Around the World Blog Tour – Linda Gillard author feature – signed book giveaway (now closed)

By | August 25, 2015


The Around the World Blog Tour is a partnership between TripFiction and Book Connectors – bloggers and authors, travelling the world, through fiction. For more information on the whole tour, and about the partnership, do read my earlier post.

From the moment I discovered that Scotland was to be the first destination on this tour, there was only one author I really wanted to feature. I’ve been an admirer of the writing of Linda Gillard since reading Star Gazing back in 2008, eagerly anticipating and reading every one of her books within days of publication. I’ve also followed Linda’s personal journey – her struggle to find a traditional publisher, her highly successful shift to being an independent author, her recent battles with her health, and now the joy of her new grandson (complete with his shock of flaming hair and the look of a Scots chieftain). 


Linda’s novels are so difficult to define by category or genre, they’re all very different: but they all share strongly drawn characters that leap off the page, a rich insight into her characters’ emotions, an enthralling story, and a wonderful sense of place. And in several of her books, that place is Linda’s beloved Scotland.  I’m delighted to welcome Linda to Being Anne…

Linda, you’ve written five novels set in Scotland, but you’re English. Why are most of your books set in Scotland, particularly the Highlands & islands?

My love affair with Scotland dates back to my student days in the 1970s when I performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I was bowled over by the beauty and atmosphere of the city and the warmth of the Scots. I appeared at the Festival three times and Edinburgh remains my favourite of any city I’ve ever visited. 

Much later I took my family to the Highlands and islands for many wonderful holidays and I got to know Scotland quite well, to the extent that I decided I was living in the wrong country! After a huge mid-life crisis in my forties, complete with nervous breakdown, I quit teaching and started writing a novel set in the Hebrides, then in 2001 I moved to the Isle of Skye which became my home for 6 years. I’ve also lived in Glasgow and on the Isle of Arran and had a home on the Isle of Harris.

View of the Cuillin Mountains from Linda’s old house on the Isle of Skye
Linda, with her 10-week 
old grandson, Keir

Scottish landscape inspires me. It’s so varied, you could never tire of it. We don’t have the best weather (and don’t get me started on the midges), but whenever I go south I miss the Northern light, Scots accents and the dry sense of humour. I couldn’t live anywhere else now, even if I didn’t have a gorgeous baby grandson in Glasgow.

Let’s have a closer look at the books you’ve written with a Scottish setting. We have to start with Emotional Geology, because I think that was my favourite of them all.  

I wrote most of Emotional Geology living in a Norwich suburb, pining for the Hebrides. All my other books were written in Scotland. I started writing EG just as a treat for myself. I was 47 and I couldn’t find the sort of thing I wanted to read. 

Bookshops were awash with chick-lit at the time. I was fed up with middle-aged women being portrayed as somebody’s mother or somebody’s wife, only allowed to pull the hero if they were thin and looked 39. So I decided I’d write a book just for me – a thinking-woman’s romance that dealt with real issues, had believable characters, a yummy hero, but no easy answers. I set the novel on the beautiful, remote, Gaelic-speaking island of North Uist, off the west coast of Scotland, a place I knew well from family holidays and I made the heroine my age (47) on principle!

Elgol, Isle of Skye
My holidays in Scotland led to an interest in its geology and that fed into my first novel. It’s a book in which nothing much happens. All sorts of tumultuous events occurred in the past, but what the characters are actually dealing with in the present is fall-out from that. So I had the idea of using geology as a metaphor. 

Rock is a concrete record of the past, of what happened to the Earth – a build-up of pressure, seismic upheaval, erosion. When you look at rock you’re looking at layers of time. I think our minds and our memories are like that – a record of what we’ve been through and the toll it has taken – so the “excavation” of the past (which is what happens in the novel) becomes emotional geology. Hence the rather odd title.

Star Gazing was the first of your books I read, Linda – the wonderful Keir, who wanted to take Marianne, blind from birth, to his island home on Skye, to “show” her the stars! This novel was shortlisted for two awards in 2009, wasn’t it? 

Yes, for Romantic Novel of the Year and the Robin Jenkins Literary Award, for writing that promotes Scotland’s landscape. I think those two short-listings tell you what my books are like. I write love stories in which the setting is almost a character in its own right.

Star Gazing is set in two of my favourite places, Skye and Edinburgh, but it’s really a novel-length love song to the Isle of Skye. Trying to write about somewhere as beautiful as Skye is daunting. How do you avoid descending into breathless travelogue cliché? I decided I would write about the landscape, but from an unusual point of view, or rather no point of view. I would make my heroine blind – and not just blind, but congenitally blind. She would have no visual frame of reference at all.

I didn’t know if it could be done. I wasn’t blind or visually impaired and I didn’t even know anyone who was, but I thought it might be interesting to write about landscape from a non-visual angle.

It was tricky to begin with. I kept dropping into “sighted-speak”, but once I got into it, I actually found it quite easy and so much more interesting to write from a blind “point of view”. I did some research of course, but mostly I relied on my imagination. It was certainly a challenge having to create the hero, Keir by describing how he sounded, felt and smelt!

Untying the Knot – I love the description of “Four Weddings And A Funeral meets The Hurt Locker”. The real star of this book for me was Tullibardine Tower…

As you’ve probably guessed, Anne, I have a bit of a thing about castles, but strictly speaking Tullibardine is a tower house, a small 16thC domestic castle, not built for defence. Scotland is littered with them. Many are just heaps of stones, but some have been restored as comfortable family homes. That’s what the hero, Magnus does in Untying the Knot.

Interior of Elcho Castle, 
a tower house in Perthshire, 
managed by Historic Scotland
As a mentally and physically shattered war veteran, ex-bomb squad, he puts himself back together again by restoring a derelict tower house, but the work takes a toll on his marriage and he ends up divorced. Magnus stays on at Tullibardine Tower while his ex-wife, Fay lives in a very modern Glasgow flat, opposite a Clyde shipyard. (That was based on a flat I lived in before I decided city living wasn’t for me.)

Untying the Knot is a romantic comedy about the couple’s gradual realisation that they still love each other and that their divorce was a terrible mistake, especially as they’re now both entangled with other people.

I loved The Glass Guardian – I thought a paranormal romance would take me way outside my comfort zone, but this book showed me it was possible to cuddle up with a Kindle… 

Some reviewers described The Glass Guardian as “a paranormal for people who don’t like paranormals”. It’s not at all typical of the genre. At the time I was trying to find a new publisher (I’d been dropped by my previous publisher) and editors were looking for paranormal romance. Vampires and werewolves were very popular, but I wanted to write about a ghost, making him the hero. That created a some problems, especially when it came to supplying a happy ending, but I found a way of getting round that.

The ghost hero of The Glass Guardian is a soldier who fought in WWI and haunts his former home, an old house on Skye which the 40-something heroine inherits. If you travel around rural Scotland you’re struck by the many substantial war memorials and the long list of names engraved on them. Small villages must have lost most of their young men folk. Sometimes all the sons in a family were killed. I did a lot of WWI research for this book and found it shocking and heart-rending. I thought I knew about the sufferings of those who fought, but discovered that, actually, I didn’t. 

I don’t know how much that research informed the book, but I’m proud of a blogger’s review describing the book as “a story about love, loss, grief, music, WWI, Skye, family secrets, loneliness & a ghost who will break your heart.” He certainly broke mine and he haunts me still.

And finally, Cauldstane – I reviewed this one here on Being Anne. Tell us more about Cauldstane Castle.

This was a rare instance of visiting a place and getting an idea for a novel – the whole thing: the settings, the characters, even part of the story. I visited Cawdor Castle which has always been inhabited by the same family, torn apart by a notorious 20thC family feud. Walking round the castle, I thought about the family living there and their successful attempts to make the castle pay as a tourist attraction. I also wondered (naturally!) if the castle was haunted…

Cawdor Castle, Nairn
By the time I’d finished touring the castle and grounds I knew I wanted to write a contemporary ghost story about an old Highland family, struggling to hang on to their heritage and their dilapidated castle home, despite it being haunted by a vengeful ghost. I visited other castles as part of my research, but the one that most closely resembles Cauldstane is Craigievar, in Aberdeenshire.

Craigievar Castle, Aberdeenshire
Linda, I enjoyed that so much – thank you for being part of the tour.

Giveaway


Linda very kindly offered a giveaway, a signed paperback copy of any of her books, which she will send direct to the lucky winner. Thank you to everyone for comments and entries, and to Linda for the ensuing conversations – I wish you could all win, but first out of my hat today was Dawn O’Brien who asked for a copy of Emotional Geology. Congratulations Dawn – I’ll be in touch for your address shortly…!


Linda Gillard (pictured outside Glasgow University) lives in the Scottish Highlands and has been an actress, journalist and teacher. She is the author of seven novels, including STAR GAZING, short-listed in 2009 for Romantic Novel of the Year and HOUSE OF SILENCE, which became a Kindle bestseller and was selected by Amazon UK as one of their Top Ten “Best of 2011” in the Indie Author category. 

28 thoughts on “Around the World Blog Tour – Linda Gillard author feature – signed book giveaway (now closed)

  1. Anne

    This is a wonderful post, well done Anne and Linda! How lovely that her grandson is called Keir too!
    Bravo!

  2. Beady Janet

    Fabulous post I adored Stargazing, how to choose one from the others – Untying the knot sounds very tempting x

  3. Joanne Baird

    Great questions and answers. I love the sound of Stargazing or Emotional Geography. (We follow each other on Twitter @portybelle)

  4. Linda Hill

    I've never read any of these and they all sound fabulous so I'd be grateful for any. This is a lovely post. It must have been hard living in Norfolk when you love Scotland – not many mountains to look at!

  5. Linda Gillard

    Linda, my most successful novel (HOUSE OF SILENCE) is actually set in Norfolk. The hero lives in a converted windmill.

    You come across a lot of Scots holidaying in Norfolk. I suppose they come for the contrast. The big skies are fantastic.

  6. Essex Reader

    This is a fabulous post, I love Linda's books. I'm not entering as I am lucky enough to have some signed copies from Linda but for those new to Linda's books, you're in for a treat.

  7. Linda Gillard

    Anne, my daughter & s-i-l said they were determined not to name their baby after any of my characters but they did complain that I'd taken many of the best names! In the end Keir stuck, despite being the name of the hero in STAR GAZING. They wanted something that couldn't be shortened or lengthened. Scots have a tendency to put – ie on the end of names so Campbells and Camerons are universally know as Cammies.

    I sympathised with them. naming characters is a fraught business and I'm now on my 8th book and running out of ideas. And why is it that when you think you've found the perfect name and Google it, it always turns out that it's shared by a footballer or porn star?…

  8. AliB

    Loved Emotional Geology – didn't realise it was Linda's first. Must get round to some of the others 🙂

  9. Sheryl Browne

    Oh, this is a fascinating post, Linda. Your love of Scotland shines through. The photographs are quite breath taking and intriguing and your books sound fascinating and intriguing too. I adore Keir and his flash of gorgeous red hair! Thanks for sharing, Anne. 🙂 xx

  10. Linda Gillard

    Thanks, Sheryl. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

    Keir's hair is quite remarkable. Redheads are common enough in Scotland (no school bullying of gingers here) but people do stop us in streets & shops to marvel at it – I suppose because it's so bright and there's so much of it.

    Those of you who know my books will perhaps think he should have been called Hector after my red-headed ghost-hero in THE GLASS GUARDIAN. 😉

  11. Kathie

    I love Linda's books. I think I've read them all. Not being in the UK, I can only imagine Scotland. It's a place I'd love to visit! I do spend a lot of time visiting the past of my own country. My favorite is The Glass Guardian. Email is kathiebarrus@yahoo.com. Could I pay postage if I won?

  12. Linda Gillard

    Thanks, Kathie. Paying the excess postage would be fine with me, but it's Anne's call. I'd love to make this a global giveaway but posting books is an expensive business.

  13. dawn obrien

    oh what a fab interview Anne, if I won I'd love a copy of "Emotional-Geology", a thinking womans romance book sounds brill! (although they all sound brill TBH) dawn @3obriens

  14. Linda Gillard

    Thanks, Dawn. Women's fiction has really grown up now, but I was one of the trail-blazers. When EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY was published in 2005 I was interviewed by the Sunday Times. The main thing the bright young female journalist seemed interested in was the phenomenon of my single 47-year old heroine having sex with someone gorgeous and younger. We had a lovely chat about it during which she sighed and said, "I hope I'll still be having sex when I'm 40…"

    EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY is a love story for all those women who don't think 40 is the beginning of the end. 😉

  15. Neats W

    What a wonderful post Anne. I haven't had the pleasure of reading any of Linda's books and from the sound of it I'm missing out. I love the sound of The Glass Guardian

  16. Anne Stormont

    Enjoyed this post, Linda and Anne. I've read and loved Emotional Geology, Stargazing and The Glass Guardian and I now have Untying the Knot loaded onto my Kindle.

  17. Normandie Fischer

    I just finished my fourth of Linda's books (must get more reviews posted!) and am looking forward to rounding out the list. I write books set in coastal North Carolina, Italy, and other fun spots, but I long to return to Scotland. My month-long visit there took place in another time, many decades ago. Castles and Scotland? Oh, yes! If only I could afford another vacation…

    Until then, I'm devouring Linda's books–for the place, for the characters, for the stories–and for the intelligence that created them.

    When will we see your next?

    (I'm sorry to say that I'm not in the UK.)

  18. Linda Gillard

    Thanks, Normandie. I was thrilled to hear you've already enjoyed 4 of my books. I'm hoping to get the next book out before the end of the year but I'm well behind schedule, so I'm making no promises. It's called THE TRYSTING TREE (well, that's the working title.) The tree links two stories concerning the same family, one set in 2014 and the other set in 1914.

  19. Nicola Clough

    Nicola Clough.

    I also have a love for Scotland and love reading books that are based from there as I really visualise the places and imagine I am there. Stargazing looks amazing I love Skye and think it's a wonderful place and would love to read the book. I haven't read any of your books yet as only just found your books through a recommendation and would love to work my way through them as your post was so interesting and has got me very interested in your books. Be amazing to read a book of yours thank you for the chance to win.

  20. Linda Gillard

    Hi Nicola. When I was on holiday in the Highlands & islands years ago I used to look for fiction about the area and I pretty much drew a blank apart from the classics. I was surprised to see that shops on Skye sold those torrid American "Highland" romances featuring tartan-clad (but despite the midges, bare-chested!) lairds & chieftains called Dane or Kyle. Those were not my cup of tea and I tended to buy volumes of Scots poetry to take home instead. (I recommend Norman McCaig and Ian Stephen.)

    In the end I gave up looking for my perfect Hebridean love story and decided to write one myself. That book became EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY, my first novel and still the favourite of many readers.

  21. Normandie Fischer

    I understand falling behind schedule. It's happening here, too. (Perhaps that grandbaby of yours is contributory? Mine is.)

    Looking forward to The Trysting Tree. Great title.

  22. Normandie Fischer

    Linda, in my thirties (a very long time ago), I found some rather wonderful novels set in Scotland that focused their story around fly fishing. I wish I could remember the author's name (a man), but this was before computers and long before the Internet–and I no longer live near the library from which I pulled them. I don't suppose that rings a bell with any of your readers? I felt immersed in the place, the language, and the people as I read those and would love to find them again.

  23. Linda Gillard

    Normandie, I don't know these books, but a little searching online made me wonder if they were by Bill Knox who wrote under several pseudonyms for the US market – Michael Kirk, Robert MacLeod and Noah Webster.

    If he's not the one, I could ask on my FB author page. People love to play Guess the Book! I expect someone will know.

  24. jaffareadstoo.....

    What a lovely post with so much interesting information. I've loved Linda's books and would be thrilled to have a signed copy to treasure …

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