Friday, May 13, 2011

HIGHLANDER WEEK: Interview & Giveaway w/author Michelle Willingham

Ach, this is it, the last author post for Highlander Week! And to end things right I have an interview with historical romance author, Michelle Willingham, who has a new Highlander Trilogy. Her first release, Claimed by a Highland Warrior, was released just a few weeks ago and her second novel in the trilogy, Seduced by Her Highland Warrior, will be released at the end of July. Make sure to stick around at the end for a great giveaway!

Michelle WillinghamHi Michelle, thank you for taking the time to stop by during Highlander Week! Can you start off by telling us a little something about yourself?

I live in southeastern Virginia with my husband and three kids, ages 9, 7, and 3.  It makes for a busy household!  I used to teach sixth grade American History and English before I retired to write full time.  I love writing historical romance, especially because it gives me the opportunity to travel for research.

Where does your love for writing historical romances stem from?

The very first historical romance I read was "The Maiden" by Jude Deveraux.  I loved it and bought all her books, especially the medievals.  Then I read all of LaVyrle Spencer's historicals, which had amazing characters.  Morning Glory is still my favorite of all the books she wrote.  Reading historical romances provides an escape from the real word and sweeps you away.

Do you have any quirks while writing and what kind of research do you do beforehand? You have a beautiful photo gallery on your website, are these pictures from your own travels?

I have to write to music.  It's very difficult for me to get caught up in the story if the room is silent, and I mostly listen to movie/tv soundtracks such as "The Tudors," "Gladiator," "Braveheart," and "Last of the Mohicans."  In many ways, the music helps me to sink my teeth into the story and I write the movie I'm watching in my head.  I usually do 3 or 4 drafts of a book with a lot of layering.  I rarely outline anything and writing is a discovery process for me.

When I research a book, I read as many reference books as I can get my hands on, and I try to find primary sources, when possible.  I did travel to Scotland to finish the research for my Highlander trilogy and took photographs of medieval artifacts in the National Museum in Edinburgh.  I'm a big believer in doing research on location, if possible.  I did that with my Irish MacEgan Brothers series, and it really helped me to establish a sense of place.

Claimed by the Highland WarriorYou recently had a release for Claimed by the Highland Warrior; can you tell us a bit about it?

The hero, Bram MacKinloch, is already married to his childhood sweetheart Nairna, but he was taken as a prisoner of war during the Scottish Wars of Independence.  The book opens when he's trying to escape his English captors.

When the Bram and his wife Nairna are reunited, they are virtual strangers to one another and have to fall in love all over again.  But the scars of Bram's past prevent him from confiding in his wife, for fear that she'll believe him to be weak.  The emotional distance is a challenge they have to overcome.

What is the thing you liked best about writing your hero, Bram? What do you think readers will like best about him?

Bram is a deliciously tormented hero.  He struggles against the nightmares that plague him, especially since his brother Callum is still a prisoner, and Bram will stop at nothing to free him.  He suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (although in the medieval era, they wouldn't have known what that was at the time).  I hope readers will enjoy watching him transform from a broken man into a strong hero who would make any woman swoon.

Was there a scene that was truly emotional for you while writing?

There's a scene when Bram desperately wants to make love with his wife Nairna, but he starts to lose control of his reality when visions blur the line between past and present.  He's so afraid of hurting her, and yet he wants nothing more than to spend the night in her arms.

You describe on your website, Claimed by the Highland Warrior, as being a cross between “Braveheart” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”  Can you explain that for readers who haven’t seen Braveheart *gasp* or the musical? What drew you to the Highlands for the story’s setting?

The Braveheart era takes place during the first part of the Scottish Wars of Independence, around 1296-1306.  England was actively trying to suppress Scotland's desire for Independence, though King Edward was quite sneaky about his means for doing so.  By 1305, there were English garrisons all over Scotland, rather like military bases to keep the Scots in line.  You can imagine that the Highlanders, in particular, were not happy about this.

"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" is a musical where the heroine marries the hero in a love-at-first-sight moment, and when she returns to his home, she finds he has six unmarried, untamed brothers…and she's out in the wilderness with no women.  In Claimed by the Highland Warrior, the heroine Nairna is already married to the hero and she finds that all of the women (except the chief's wife) left, taking the children with them. A bewildered Nairna wonders why and what she has to do to bring them back again.

I've always loved the Scottish Highlands for a setting because it's a wild, dramatic landscape.  The people who could live in such conditions would have to be strong fighters.

Seduced by Her Highland WarriorDo you have a favorite character in the novel, and why?

Laren MacKinloch became a favorite secondary character, rather unexpectedly.  As the estranged wife of the clan chief, she befriends Nairna, but feels very insecure in herself.  I sympathized with her terrible shyness but was startled when I discovered that Laren holds a secret talent for making stained glass.  In her heart, she's an artist.  Her book, Seduced by Her Highland Warrior, will come out in late July.

This is a start of a new series for you. Can you described the overall series arc and your plans for it?

The first book marks Bram's escape and his quest to free Callum.  He and his wife are virtual strangers who must learn to fall in love all over again.  The second book mirrors this concept with Alex and Laren, who have been married for years with daughters, and yet have grown so far apart, they question whether or not to stay together.  In the third book, Callum MacKinloch cannot speak and although he's in love with a Duke's daughter, he knows he has nothing to offer her.  The theme of emotional distance, marital distance, and a physical impediment as distance, tend to carry through the three books.

How do you come up with the right heroines for your warriors? Is there a process or do they just come to you while you’re writing?

I try to contrast my heroines with my heroes.  Bram is a tormented warrior, while Nairna is a woman who loves to take care of people.  Yet she can't heal the scars she can't see, and it hurts her to be pushed away.  In the second book, Alex is the clan chief who was born to be a leader.  Laren is painfully shy and would rather throw herself off a cliff than address her people.  Using contrasting characteristics gives the characters room to grow and change throughout the books.

Thank you again for coming by for an interview Michelle! Is there anything else that you would like to share with readers or do you have any last comments?

Thank you for hosting me! I hope readers will enjoy the new series, and I'm happy to give away a signed copy of Claimed by the Highland Warrior to a random commenter.  Just tell mewho was your favorite tormented hero, either in a book or a movie?

Find out more at Michelle's website
And read an excerpt of Claimed by the Highland Warrior here
Buy from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, and wherever books are sold.


As Michelle said, she is giving away a signed copy of Claimed by the Highland Warrior. To enter, just leave a comment answering her question above!

Make sure to leave your email address when commenting, open Internationally. Giveaway will end at 11:59pm pm May 21st. 


  1. Definitely James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser (Jamie) ("Jamie McTavish) in Outlander. Man, what happened to him just blew my total ever loving mind!

  2. Congratulations to Michelle on the release of Claimed by a Highlanders. I am a big fan of Highlanders Romances. Especially in a series. I look forward to reading her new book. As for favorite tortured Highlander, I have to agree with Chandra. Jaimie Fraser is by far my most favorite tormented Hero. While I really enjoyed Outlander it was emotionally, the my toughest read.

    rjofus AT gmail DOT com

  3. Great post! I’m so glad that blogger is back, even if they did mess stuff up….
    anyhow, my favorite tormented hero is not actually a highlander, but Zhadist from the Black Dagger Brotherhood….dude was seriously tormented….
    booksavvybabe AT gmail DOT com

  4. Congrats on the new release, Michelle. One of my favorite tortured heroes is Robert from Gaelen Foley's "The Duke." He's tormented and trying to avenge the death of a woman he loved.

    janie1215 AT excite DOT com

  5. Great interview! Michelle, the series sounds WONDERFUL! I can't wait to get to it.

    I agree that Jamie Fraser is a tormented character, but my favorite tormented character is Jason Bourne. Poor guy has no idea who he is, why people are out to kill him or why he has all these skills.

  6. Lachlain MacRieve from Kresley Cole's A Hunger like no Other. He was tortured for years and broke free to ger to his mate.

    Your book sound great would love to win :-)

  7. Mine is Zsadist from JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood.

  8. I have two favorite tormented heroes. Zsadist from J.R. Ward's BDB series and Patrick MacGregor from Monica McCarthy's Highland Outlaw.

    These two just break my heart. Love them!

    sok99c AT hotmail DOT com

  9. Congrats Michelle for the release of your book ^_^

    My favorite tortured hero is Zsadist from BDB by J.R.Ward (I think he the most favorite tortured hero here, LOL), Marc Hunter from Unlawful Contact by Pamela Clare (I'm amost cry when read his story) and for historical genre, I'll go with Leo Hathaways from Hathaways series by Lisa Kleypas. I know he's not tortured again in his book Married by Morning, but sure he do at the 1st book (Mine till Midnight) :)

    Thanks for the giveaway
    sawamura_foxman AT yahoo DOT com

  10. Although it may at first seems that he was not atortured hero I will go for William Wallace in Braveheart.

    Mel Gibson is also one of my favorite actors.

    Thanks for the giveaway.

    Carol T

    buddytho {a} gmail DOT com

  11. Odd Thomas from the book with the same title by Dean Koontz. Theer are certainly more, but this one's the first that comes to mind. I don't cry often, but at the end of that book I did!

    danaan at gmx dot at

  12. Sorry to be jumping in late here--we were traveling yesterday, and this was my first Internet access. :)

    Zsadist from the BDB is definitely one of my all-time favorite tormented men!

    And Jamie was a great hero, as well. It was fun to watch him evolve over the course of the Outlander books. :)

  13. I looooove men in kilts, it just slays me. The brogue, confidence and overall maleness of Highlanders is just about the sexiest thing imaginable. The most tortured soul in my mind would have to be Acheron from Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series. That poor guy took it hard for millenia.

  14. Congrats on the new release, Michelle! This sounds like a fabulous new series, one I can't wait to read. My favorite tortured hero is Lindsey from ADDICTED by Charlotte Featherstone. Thanks for the giveaway.

  15. My favorite tormented heroe is William Wallace from Braveheart. First he loses his Father and than is wife. Please enter me in contest. I would love to read this book.

  16. One of my favorite tortured heroes would have to be Damien from Gaelen Foley's book Lord of Ice. Loved that character and book.

    GFC follower: June M.
    manning_j2004 at yahoo dot com

  17. I've been hearing such great things about this book and have enjoyed the excerpt. I enjoy anything Scottish so the first person to come to mind was Mel Gibson's portrayl of William Wallace in Braveheart. A very tortured soul!!


  18. Awesome to hear, Michelle! Can't wait to read this new series--I LOVED your MacEgans, and can't wait to add these to my keeper shelf, too.

    As for tormented heroes, Anna Campbell's Claiming the Courtesan features the Duke of Kylemore, who has lots of darkness to work through...

    f dot chen at comcast dot net

  19. I'll pick Acheron from Kenyon's Dark-hunter series.

  20. Sounds great! Thanks for the chance to win!

    I just love tormented heroes. One of my favorites would have to be Zsadist from the Black Dagger Brotherhood series.


  21. Hi Michele. I love your books. My favorite tortured hero is JR Ward's Zsadist. He went through so much.

  22. Hi there!

    My favorite tormented soul is Bill Compton from True Blood.

    Everything that he lost and how things were beyond his control makes my heart ache for him. Oh yeah and Stephen Moyer looks DAMN HOT!

    Thank you for this giveaway!


  23. My absolute favorite tortured hero is Reyes from Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld.

    rootml1 AT hotmail DOT com

  24. Hi Michele... I love your books, though I wasn't able to get this one at the signing I would love to win it! :) I enjoy all these Scottish men.... :)

  25. Hi Michelle! I loved this interview!

    I love Z as well, who doesn't, right? talk about your tortured male!

    But this is super exciting! Can't wait to add yours to my pile.

  26. Congrats!

    I have to say that Jamie Fraser from Outlander is my favorite@

    lisasworldofbooks at charter dot net

  27. I must agree with a few of the ladies up there, My favorite tormented hero is William Wallace from Braveheart.
    He's also one of my favorite actors
    Great review by the way and thanks for this great week and for some hotties.

  28. Keisha--Lachlain--yes! He was great in A Hunger Like No Other. I really enjoy Kresley Cole's books. :D

    And William Wallace is another good one. I know that Hollywood completely redid the Braveheart story, but when you suspend the disbelief, I think the story worked well. Although I was still upset in the movie theater!

  29. Two tortured souls that made me cry were Acheron from Sherrilyn 's Dark Hunters and The one and only Jamie Fraser from Outlander. I can't wait to rad your Highlnders Michelle, loved your Irish brothers a whole lot. :)
    Carol L

  30. Thanks for a great week wit Highlanders. Loved the whole week.
    Carol L

  31. My favorite tormented hero in a book would have to be Zsadist from BDB series as well! In my opinion, no one is more tormented and I got so emotional reading his book, loved it!


  32. I have to say Zsadist from J.R Wards BDB series I love him and bella :) Great giveaway thank you.
    This book sounds so good can't wait to read more.

  33. There are so many but I have to say Acheron from the Dark Hunter series


  34. Kylar Stern, the main character who was an assaassin's apprentice in Brent Week's first book in the Night Angel trilogy- The Way of Shadows. I loved and sympathised with his character because he had to leave the little girl he loved behind when he left his life of poverty and became apprentice to an assassin and yet sent money for her all those years while he was away. He even arranged for her to be put under the care of a kind and loving family and yet when he met her years later, he still had to keep his identity hidden from her even though it was obvious that she was attracted to him too. Love that book!

  35. I agree with Acheron from Sherrilyn Kenyon. He sacrificed a lot and it was good to see him get his own book and love.

    smccar1 at hotmail dot com

  36. Yes, James McFraser would be the obvious hghlander choice here, but I'm going with a classic - Mr.Rochester from Jane Eyre. He had to go through so much to get together with his soulmate and I'm deeply in love with that pairing, so yeah. Rochester it it.

    hrududu AT hotmail DE


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