I’m delighted to welcome back author Cathie Dunn to the blog today, who continues my series about writers of historical fiction.
Thank you, Vanessa, for hosting me today. I love talking about history and research, and I’m grateful for the offer to do so again.
Bitten early by the history bug
My love of history began early with visits to the many castles near where I grew up, which inspired my love for medieval history. My mother often took me to exhibitions, both nearby and further afield. I was fortunate to grow up in a historic town, Heidelberg, now famous for its big ruined castle on the hillside overlooking the old town.
We were also close to places like Speyer, where they often held exhibitions about the Merovingians and Carolingians. Both are fascinating eras, but it is only after my recent move to France that I’ve returned to those days for a novel.
Later, my big interest was in Scottish history, the main reason for my move to Scotland in my late 20s. I was intrigued by the Wars of Independence (I had just read a book about William Wallace when the movie Braveheart was released – I found it rather funny, but sadly totally devoid of any historical semblance), and also the Jacobite rebellions, during which the house of Stuart tried to regain the throne.
The importance of location
I love combining history with dramatic scenery, which I feel gives a historical romantic novel an edge: to write not only about the events, but also to describe the setting in detail. Highland Arms is set near the dramatic hills of Glencoe, just along from the (then) hamlet of Ballachulish. I have visited the area many times; it is my favourite place in Scotland. Booklets written by local historians turned out to be real gems!
Baile a’ Chaolais, Ballachulish’s Gaelic name, means ‘village of the narrows’. It lies at the junction of Loch Leven with the much larger Loch Linnhe. The original village was in what is now North Ballachulish. A settlement in South Ballachulish, now linked by a road bridge, was established later. I used a local historian’s accounts for details of smuggling in the area, which I incorporated into the novel as Rory’s activities.
Ballachulish is less than a mile from Glencoe village at the entrance to the Glencoe hills. Scottish history buffs will be familiar with the massacre at Glencoe that befell Clan Macdonald in 1692. You can still sense the desolation today as you travel through the glen. I used the melancholy of the area and incorporated it into a scene where the heroine, Catriona, travels on horseback towards Ballachulish. The low mist and drizzle, which tend to be the norm in Glencoe any time of year, complete the setting.
Other favourite eras include medieval France and England, the Wars of the Roses, and the French Renaissance.
The appeal of writing historical fiction
Writing historical fiction allows you to focus primarily on historical events – both real and fictional. I love writing about political issues, battles and campaigns; I find them fascinating to research, and I love adding my own twists to them. I try to make my novels come across as realistic as possible, so the research has to be spot on, both on a general level and on site.
Even though my bookshelves are groaning under the weight (even after having given away many fiction books before the move), I still find fascinating tomes to buy. Lately, I’ve been searching for books on Charlemagne, especially his campaigns in southern France. It seems I’m going back in time again…
Cathie Dunn writes historical romance with a hint of danger. Her research often takes her to the most breath-taking landscapes and castles which she finds immensely inspiring, and which she writes about in her blog. She currently works on a time-slip paranormal romance set in the Languedoc in southern France, switching between the present and the days of Charlemagne’s reign just prior to AD800.
Cathie has released two novels: Dark Deceit, a medieval romance set in England and France; and Highland Arms a romantic adventure set in the Scottish Highlands. She has also published a novella, Silent Deception, a paranormal suspense set in Cornwall.
After having spent many years in Scotland and Wales, Cathie now lives in the south of France.
Connect with Cathie
Copyright © Vanessa Couchman, Cathie Dunn 2017, all rights reserved.