If it’s a good book, I’ll read it, I don’t discriminate.
As for influence, nothing conscious except when I read a great story I want to be a better writer.
Most covers in this genre involve a sweat-soaked masculine frame that may or may not have a face/name/doesitevenmatter. The Tartan MP3 Player actually focused on Claire’s character. Who did your cover and what led to the final design?
When I thought of this book, I knew Claire would be on the cover. Alone. I don’t know why, because I am not opposed to have a hot boy on a cover, but contrary to what is out there, I don’t like half-naked (or worse) covers. While I DO have sex in all my books (so far anyways) I don’t like to see it on the cover. I don’t write smut, and I don’t want people to think that.
So, for me, it’s “Naked IN the book, not ON the book!”
This is actually a custom cover, and I think it’s gorgeous. The FABULOUS Lindee Robinson (FB fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=145122465514273) who was referred to me by a friend did this cover for me. She’s in Michigan, and I picked the beautiful model, Michele LaMontagne to depict Claire.
Coolest part is the plaid she’s wrapped in belongs to me. I sent it there so they could use it. It’s also on the 2nd cover (which is done, but is still a secret)
What can we expect from the next installment in the series?
Book Two is Janet and Xander’s story. Here’s the blurb:
She’s always been a dutiful daughter…
Janet MacLeod has spent the last ten years dedicated to her clan, acting as the Lady of the castle—at the cost of her own happiness.
She aches every time she looks at her brothers, both happy with their wives, and wants nothing more than a love of her own.
He’s a broken soldier…
Xander, a former Fae Warrior, sacrificed his wings and magic to live in the Human Realm and became a traitor to his people.
When he finds Janet forlorn on the beach, Xander gives her a ring he’s had since childhood, not realizing it’ll reveal her as his fated mate.
The ring’s magic activates the Faery Stones, and Janet is sucked into the Fae Realm. Her life is in immediate danger, for the Fae sense—and seek to destroy—any human who dares step into their world.
Xander is the only one who can retrieve her, but he too, wears a target.
Can he rescue his soul-mate and return with her to the Human Realm or will temptation of great magic and the rebirth of his wings force him to abandon their destiny?
When will we be seeing #2? The book, not the bathroom code.
The end of May!
And finally, where can readers pick up a copy of the Tartan MP3 Player?