Since we’re doing “best of” blogs here this month, I thought I’d share my recent interview for the HEA Blog at USA Today. This appeared on August 6th. You can read more of Joyce Lamb’s interviews here: USA Today HEA Blog
By Joyce Lamb, USA TODAY
Margo Maguire aims for intense emotion and conflict in her books, so it’s no wonder that RT Book Reviews says her latest, The Warrior Laird, “may be her most emotionally moving novel yet.” Margo joins us today to talk aboutThe Warrior Laird, treasure maps and the Rock*It Reads venture focused on self-published books.
Joyce: Welcome to HEA, Margo! So the Scottish Highlands setting for The Warrior Laird is a new setting/new era for you. How did that come about?
Margo: I was ready for a change! My last five books and two novellas were Regency-era stories, and I started feeling the need to get out of the drawing room. (Plus, I felt a distinct urge to write a hunky hero in a kilt …)
No, honestly, I have a natural tendency to write a more adventure-driven story, so I thought the Scottish Highlands would work well for me. My heroes are big and bold. They are not as likely to show up in a ballroom as they are to turn up on horseback, with a sword drawn in a mad chase to rescue the heroine from a dastardly villain. My heroines are feisty wenches who might know how to present themselves well in a ballroom, but they’re not usually preoccupied with fashions and frippery. Their issues are life-and-death. And in The Warrior Laird, the hero and heroine each have an agenda that runs counter to the other. In a big way.
Joyce: RT Book Reviews calls The Warrior Laird your “most emotionally moving novel yet.” What is it about the book that’s so moving? (Just those two words together — “emotionally moving” — would have sent me to Amazon to pre-order if I didn’t already have a copy!)
Margo: Thank you!
I think stories set in the Scottish Highlands lend themselves to intense emotion. The stakes are so incredibly high for the Highlanders, and in the case of The Warrior Laird, the hero, Dugan MacMillan, has already lived through hell. When he was a mere child, he watched his parents die during a Royalist attack at the massacre at Glencoe. In truly heroic fashion, he managed to get his younger siblings to safety. Years later — when my story begins — he is determined to protect his clan from being victimized, and will go to any lengths to protect them. He is desperate.
And then there’s Maura Duncanson, who is the daughter of a royalist earl, but she is the black sheep of the family. She despises her parents for sending away her beloved youngest sister, a physically and mentally handicapped child. When the opportunity to rescue wee Rosie arises, Maura grabs it with both hands, even though her purposes run counter to those of Dugan MacMillan. Dugan saves Maura’s life, and she knows his quest is vital. But so is her own mission. She feels guilty for manipulating Dugan into helping her when she knows his clan is in trouble. But Rosie is in desperate need and could die if Maura does not come to her aid. Maura cannot give up on her.
Joyce: I love the thief-treasure map theme. Were there any movies or books that you watched or read to inspire ideas?
Margo: Nope. No movies, no books. My husband gets the credit for this one.
Dugan needs money, and a lot of it, in order to prevent his clan from being evicted. He’s heard a rumor of a hidden cache of gold left by the French during a previous uprising, but I couldn’t just let my hero walk right up to the treasure and save his clan. Where would the drama be in that? (Besides, if it were that easy, somebody else would have found it before he did.)
I knew I had to make Dugan jump through some hoops, but I wasn’t sure exactly how to pull it off. So, when I was bouncing ideas off my husband, he came up with the map idea. (He’s a brilliant guy.) The difficulties Dugan runs into with deciphering the map were all my idea, though. He acquires only two quarters of the map, and Maura has one, leaving one quarter still missing. When Dugan puts together the three quarters, Maura is the one who figures out the key, but she is afraid to tell Dugan. She figures he will take it all and possibly abandon her, leaving her to do the near-impossible search for Rosie on her own. So she keeps her information to herself and manipulates him into helping her.
Joyce: How did you fall into league with those shady characters over there at The Sisterhood of the Jaunty Quills blog?
It all started about seven years ago, when I switched publishers and started writing for Avon Books. At the same time, there were six other authors whose Avon debut books were also coming out that year. We banded together and created a group blog to chat about all sorts of things — not just our books. We’ve grown and changed/added some members over the past several years, but our mission is still the same. We love to engage with readers who want to know us — want to know about our books, but also our lives and our interests. We blog every day but Sundays, and we run lots of drawings to do book giveaways. We love to hear from readers!
Joyce: You’re also a member of the Rock*It Reads endeavor aimed at helping readers find quality indie-published books. Now that RIR is a few months off the ground, how is it going? There’s a review column for B&N, too, isn’t there?
Margo: Yes! This is such an exciting venture for us. I am one of several traditionally published authors who have banded together to form a “brand” that delivers excellent-quality self-published books. We became aware that there’s a huge inventory of independently produced books that are … well, not exactly top-notch. We decided to try to fill the void, so readers will have some excellent choices beyond what traditional N.Y. publishers offer. We’re not a publisher, but more of a co-op of authors who are producing books of the same quality — or higher — than we would for our N.Y. publishers. We have great stories, excellent formatting, beautiful covers. … And when a reader downloads a Rock*It Reads book, she knows she will be getting a quality piece of work. Some of our members have full-length books available through Rock*It Reads, and they are very popular! I have only one work available right now — a novella called Brash (which has done quite well, I might add). More will come, as soon as I finish my next book for Avon that follows The Warrior Laird.
Another exciting piece of the Rock*It brand is that we’re writing a bi-weekly column for Barnes & Noble called Love Rocks. We’re each taking turns writing articles that review and recommend independent books for download — not our own. We’re doing the searches and vetting the books for you before you buy! My column highlighted books that are “off the beaten path.” Two were detective stories set in New Brunswick, Canada, and another story whose first 25% covered the teenage relationship of the hero and heroine. All were unusual and very “recommendable.” You cancheck us out here, and don’t forget to look through our archives for even more suggestions on great reads. A lot of these books are priced very nicely!
Joyce: Please tell us more about The Warrior Laird and what readers can expect to see from you next.
Margo: Well, I have to tell you that I fell in love with the Scottish Highlands all over again as I wrote this book. (I must talk my husband into going back there soon!) The characters are so colorful, they practically jumped from my imagination onto the page. I’ve got Dugan MacMillan, a man who has seen too much tragedy in his life, and who will go to any lengths to protect his clan. And there’s Maura Duncanson, a headstrong young woman who is just as determined to rescue her sister as Dugan is to save his people. Of course they bump heads — and other body parts — through the course of this story. I decided to stay away from the politics of the era (mostly) in order to concentrate on Dugan’s and Maura’s goals and the conflicts between them. Each character has to fight for what he or she loves most, and they come to love each other in the process.
Joyce: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Margo: I hope you’ll visit my website and read an excerpt from The Warrior Laird. Or go to one of the online bookstores and sample the first few pages. I’d be delighted to see you on Facebook — just tell me you saw me on the USA TODAY HEA column!
Joyce: Thanks, Margo!