Friend, Barb, is a fan of the Outlander Series. I read the book when it was first released and a few of the following installments. Anything to do with Scotland had, and has, a draw for me. Barb’s insistence that I watch the series finally took root. I bought Season One the other day, sat down to watch a bit of it and didn’t stop. See me hooked and under the spell of this series. Part of this addiction comes from my enjoyment of the story. (What’s not to like about guys in kilts?) The clincher for me is that I’ve never seen Scotland’s landscape so perfectly captured. Photographs and other forms of media didn’t take me back there. This series does.
Thirty years ago, I took my mom with me to do research in the Tayside area, specifically, the village of Killin. The rough draft of Where Wild Winds Blow, a WWI romance between a Scot military man and Wyoming cattle baron’s daughter, still sits unfinished. It’s a story that I’m not yet ready to complete. It’s aging in its barrel, like whiskey, until its time has come. The inspiration for it came from an old movie with Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesey, I Know Where I’m Going, about an English city girl going to Scotland to marry a rich man. Misfortunes stop her from getting to Kiloran, the island where the ceremony is to take place. While waiting to get there, she finds herself attracted to Torquil McNeil, a poor WWII seaman on leave before heading back to the war. She subsequently learns that her rich fiancé is renting the island from its laird, McNeil, the seaman she can’t stop thinking about. He’s connected to a curse they both come to embrace.
Anyway, I needed to get to Killin to see and absorb the atmosphere. There is a scene with Claire and Frank in the beginning of Outlander, filmed in a castle ruin that wrenched me back to that trip to Killin. I had found someone who could show me the site of a keep with a beheading pit. A keep is tiny in comparison to a castle, but the movie setting was so like that moment when I investigated the ruin and found the spot at the back of the keep, almost engulfed in bracken, shrouded by history and the presence of spirits no longer restless.
My present regency WIP, The Dandy and the Flirt, will be largely set in Scotland, a country house outside of Callander, a lovely town not far from Killin. The “dour Scot” appellation has me puzzled. Everyone—with the exception of one—I met in Scotland had beautiful manners, lovely complexions and a jolly sense of humor. There is a resilience and dignity that reminds me of the people of the Ozarks in the Wright book The Shepherd of the Hills, another story of haunting and that haunted me.
Now I can go back to Scotland anytime by plugging in Outlander, to soak in its enchanting beauty, rugged hillsides and tough yet delicate flowers. There is a wild openness in the Highlands, a sense of freedom and connection to the land. How did they survive leaving it? And yet they did, settled here, and shared their heritage.
M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)
Follow on Twitter @RigdonML
And thanks to Judith Post, for inviting me to do an interview on her blog. Please check out her most recent releases and media sites:
I’m hopelessly hooked on Babet and Prosper. (I call them Babsper)