Dragons, unicorns, selkie shifters, and more. How exactly did all those elements come together in Fire Maidens: Scotland? Well, some aspects of this story were already set up in the previous book of the series (Fire Maidens: Ireland) which introduced Lachlan and concluded with the imprisonment of Enzo Lombardi in Scotland. Other parts of the story were inspired by a research trip to Scotland. Meanwhile, other aspects of the story jumped out of my imagination. Read on to find out how it all came together in this book!
Very early in the making of this series, I mapped out characters for each of the books to make sure there would be variety from book to book as well as compelling hero/heroine match-ups. For Scotland, I was excited to bring together two opposites - a logic-driven “professor” type and a free spirit guaranteed to drive each other crazy in the best possible way.
You already met Lachlan in Fire Maidens: Ireland, while Holly literally bursts onto the scene in chapter 1 of this story. The inspiration for her character is a bubbly, outgoing woman from a YouTube travel couple I follow. I like their channel because they’re honest about the highs and lows of life on the road. They often face setbacks when things don’t go as planned (think South American border crossings with your own vehicle and a pet - so much to potentially go wrong, and it often does!). But I’m always impressed with how the woman always manages to take a deep breath, make a joke, and plows ahead with a new plan or solution. She is very much the inspiration for Holly, right down to her long, wavy hair.
Most “opposites-attract” couples are easy to write, but it was surprisingly difficult with these two. Men like Lachlan are so out of touch with their emotions, it’s hard to bring out their softer, sweeter sides. Luckily, Lachlan’s dragon shifter side has no problem admitting to things like joy, hope, and love! Plus, Holly, Mungo, and Trevor bring out the best in Lachlan, so you can see the real him gradually emerge from one chapter to the next.
Funnily enough, Trevor and Mungo ended up with much more “air time” than I originally intended, but I’m so glad they did. I love how Trevor comes to life through his letters. He truly provides the gentle guidance both Holly and Lachlan need. And I love having Mungo around to snuffle in Lachlan’s ear! Mungo helps Lachlan loosen up, and his innocent, unconditional love is such a treat. of course, that’s true of all dogs, isn’t it? (* sigh * Can you tell Anna loves canine companions?!)
It was such fun imagining shifters in Scotland that I ended up with quite a cast of supporting characters, from weepy, poetry-loving unicorns like Penelope, shaggy highland cattle like bagpipe-playing novice Duncan, and serious selkies like Henry. I felt like I could write an entire book on any of those characters! Which is exactly what I intend to do next with Tony, the lion shifter with a mysterious past in Fire Maidens: Venice!
Each of these supporting characters played a different role (to make you laugh, cry, or ponder hidden secrets) and I hope you agree that each enriched the story!
The roots of Fire Maidens: Scotland (Book 6) were planted in Book 5, which concluded with the capture of Enzo Lombardi in Ireland and his imprisonment in Scotland. I felt it was time to wrap up the Lombardi storyline and segue to a new villain for the last few books of the series. So that was one mission of Fire Maidens: Scotland: to act as a a bridge within the series by putting Enzo away for good while also opening the door to a new force that will threaten shifters in the rest of the series. (You can guess who that is, right?)
That meant the story would have to end on the island where Lombardi is imprisoned. However, I wanted to start the story in lovely Edinburgh, so that naturally set up Fire Maidens: Scotland as a sort of road movie - the kind where two characters take a trip together and make new discoveries about the world (and themselves) along the way.
So that was fun - getting to feature amazing locations in Scotland, from historic Edinburgh to the Highlands and over to the Hebrides (the islands on the west coast). Which brings me to…
On Location in Scotland
I have hiked, biked, and trained around Scotland in the past, which gave me a lot of ideas. However, that was a while ago. Therefore, I recently took a trip to scout for specific locations for this story. Such fun! Some of the places Holly and Lachlan visit are real, but most are a combination of places mixed and matched by my imagination.
For example, Burgess is a fictional place, but the yew is based on the real tree in Fortingall. Similarly, Creag Aerden is a blend of my favorite Highland locations, just like Gleninnis is a fictional mix of all the lovely islands on the west coast of Scotland. The Jacobite steam train (aka “Harry Potter bridge”) is real, of course, as are several details from Edinburgh. Those include White Horse Close which I meandered through, admiring the tiny houses, and upscale Ramsay Garden, which I chose for Trevor’s townhouse. Dunwellen Castle, where the Guardians meet, is based on Lauriston Castle. Oh, and the march for Scottish independence is based on the very event I witnessed during my stay in Edinburgh!
One small detail from Edinburgh that had a huge impact on the overall story were the unicorns visible all over town - built into and around Holyrood Palace, on flags, etc. And that brings me to…
Biggest change from early drafts to final edition
From the very beginning, my focus was on dragons, because it was easy to picture them swooping over the Highlands. However, those Edinburgh landmarks reminded me about the iconic role unicorns play as a symbol of Scotland. So I made sure to make unicorns the leading shifters among the Guardians. But what developed at the very last minute was the whole issue of balancing Guardian power between dragons and unicorns, which helped increase the tension throughout the story with those attempts on Holly’s life. So that insider/hidden enemy aspect was a relatively late edition to the story - and I good one, I think!
My favorite scene
Well, I love just about every scene in which Mungo makes an appearance! For humor, I love the scene when Lachlan first picks up Holly the morning after the reading of Trevor’s will in Edinburgh. But for sheer emotion, my favorite scenes are those in which Lachlan reads Trevor’s letters. There’s so much love and joy in them despite the tragedies life can rain upon a person. Don’t you agree?
Cross-links with other series
You can guess this one, right? Holly learned some of her flying skills at Koa Point on Maui - home to the Aloha Shifters of my Jewels of the Heart series. So that’s the biggest cross-link with another series. I nearly set the bonus scene to Fire Maidens: Scotland in Hawaii, but I got sidetracked with a really cute, fun story in the Highlands. Such fun! (You have read the bonus scene, right? If not, make sure you do! It’s one of dozens I write for each of my books, all exclusive to my newsletter subscribers. Click to sign up and get “Fire Maiden’s First Mission” along with so many other freebies!)