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Laurin “Peridot” Wittig
On Researching her Historical Romances
Like most authors of historical fiction, I have my private research library that I depend upon for obscure facts and those small details that bring my stories to life on the page. Most of my research books and maps (I LOVE maps!) were acquired on a research trip to Scotland and I could not do what I do without them. That said, the very best research I’ve done was to actually travel to the part of Scotland where most of my books are set, Argyll, and specifically the Kilmartin Glen where my first book, The Devil of Kilmartin, is set. Walking among the Temple Wood stone circle, imaging my characters there on a moonlit night, brought the setting to life for me as nothing else had done. Smelling the damp air, watching English robins flit in the trees, and touching a stone wall so old it had soft, brilliant green moss over an inch thick growing on it, helped me to put myself in my characters’ skins in a way books just don’t do.
Oddly, there were two things that really made the medieval people I write about real to me while I was in Scotland. The first was when I was looking at changes that had been made to Linlithgow Palace, specifically a bricked up doorway. My bff and fellow writer, Pamela Palmer, was with me and as we pondered why a doorway was closed up and the door moved, we began to spin a story about how the wife of one of the Kings James must have said, “Darling, I just hate that this door breaks up this wall so much. Couldn’t we move it over there?” pointing six feet to the left. Who hasn’t wanted to renovate a home now and again? We both suddenly understood deep in our bones that the people who lived in these castles had similar likes, dislikes, and desires about their homes that modern people have, and just as suddenly, our fictional characters had life breathed into them.
The other thing that brought these medieval people alive for my friend and me were the privies. Seriously, we became obsessed with the privies. Though when we visited Castle Sween at dusk in a drizzling rain and discovered that the privy tower was, by the odor wafting out of it, clearly still in use, most likely by some of the people in the holiday caravan park (aka an RV campground in American English) that surrounded the oldest standing medieval castle in Scotland, we decided that our obsession had limits, and that some details were probably best left out of our stories.
Though I have not been able to get back to Scotland in far too long, the research I did when I was there has carried me through all of my books and my novella. The standing stones I saw in the Kilmartin glen and elsewhere, and the mystery surrounding the people who erected and decorated them inspired my latest series, Guardians of the Targe. The Highland Targe is a stone decorated with a triskele that is important to the entire series, but there is also a standing stone—the Story Stone—in the second and third books, Highlander Avenged and Highlander Redeemed, that plays an important role in the series. You can see the real stone that inspired my fictional one in this picture.
One of these days—soon I hope—I’ll get back to Scotland and new characters and stories will come alive for me, informing even more stories with the history and sense of place that comes from actually standing on Scottish soil.