A Prepublished Novel in the Process of Revisions and Rewrites

Monday, June 1, 2009

Please welcome Eilidh MacKenzie, Black Rose Editor, TWRP

Hello, Eilidh!

As you may all know, Eilidh is an editor at The Wild Rose Press . Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us about the things you see in submissions that are either off kilter in this case with Scottish research and other taboos we authors tend to not notice that take a manuscript down into the slush pile of sudden death.

I for one am happy to sit back and listen to the things that both irritate you enough to reject a manuscript as well give you positive cause to accept a manuscript. So without further adieu take it, Eilidh.

Thank you, Dayana. I edit for the Wild Rose Press’s Black and Champagne Rose lines and I’m happy to talk about what I look for in a manuscript. I’ll be popping in all day to answer questions, so feel free to comment.

Factual and historical accuracy is very important to me. Thorough research makes your story ring true and your readers can experience a different world. As a Scot working in romance publishing, I sometimes cringe at the descriptions of Scottish people and history. Subs come over my desk asserting that all of Scotland’s strong young men were killed in the battles with the English. Well, that was true 260 years ago, but a generation later, there was a whole new crop of strong young men.

I’ve lost count of the historical or time travel stories, whose hero, seven hundred or a thousand years ago, is the stereotypical kilted Highlander, the noble underdog, struggling against oppression by the English. Actually, when the Scots weren’t cattle raiding and pillaging their own Highland and Lowland neighbors, they made outright invasions of English territory. The English perpetrated horrific retaliations, but if you bang on a beehive, you gotta expect to be stung.

And they didn’t wear kilts back then! In fact, when the modern kilt became popular in the nineteenth century, it was a fashion statement stimulated by Queen Victoria’s romance with the Highlands. By the time Highlanders fought in kilts, they were fighting for the English, in the British army.

Okay, I’ve calmed down a bit now. I must admit that, of course, Highlanders wore a form of the kilt centuries ago and yes, they fought against the English, but probably not as much as they fought amongst themselves. The original kilt—the belted plaid—showed up around 1600. It was a vast plaid blanket, maybe five feet wide and up to twenty feet long. The wearer scrunched it by handfuls up the middle of the length and belted the bundle around his waist. The plaid fell below the waist to about the knee, and the top half was draped and pinned about the torso.

Sounds awkward, but this was actually a practical garment in the gales, rain, and snow of the Highlands. The naturally dyed colors blended with the heather and gorse of the mountains, so your rival clansmen didn’t catch you stealing their cattle, and the layers of wool kept some warmth trapped against the body. Scratchy, yes, but a linen shirt under the plaid made it comfortable. At night, you could wrap the plaid around yourself, and a friend, if you were lucky, for a cosy sleeping bag.

What does all this have to do with romance novels? Those Highland warriors make superb alpha male heroes. I would dearly love to see manuscripts showing the realities of Highland life, instead of the softened, cartoonish, pretend Scots that never existed. Two excellent resources for learning about the Scotland that actually was are The Emperor’s New Kilt: The Two Secret Histories of Scotland, by Jan-Andrew Henderson, and How the Scots Invented the Modern World, by Arthur Herman.

Here’s tae us; wha’s like us?
Damn few, and they’re a’ deid.

(a Scottish toast)

Eilidh MacKenzie


  1. Wow, Eilidh! I love this post!

    I so agree with you. Being a history buff myself (and of Scottish descent) I feel as you do. You have listed two great books for research, by the way. I'm such a stickler for research too. I do love alpha heroes but I would like to see history in stories that is more realistic depicting the Highlands. I’m sure since this is a popular hero type and subject you see an over abundance of Highlander stories crossing your desk!

    Thanks for this great post, Dayana and Eilidh.

  2. Wonderful interview, Dayana and Eilidh. It seems only brief bits of history stick in our brain, or perhaps all the novels we've read over the years have made those small glimpses of time seem longer then they actually were.
    I do like the thought of a manly man in a short skirt!

  3. Great Interview. There's nothing that rips me, as a reader, from a book than an inaccuracy that I know to be incorrect. It just colors my view on the rest of the book.

  4. I loved hearing your history tidbits. You must be a wealth of knowledge on the subject.
    My question is this. If I have a Scottish hero in say 1880, and he'd been here since he was a child. How much of a brogue do you suggest I write in his dialogue, and can you suggest a good source for the correct way to write it? It's a hard one. I wish I knew how to search these things better.
    Thanks for another great post Eilidh and Dayana. Love the names both.

  5. Thanks, Kaye, Catherine, and Kristy. There's been a romantic tradition about stories set in the Highlands since Sir Walter Scott made them popular, about 200 years ago. I love to see Highlander stories coming in, but I enjoy them most when they're based on reality and not on the romantic myths. Of course, reality is relative when you work for the Black Rose line!

    Hi, Mary.
    Where is "here" in your comment? I working from Scotland this summer, but I'll assume your question is from the USA.

    If your hero has been in the States since he was a child, he probably won't have any Scottish accent left. I moved to Canada at age 4, my cousins moved there when they were 9, and we have no accent left. (Until I go home to visit family. Then I pick it up again.) My parents were in their twenties when we moved and they still have some Scottish accent left.

    For spelling a Scottish accent, you could refer to the poems of Robert Burns. That will give you spelling of Scots, which used to be called Broad Scots. This was a dialect understood across the Lowlands, though not used in the Highlands. For a Glaswegian accent, look for a dictionary of Glasgow slang. I'll do some checking myself online, and post URLs tomorrow maybe for reference websites for Scottish dialects and accents.

    Hope this helps.
    Cheers, Eilidh

  6. Hi Eilidh, I am a WRP author. I don't write historical but I read many and thoroughly enjoyed your story of the Scottish kilt.

  7. Great information, Eilidh. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Okay here, say in the USA specifically in Vermont?

  9. Hi, Mary.

    Here are a few websites you can check out for hints on Scottish dialects. If you do a Google search for "Scots language" or "Scottish dialects" you'll find lots of information.







    Hope this helps. Cheers, Eilidh

  10. Hello everyone! Thank you so much for joining us yesterday. My internet is down and I'm responding from work but I wanted to do a quick response overall.

    Thank you E for such a wonderfully motivating talk!



  11. Sorry, I missed this last week!!!

    I love HOW SCOTS INVENTED THE MODERN WORLD!!! And I love how the Scots save the world in Hubbard's BATTLEFIELD EARTH. LOL

    What part of Scotland are you from, Eilidh? Weeeell, I have time travelers from the future who wear kilts throughout history, implying they caused the trend. That takes care of the reader expection of a kilted Scotsman and the ones who know better. ;) The stories are both Faery and Black Roses... Time Guardians.

    Have a great weekend! ~Skhye

  12. Hi Skhye,

    I'm from the Outer Hebrides, the Isle of Lewis, and I'm working this summer from there. It's amazing the impact the Scots have had on world history, often as not by sheer bloody-mindedness. Maybe that has something to do with our Irish heritage? They have much the same reputation. ;-)