Interview of Author Heather McCollum
Hi, Heather. Welcome to The Gal in the Blue Mask. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hello everyone! Let's see – I'm a mom of three rather loud and spirited kids, ages 15, 13 and 7. I'm a dog mom of a crazy, rescued golden retriever and wife to my very own Highland hero, Braden. I'm also an author of historical, paranormal romance.
What are 5 things about you that most people don't know?
Hmmm…this needs to be rated PG right? ;)
- I lived in a real haunted house for five years. It was a manor house of a plantation built before the Civil War, and it was used as a hospital for Union soldiers in the Virginia area.
- I pierced my belly button when I was 31 years old, but it closed up when I had to take it out with my third pregnancy.
- I'm an ovarian cancer survivor. Did 15 months of chemo three years ago to beat the crap out of it (arm pump and victory dance!).
- My husband's family is Scottish (and English) so he wears the McCollum tartan kilt to my book signings.
- I have an extensive tea pot collection and make myself a pot every chance I get. I lure my muse out to help me write with Chai tea lattes, heavy on the cinnamon.
What is the first book you remember reading?
First book was probably Fox in Sox by Dr. Seuss when I was 7 years old.
First romance book I read was the Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss when I was a freshman in high school. Ironically the hero and heroine in the book are Brandon and Heather and I marred a Braden (pretty close!).
What made you decide to begin writing?
I've always written stories and poems, since I was little. By high school I was writing romance. Everyone thought I'd be an English major. I surprised them all by majoring in Cellular Immunology, a branch of Biology, instead. It's funny how I've come back around full circle to my first love, writing.
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?
Besides the Chai lattes? Yes :)
I'm a very visual writer. I like to see my characters (basic features and strong emotions) and settings (authentic historical details). So I create collages for my books. I take a day toward the beginning of each new project to cut out pictures of landscapes, people and objects that mean something to my story. I paste them on an open folder, poster board or even in a blank book to give me something to glance at while writing.
I've also started using a process that Blake Snyder describes in his screenwriting book, Save the Cat. It helps with plotting and pacing. I use a big white board, divided into four acts, and lots of index cards.
Do you have a special place you like to write?
I have a lovely little writing desk with curvaceous, slender legs which I've named Eleri. I light my stained glass lamp (named Jule) and lose myself in my stories. But on cool days (I live in the south so below 90 degrees is a must) I sit with my laptop on my screened back porch and write. Out there I can listen to the birds and breezes and smell my herb garden.
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?
Apart from stubborn characters who refuse to follow my plot … I think the business of writing is a challenge for me. I'd be very happy to sit all day writing my adventures and love scenes instead of trying to toot my own horn on Twitter. But alas, nowadays one must be everywhere so people know about your work. It's challenging to keep up with all the promotion tasks AND write the next amazing book. I do love chatting with fans though! That part is awesome.
What do you think makes a good story?
Dangerous external conflict and thick internal conflict. Add in interesting, fully rounded characters who you would love to know or be and a happy ending that makes you sigh, and you've got a winner!
What book(s) have most influenced you?
Gosh – there are so many! Starting with Kathleen E. Woodiwiss and Julie Garwood's books which introduced me to romance. Sense and Sensibility by the amazing Jane Austen (really all her books) and then every book I read. They all influence me, sparking ideas of my own, and teaching me techniques and showing me different ways that people fall in love.
What inspires you most?
Seeing people overcome adversity while keeping their spirits bright and positive. As an ovarian cancer warrior I met many of these people. They have all inspired me and my writing in some way.
Where do the ideas for your book come from?
Ideas for Crimson Heart came mostly from my fabulous trip to Scotland last summer. We stayed on a loch in the Highlands, and I toured Edinburgh castle, just perfect for the setting of my latest story. St. Margaret's Chapel, on the grounds of Edinburgh castle, was quaint, ancient and authentic. I knew immediately that it would be a part of Crimson Heart.
Which of your characters do you think is the most like you?
I am probably most like Rachel Munro in Crimson Heart. She is Searc's mother and a great healer. She steadfastly believes in his good heart despite his killing magic. She is fierce, brave and strong when it comes to loving her child. I am the same when it comes to my three kids.
What have you learned creating this book?
Well I learned a lot about the 16th century Scottish monarchy and Edinburgh. J I also learned not to force my characters to do something they don't want to do. I had to rewrite the first 70 pages of Crimson Heart three times because I kept trying to make Searc tell jokes. He'd just roll his eyes and walk away from me (not literally or I'd just be plain crazy). Search has a lot of dark baggage from his youth and feels his magic is a curse. That doesn't make one very light hearted. Search is more piercing stares and angst with lots of alpha passion.
Yes, I learned (the hard way) that an author must create their characters and then write them authentically. The characters become real people with real personalities, and making them do something outside their personality doesn't work.
What do you think your readers will take away from this book?
They will learn a little about the Scottish court and how the Scots and French viewed English rule during the Renaissance. But what I'm hoping they will take away has to do with the underlying theme. Life is all about perspective (I learned this battling cancer). Searc views his magic as a curse yet in the end the same magic is a gift. Everything in life is viewed through our personal lenses. If we choose the positive lens, seeing the silver lining however faint it might be, our lives will be so much fuller.
What makes your book different than others that fall under this genre?
The Highland Hearts series reads like a Scottish/English historical series, which I love all by itself. But I also weave in a paranormal element with the inherited magic. Parts of the series are set in historically accurate facts while other parts are realistically portrayed fantasy.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Crimson Heart is the last full-length novel I have planned in the Highland Hearts series, although I'm contemplating a long novella to follow it. I have another historical paranormal romance series, The Dragonfly Chronicles, for which I'm writing the fifth and final novel, Sacrifice. And the sequel to my first YA contemporary, paranormal romance, Siren's Song, will be coming out the first of next year.
Once done with those projects I will stop ignoring the whole slew of characters vying for my attention in my head. Let's see – there's a ghostly contemporary series (based on my haunted house of course), a YA sci-fi dystopian trilogy, and another Scottish historical paranormal series based out of the northern isles of ancient Scotland. So many stories! I just need to find the time to write them all.
Thanks for joining us today, Heather. :) One more thing before you go, though: Where can we find you?
Thanks for having me here today! Your questions were wonderful. For more information on me and my books, please stop by my web site at www.HeatherMcCollum.com. I can also be found here: