Welcome! Today I am pleased to host Amy M. Reade at ePen. Ms. Reade is the author of Highland Peril. This mystery features a young photographer named Sylvie Carmichael, whose quiet life in the Highlands is disturbed when a murder hits too close to home. There’s history, adventure, and romance, all set in the gorgeous Highlands of Scotland. Relax and have some tea with us…
Good Afternoon! Ms. Reade, it is wonderful to have you here! I hope my Scottish obsession and collection of Scottish knickknacks doesn’t scare you off. Before I start in on the questions, is that a gift you brought for me? How sweet!
AMY: Thank you for having me here today! I’ve brought you a few gifts: a batch of shortbread cookies (I made them myself), a painting by Seamus (Sylvie’s husband), and a round-trip ticket to Edinburgh. While you’re there, get yourself a car for hire and head on up to the Highlands!
You are the best! I’ve been longing to get back to Scotland for years! Thank you! Help yourself to some of this freshly brewed tea or coffee. So I’ve always wondered how authors feel after they publish their books. Do you feel excited? Nervous? Is there anything you wish you could change?
AMY: I’ll take the tea, please. And if you don’t mind, I’ll answer your question in reverse. Unless there are typos in the book I didn’t catch, I wouldn’t change anything about Highland Peril. I really like it the way it is and I’ve heard from my advance readers that they love it. As for how I feel when the book comes out, I would use the word “fulfilled” or “rewarded.” Maybe I’d use both words. It feels good to hold something in my hands that I worked so hard to write. At the time of a book’s release, I don’t spend much time thinking about how I feel—I’m usually too busy promoting it.
This novel delves into the history of World War One. Where did you get the idea to include that historical element? Did you already have prior info or how long did it take to research the topic? And how does the historical aspect add to your story?
AMY: It seems like lately there has been an abundance of British television shows that take place during or in the wake of the Great War. Given the war’s huge impact on British society, I wanted to have at least a mention of the war in the book. The more important war as far as the historical element of the book is concerned, though, was the English civil war, which took place from 1642 to 1651. Cromwell’s troops had prevented the relocation of the crown jewels of Scotland to Edinburgh from their home in Dunnottar Castle, so my story grew from that aspect of the conflict. The book evolved into my imagining of what could have happened during the relocation of the crown jewels and how it could have reached into the present day.
As far as the research goes, I could get lost in research. I learned about Dunnottar Castle, re-learned everything I had once known about the English civil war and forgotten, and read everything I could find about the crown jewels of Scotland and the woman who is credited with saving them.
Now let’s talk more about the setting. As you may know, I adore Scotland and consider the Highlands to be among the most beautiful places on earth. Look on this shelf at all these toys I brought back! Somehow you managed to blend gorgeous description of the Highlands with a captivating story. What influenced your decision to have Sylvie’s story set in the Highlands? Is it even possible someone loves Scotland more than I do? Did you first come up with the setting, then develop the story after? Or did you first think of the story, then decide to have it set in Scotland?
AMY: I agree that Scotland is one of the most beautiful places in the world and I’m blessed to have visited that country twice in recent years to do research for my books. Highland Peril is the second book in my Malice series; the entire series is set in the UK simply because I’m captivated by that area of Europe. And my favorite part of the UK is Scotland. The first book in the Malice series (The House on Candlewick Lane) was set in Edinburgh and I wanted to explore another part of Scotland for the second book.
Seamus, who was a key character in the first book and one of the main characters in Highland Peril, is the sort who needs a lot of space to live and work and he was able to convince Sylvie to move out of the city. And like so many transplants all over the world, she becomes a huge champion of the place she now calls home. I actually think Sylvie and Seamus may love Scotland more than you do, but it’s hard to tell. You could make an argument that you’re tied.
I knew I wanted to set book two in the highlands, so I suppose that came first, then the story came second. I happened to be reading an article about famous women in British history and came across Christian Fletcher, who figures prominently in the first part of Highland Peril. I took Christian’s story and changed it around to put my own spin on it.
Sylvie is a small-business owner. Why did you decide to have her and Seamus own a gallery, rather than, say, work for a company?
AMY: Working for a company seems somehow to rail against the spirit of the highlands. There is a beautiful, rugged, can-do independence in the people who live and work there, and going it alone seems to fit that way of life. It’s also heaven on earth for artists who crave quiet and solitude, and both Sylvie and Seamus are artists.
As with many sleuths, Sylvie is multitalented. As a budding photographer, she frequently uses her skills to aid in her sleuthing. Do you have any experience with photography? If so, how does it play into Sylvie’s character?
AMY: I have no remarkable experience with photography. I like to take pictures to remind myself of where I’ve been and what the kids looked like when they were little, but that’s about the extent of it. I do have an Instagram account on which I can pretend I’m a better photographer than I am.
Oh the brownies are ready, hold on- (steps away, returns with a pan of hot brownies, sprinkled with powdered sugar.) Please – help yourself! (I’m pretty sure some of the Scottish toys were a bit rearranged on my bookshelf… hmm.) So it’s clear that you have a passion for mysteries. However, I’m sure that you have other skills, just like Sylvie. What do you like to do besides write? How does this enrich your writing experience?
AMY: These brownies are delicious. And I do love your toys—especially the stuffed sheep with the tartan scarf. Maybe I could borrow it sometime.
I like to think I have other skills, but I suppose you’d have to ask my family to confirm that. My favorite thing to do when I’m not writing is cooking. I especially love baking, but as my family is trying to eat healthier, I’ve cut down a bit on the baking recently. Cooking is how I wind down at home, and when I’m on vacation one of my favorite things to do is take cooking classes. My love for food and cooking has found its way into all my books so far. All my characters love to eat, and at least two of them in completely different books are chefs and/or gourmands. I like to explore local and regional foods and beverages in all my books because they’re set in far-flung places with foods that are different from the ones most of us eat every day.
What’s the oddest item on your desk right now?
AMY: It’s a toss-up between a Ziploc bag of change and a fitness ring.
Who is your favorite playwright and why?
AMY: Another toss-up, this time between Arthur Miller and Anton Chekov. And it’s mostly because my two favorite plays were written by them: Death of a Salesman and Uncle Vanya.
What is the future of Sylvie and Seamus? Will they continue to sleuth? How will the tragedy impact their lives?
AMY: Alas, if only I could tell you! But I’d be giving away so much of the plot…so you’ll have to keep reading (I’m such a sneak that way).
It was such a pleasure to have you visit ePen. You are always welcome to stop by for a chat or share info about new releases. Please take the rest of these brownies with you!
AMY: Although brownies are about the last thing I need, I’ll take some home for the, ahem, kids. Yeah, the kids. I’d like to thank you for this wonderful interview and for your gracious hospitality. This has been a great experience.
What a delight to host Ms. Reade and find out more about her love and passion for the Scottish Highlands as well as her inspiration for Sylvie. Like many of you, I am eagerly awaiting Sylvie’s next adventure. I suggested that next time Sylvie could have a run-in with the Loch Ness Monster. Ms. Reade just winked and said, “We’ll see.” But I did catch her eyeing the little stuffed green Nessie on my shelf.
Please comment below or ask Ms. Reade any questions. Click the below links to find out more about the author and to purchase her books.
Trading the urban pace of Edinburgh for a tiny village overlooking a breathtaking blue loch was a great move for budding photographer Sylvie Carmichael and her artist husband, Seamus—until a dangerous crime obscures the view . . . Sylvie’s bucolic life along the heather-covered moors of the Highlands is a world away from the hectic energy of the city. But then a London buyer is killed after purchasing a long-lost Scottish masterpiece from Seamus’s gallery—and the painting vanishes. As suspicion clouds their new life, and their relationship, Sylvie’s search for answers plunges her into an unsolved mystery dating back to Cromwellian Scotland through World War I and beyond. And as she moves closer to the truth, Sylvie is targeted by a murderer who’s after a treasure within a treasure that could rewrite history . . . and her own future.
About the Author
Amy M. Reade is a cook, chauffeur, household CEO, doctor, laundress, maid, psychiatrist, warden, seer, teacher, and pet whisperer. In other words, a wife, mother, and recovering attorney. But she also writes (how could she not write with that last name?) and is the author of The Malice Series (The House on Candlewick Lane, Highland Peril, and Murder in Thistlecross) and three standalone books, Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and House of the Hanging Jade. She lives in southern New Jersey, but loves to travel. Her favorite places to visit are Scotland and Hawaii and when she can’t travel she loves to read books set in far-flung locations.