History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

31 October 2006

Welcome, Sandy Blair!

A Thief in a Kilt
By Sandy Blair
Zebra Books — November 2006

A Rogue By Any Other Name

Scoundrel. Seducer. Sir Ian MacKay deserves to be called the Thief of Hearts. Yet he is a man with a mission: to return Scotland’s rightful king to his ancestral throne. But first he must find out the true identify of the mysterious woman whose beauty and wit have dazzled the court...and why she is avoiding him. Can it be possible that Kate Templeton is an English spy?

Though Ian insists that no woman has ever refused him, Kate vows to resist his scandalous charm. Leading him on a merry chase all over Scotland is the best way to safeguard her heart. Yet a passionate confrontation brings them together at last and the only word on her lips is yes...

With a magical blend of humor, passion, and adventure, THIEF IN A KILT is sure to steal hearts. New York Times Bestselling author Lorraine Heath

Blair's attention to historical and regional detail supports a fine balance of action and romance, making this political potboiler a winning read. Publishers Weekly

A Thief in a Kilt is set in 1411, duing the reign of James I. How did you become interested in this time period? What do you love about it?

A Thief is book #3 of a loosely related series, so I had only a wee bit of latitude with regard to the time period. Had I been able to push it forward fifteen years as I had originally thought to do--to the first year of James’s release--the tale would likely have been far different.

What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?

The most difficult part has been assessing the real leaders of the period and keeping track of alliances which regularly changed dependent on the year, chieftains, marriages or church matters.

What sparked tis book? Was it a character? An historical event? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?

It was the character, Ian MacKay. He first came to life in A Rogue In A Kilt. Sensing he could take over the story I sent him on a mission, knowing full well he’d return. Immediately following A Rogue’s release, fans began asking for The Thief of Hearts tale, so here he is.

Did you have to do any major research for his book?

I had three research projects running while writing A Thief: I had to find interesting quotes by famous authors in print prior to 1411, 2.) I had to learn the history and layout of the Tower of London at the time, and then 3.) plot the chase sequences via a geological survey map.

Did you stumble across anything really intersting that you didn’t already know?

Hmm…I found the Tower’s history fascinating. Did you know the guards fed the lions (who survived a few years in cages barely larger than their bodies) not bulk horse meat and such, but live sheep and goats?

The more I researched Albany, the more confused I became about the man’s motivation and character. Worse, each historian, lettered men all with umpty-nine degrees, were adamant that their assessment of Albany was the correct one. (Bottom line: I ended up taking them all with a grain of salt.)

And I had fun plotting Kate’s run, deciding when she’d hit rivers, castles, etc.

Any historical mea culpas to fess up?

Oh ya, what author hasn’t? In both A MAN and in A ROGUE, I mentioned potatoes, a New World veggie that had yet to be introduced in Europe. (I plead temporary insanity…I’d been researching the Great Irish Famine for The Dragon’s Pride and had potatoes on the brain. ) Why no one picked that goof up prior to the book going to print is anyone’s guess.

I do use “ye” (rather than thee, thy, thou) across the board for reading ease. That’s a long standing, mutually agreed upon decision between my editor and me.

And not until after A THIEF went to proof pages did I learn that during this period the Tower was locked up not at midnight--as I had been led to believe--but 10:00PM. Imagining all sort of “history police” emails, I contacted my editor in a panic. I was able to remove “midnight” but couldn’t rework the paragraph—much less the scene--without creating a major headache in another department...namely printing.

What/Who do you like to read?

I enjoy good writing, be it historical Romances (Henley, Garwood, Heath), non-fiction histories, historical fiction (Rutherford, etc) or mainstream fictions like THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER and MY SISTER’S KEEPER. I’m currently enjoying A WALK IN THE WOODS by Bryson. (I do NOT, however, read “How-To” books.)

How did your writing carreer take off? Was it a Zero-to-Published kind of thing? Or did you have ten finsihed books under the bed before you sold?

I finished my first manuscript in 1999, then joined RWA where I learned why it was being rejected. Rather than rewrite it, I started anew, and entered my second manuscript into the 2003 RWA’s Golden Heart. It won Best Paranormal manuscript, which garnered my agent Paige Wheeler, who sold it in a two book contract to Kensington.

Care to share a bit about your writing process? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

I’m a “thoughtful pantser,” a linear thinker, a plodder, simply putting one foot in front of the other. I will have one character well fleshed out in my head and know something about my black moment before I start, but beyond that…it’s a great adventure. And I tweak as I go. (I loathe rewriting.)

What are you planning to work on next?

Thanks for asking. I’m currently working on two things…First my next time-travel, A HIGHLANDER FOR CHRISTMAS, scheduled for release in October 2007.

And second…as a thank you to readers and to celebrate the release of A THEIF IN A KILT, I’m giving one reader an expense paid trip to the 2007 Romantic Times Booklovers Convention being held in Houston, TX this coming April. The gift includes round trip airfare from any major city in the contiguous US, your registration fee and all meals, book signings and publisher parties that includes, a 5 night stay in the convention hotel, and a special dinner with yours truly. Details and application form can be found on HERE!.


Blogger Laura Vivanco said...

I have a feeling that in 1411 the kilt hadn't been invented (I know clan tartans certainly hadn't been). I had a quick look for references online, but wasn't sure how reliable some of the sources were. I did find this, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, according to which

The kilt as we know it today originated in the first quarter of the eighteenth century. Known to the Gaelic-speaking Highlander as the "little wrap" (feileadh beag), it evolved from the "big wrap" (feileadh mor), or belted plaid, the first identifiably "Scottish" costume that emerged in the late sixteenth century

6:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just finished reading Rogue in a Kilt (yes, I'm way behind in my reading thanks to deadlines) and loved it as much as the first kilt book. Ian caught my attention in Rogue and I can hardly wait to read his story. Love your voice, Sandy!

7:45 AM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Welcome, Sandy! I'm so glad to see you here.

Sandy Blair once judged a contest entry of mine and was so, so kind. The types of comments that just make your week. So thank you for that, Sandy, though it was years ago and I won't try to jog your brain. It's just an added bonus that she also writes great books!

I'm getting a headache just imagining the research into political alliances in 1411 Scotland. Brava!

8:26 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Y. said...

Great interview! I love Sandy's books!

9:06 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Hi Sandy,

Thanks for blogging with us...I've always thought the neon tarten covers on your books work so well! And I love your rogues. . .



9:12 AM  
Blogger Sandy Blair said...

Laura: Yes. The clothing of the period was tunic, fur--if you were wealthy enough, allowed by law to wear it--and hose and funky shoes. In foul weather the less wealthy might toss a length of woven wool (feileach beag or mhor--with an "h"--depending on the length) over heir shoulders and head. The wool contained natural oils making the fabric water resistant, its weave tight making it warm, its pattern specifc to regional weavers--not to a specific clan, which was a Victorian affectation--which is precisely how my hero Duncan is described. The original title of the first book in this series was "The Blackstone Diaries." After it sold, my publisher changed the title to A MAN IN A KILT. I blustered, "But there were no kilts." I was told this was a marketing decision. I took a deep breath and said, "Okay."

Jan: Thanks. I truly appreciate your kind words. I hope you enjoy Ian's story as much as you have previous books.

Victoria: I judged you? Too cool. Judging is so much fun when you receive an entry that rings true, when the author's "voice" hits a cord. I didn't judge prior to being published believing no one should care what I thought. Now I judge 3-4 contests a year due to time restraints but feel it's important to "give back" to the organization that trained me, in the hopes of seeing other authors published. I'm pleased that I "made your week" but the work doubtless deserved that praise and heeps more.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Sandy Blair said...

Hi Jennifer, thanks for "love."

9:23 AM  
Blogger Sandy Blair said...

Hi Kathrynn,
Grinning here. I'm pleased to hear you like neon. After I sold I had visions of castles in the mist or perhaps a Julie Garwood-like artifact cover running through my head. Then the coverflats arrived. Neon yellow and curly font. My immediate reaction: What were they thinking dressing my baby in this?? Then I saw the wisdom. I was a debut author with no following. The neon yellow would catch readers' attention. Curly font says humorous/a light read. And it worked. People bought the book. Hopefully, more will be attracted to neon kiwi green.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Thanks for the explanation on the title. When I saw the question about the kilt, I was thinking to myself, "Hmm, I wonder what her original title was." *grin*

That was the first thing Kensington did for both Tonda and me. Title change! But marketing is their job after all. I'm glad you got through it without a nervous breakdown. Personally, I was fully expecting a Highlander title despite the fact that my hero lives in the lowlands. (I lucked out with "To Tempt a Scotsman".)

But anyhoo, here's a research quetion: Have you ever been to Scotland? Also, will you take me in your luggage next time? Otherwise I won't be able to go until my boys are at least five years older. *sigh*

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the title explanation, Sandy. I figured it was those marketing geniuses.:) Can't wait to read the book!

10:07 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hey Sandy, thanks for coming over and giving us the answer to your Kilt titles. I figured that was it. *GRIN*

I vaguely remember you saying something about it while we were in Atlanta, but I didn't want to misquote you.

And, Vicki, I’m betting she’s been to Scotland a lot, heck, she’s married to a Scotsman! Lucky girl.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Sandy Blair said...

Hi Victoria,
Yes, I've been to Scotland. We spent our nights in various castles (6) and in country residences (3) from Edinburgh to Dornock to Glasgow. (You can find photos of some of the castles on the Photo Gallery on my site www.Sandyblair.net.

One of the best discoveries of the trip was by accident. We were making our way to Inverlochy Castle where we were spending two nights, when we came across a lone, pretty chapel built of stone. I shouted, "Stop," and Scott--jolted--instinctively hits what should have been the directionals but was instead the windshield wipers & stray. Nearly blind we manage to make it into the parking lot. Inside, we find a pretty vaulted nave and to the left rear I see a huge sacophogus. I wander over and there I find a wee sign that reads, "Herein lies Robert the Bruce." Ya. Nearly keeled over. The lid/effigy is huge, made of grey marble and white ivory. Excited and determined to get a good photo or three I found a painter's ladder, and asked Scott to climb it and take a picture from above from the feet. Made my whole day.

On our next visit I hope to stay on the various Isles, soak up the lore, color etc. And yes, you're more than welcome to squeeze into my suitcase.

11:15 AM  
Blogger Sandy Blair said...

Hi Kalen,
Kensington is fond of changing titles. *grin*

My 6' 5" hubby is a first generation American of the Stewart clan. As a new bride I was surprised meeting his father's extended family. All the men were named either James (Jimmie or some variation thereof) or Sandy (for Alexander) and spoke with brogues. Generations of James Alexander or Alexander James. No imagination here, folks. And they had a fondness for Agnus, too. I, too, have an Alexander, but do not have an Agnus, despite having two daughters. (Nope..I had to draw the line somewhere.)

My hubby's been fortunate to have spent more time in Scotland than I--heck he's spent more time everywhere including South Africa--than I have, although I grumble about it constantly.

Next year we hope to return.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Moncia, over on the Fog City Divas blog was just telling us all about her Socttish Island Hopping. I'm so jealous (but at least I got to see pictures!).

11:53 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Socttish? What the blazes is that? If only I could type . . .

11:54 AM  
Blogger Sandy Blair said...

Grinning here. Typos??? I've grown so dependent on spell check, I can't write a handwritten letter without making six drafts.

And then the typesetter adds some I never dreamed of into the text. Augh! I nearly died when a fan said, "Sandy, is your critque partner's name really spelled Suzuanne?" No. I'd spelled it correctly in my draft--I checked--but hadn't caught the typsetter's error when doing the page proofs. Augh.

12:10 PM  
Blogger Sandy Blair said...

Wow! Monica's photos are fantastic, as were her descriptions. I so want to go...now.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Laura Vivanco said...

It's weird how marketing works. I think 'The Blackstone Diaries' sounds much better. And I wouldn't have realised from looking at that cover that it was a historical. But it worked, so obviously the marketing people know what they're doing.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Sandy Blair said...

I agree (loved my title) and can't tell you how many people have written to say, "I was surprised to find I was reading a time-travel. The back blurb says nothing about time travel." Oh my.

I wanted to write back, "that's broad-base marketing for you" but refrained, simply thanked them for reading the book.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...


Did you get to write your back cover blurbs?


1:33 PM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Ooo, I didn't know you were married to a Scot! Hey, if you need a little spice in your married life you should pick up my book! PAH-hahahahaha!

I swear I'm the only one here who's never been to the British Isles. Is that true? Grrrr.

Don't sweat the Alexanders and Sandys even if there are a lot of them. My family is Norwegian. Here is a sample of the names we found when trying to pick a family name for our children: Ole, Torkel, Torkelson, Olaf, Oluf, Winifred, Olive, Rasmus, Bertha, Kjild, Genice and Jorgen.

Ladies feel free to use any of these for your books! Oh, Torkel!

3:51 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I like Jorgen. Most of the guys I know named Jorgen go by Jorg, and their name goes with one of my favorite jokes:

A little boy runs in to the house, "Mommy, Mommy, this frog can say my name!"

"Oh, Jorgen, that frog can't say your name."

"Yes it can, mom. Watch"

*make a twisting motion with both hands as if breaking something appart while saying "Jorg"*

Sick I know, but still funny.

4:10 PM  
Blogger Laura Vivanco said...

"I swear I'm the only one here who's never been to the British Isles. Is that true? Grrrr."

Don't know if it'll be any consolation to you, Victoria, but maybe I'm the only one here who's never been to the US?

4:41 PM  
Blogger Sandy Blair said...

Hi Again,
Getting through a cocktail party and Trick-or-Treat here.
As for the back blurb: No, I saw it for the first time when I received my cover flats.

Torkel?? Seriously??? Oh my, love those hunky Norwegian names

5:02 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

No, I saw it for the first time when I received my cover flats.

No wonder everyone was gobsmacked when I said mine had been emailed to me and I'd tweaked it and sent it back. LOL!

I'd just assumed that was normal.

7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent interview. I look forward to your time travel, Sandy.

9:12 AM  

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