Volume 8 – How I Became a Local Author in Another Country

How I Became a Local Author in Another Country

When I came to Inverness, Scotland for my annual month, I brought with me a carry on stuffed with copies of The Comyn’s Curse. Each book had a sticky-note with a name on it, and a bookmark inserted at the beginning of the section in which that person, restaurant, store, or tourist site was mentioned.

This was not to be a touring visit, although I’m managing quite a lot of sightseeing. It was a marketing and thank-you visit. The books were courtesy copies, and the hope was that people would read them, display them, and in some cases possibly order more copies.

As a joke, I began my pitch in the Waterstone’s Bookstore by saying, “I’m a local author–pay no attention to the New Jersey accent.” He laughed, but then said, “Well, you do write about Scotland, aye?” And it hit me. I do write about Scotland. About Inverness and Inverness shire in particular. I write about local legends, and other than my protagonist, almost all my characters are Scots.

So I’m a local author three thousand plus miles from where I live, which brings with it some very unique challenges:

Language – but they speak English in Scotland, right? Aye, they do, but English varies widely throughout the nations that call it their own. Add to that the need to write for the market where your book will be published, and the specific regions and backgrounds from which your characters come, and you have a real soup boiling there!

History – Well, this seems simple. Just do the research. But let’s take Brexit, for example, which was the political bombshell I used for the mystery in my first novel. What an American understands (if anything, in many cases) as opposed to the daily barrage a European is forced to deal with, is very different. Political opinions vary widely worldwide on almost every issue imaginable, and if you want to write intelligently about them you have to put yourselves in your character’s world.

Customs – Of course it’s easier to write from your own experience of the customs and idiosyncrasies in your own country, state, even neighborhood. But what if you don’t want to? What if your passion lies somewhere else? Well, if you can, go there. Spend time with the locals. Join a Facebook page devoted to the country or state of your dreams. If you can’t go, read. And read some more. I spend so much time reading British literature, I find myself slipping into vernacular that isn’t mine on occasion, which gets some head shakes and eye rolls. Yeah, I see you doing that!

I thought I had it down, really. But I didn’t, not by a long shot. I had an American protagonist who thought in American, Scottish characters who spoke with a light or heavy brogue but of course thought in their own dialect, a Frenchwoman, an Englishwoman–Augghh! It was a juggling act.

But anyone can learn to juggle, and with the aid of new Scottish friends, a newly-found kinswoman who lives in Inverness and tweaks my local word usage, and the internet and library, I spun it all into a rather decent book. And the second one will be better, and the third better than that.

I’m a local author in Inverness, Scotland, with a South Jersey accent. And for me, it works.

Links for Writers

How to Write About a Country You’ve Never Visited https://www.writersdigest.com/guest-columns/travel-on-the-page-how-to-write-about-a-country-youve-never-visited

How Do You Write About a Country You Don’t Know Well? https://www.bryndonovan.com/2016/05/02/how-do-you-write-a-story-set-in-a-place-you-dont-know-well/

Leave ’em Laughing

6 thoughts on “Volume 8 – How I Became a Local Author in Another Country

    • mackinnonauthor says:
      mackinnonauthor – I’ve always been a writer. When I was eight, I wrote a story called “Princess Zelda”, which was a plagiarized mixture of Moses and Cinderella, and begged my mother for weeks to take it to the local library and get them to publish it. Her gentle refusal to do so, while setting my career as an author back a few years, did not stop me from continuing my writing. I have since learned that there are a few more steps between pencil copy and library.

      Well, I’ve sold a few copies since I’ve been there, and Margaret read it in one day and said she visualized the Owls sitting in her sitting room, so I think something is going on there! And did you think for one minute that my agent wouldn’t be checking up on those places! You do know him, right?

      • Kathleen Kiel says:

        Yes, of course, I knew he would be on that! So funny about Margaret. Nick is finally ordering your book. I told him he could get it on Kindle but he wants a book so you can sign it. I told him all you care about is writing a review, haha!

      • mackinnonauthor says:
        mackinnonauthor – I’ve always been a writer. When I was eight, I wrote a story called “Princess Zelda”, which was a plagiarized mixture of Moses and Cinderella, and begged my mother for weeks to take it to the local library and get them to publish it. Her gentle refusal to do so, while setting my career as an author back a few years, did not stop me from continuing my writing. I have since learned that there are a few more steps between pencil copy and library.

        Nick is my favorite of your children! Although that could change if the other two order the book!

  1. Lyn Blair says:
    Lyn Blair – I wish I could say, "I began reading at age four and by the time I was six, I was writing short stories." But...I wasn't always a writer, not even close. Schools tested with multiple-choice questions while I was growing up, and I don't even remember writing an essay until college. So, when my first and only college English professor made us write a 250- word essay, my dormant writing ability was put to the test. Despite all my squirming, fidgeting and fingernail biting, my writing hand refused to move and a blank page stared back at me. What's more, comfort food beckoned and the dorm's vending machine began calling my name. Relenting, I scarfed down the first ice-cream sandwich but ate the next two more slowly, letting chocolate work its magic. However, serotonin can only do so much for you. Inspiration remained a stranger and the blank page lingered in front of me. In a fit of desperation, I scrutinized the ice cream wrapper and found my topic. Detailing more than you'd ever want to know about ice-cream sandwiches, I started and finished the essay. Admittedly, this was not my finest writing moment. Even so, an enchantment with words had captured my heart, although not so much in English. I got a degree in foreign languages, majoring in Spanish and Portuguese. Years later I looked up the definitions of little words, words like "the," "of," "for" and "in." Somewhere during this word defining adventure, inspiration tapped me on the shoulder and for a brief time, poems and short stories poured out of me. For the past 15 years, I’ve worked as a freelance copywriter and flexed my word crafting muscles. Also during this time, life has dealt me some tough challenges, and creative writing became cathartic. After a writer friend encouraged me, I wrote a rough draft for a novel. Deluged with ideas, I had more than would ever fit into one book, so my novel turned into a trilogy, which I'm still working on. Genres? I love writing in the paranormal, Sci-Fi / Fantasy, dystopian, and apocalyptic genres. I also enjoy weaving romantic subplots into my stories. Certain ideas form a driving message that pervades my writing: stories where other universes abound and where my characters rise like phoenixes from the ashes. I love stories where the “better angels of our nature” find their time of awakening. And I enjoy sharing these ideas with readers who also like that kind of story. ("Better angels of our nature" is a phrase that Abraham Lincoln used in his first inaugural address. The full quote is: "The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.")

    Great blog!

    What an adventure you embarked on. Not only did you return to Scotland, but you handed out your novels to people living or working in the points of interest you described in your book. Brave gal! I loved it.

    I read the articles from your links, and they were quite awesome too. Definitely food for thought. Now I realize that I have a place in my first novel that I need to research more. Either that, or give the spot a made up name. The time it would take to walk on foot from one location to another was also very interesting and how an author got busted on that detail.

    And…I got a good laugh out of the “wee lassie”!

  2. mackinnonauthor says:
    mackinnonauthor – I’ve always been a writer. When I was eight, I wrote a story called “Princess Zelda”, which was a plagiarized mixture of Moses and Cinderella, and begged my mother for weeks to take it to the local library and get them to publish it. Her gentle refusal to do so, while setting my career as an author back a few years, did not stop me from continuing my writing. I have since learned that there are a few more steps between pencil copy and library.

    Thanks for reading, and I love it when a writer actually gets some use out of my links! I was quite full of myself after the first book when I thought I had the dialects and terms nailed down, and found that I was off the mark on a few things. I found a kinswoman, as I said, who lives right here in Inverness and is on call. She also works for the police, so that helps with the mystery!

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