Please join me in welcoming Elaine Coffman to Debbie's Book Bag, today. Elaine is here to talk about her latest release from Sourcebooks, The Return of Black Douglas. Sourcebooks has been generous enough to offer two copies of The Return of Black Douglas for giveaway, see details at the end of the post.
DEB: Elaine, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
EC: Former elementary school teacher, returned to college to work on my master’s degree in Language and Learning Disabilities, which I also taught. I quit a few years later to devote my time to raising my own three children. My first book, MY ENEMY, MY LOVE was published in 1988 and was nominated for Best Historical of the Year. I’ve been around so long, I’m starting to feel like a dinosaur, but I still believe in magic and I love what I do.
DEB: Tell us a little about your book, The Return of Black Douglas?
EC: THE RETURN OF BLACK DOUGLAS is a time travel, where the ghost of the Black Douglas takes twin sisters from the 21st century back to Scotland in 1515. They arrive in the midst of a battle and Elisabeth, a doctor, is captured by the Macleans, while the shorts-wearing archaeologist, Isobella, is rescued by Alysandir Mackinnon and taken to his castle on the Isle of Mull. Alysandir and Isobella are well matched, for both are stubborn to a fault. When they aren’t engaged in conflict, Isobella is busy doing everything Alysandir has ordered her not to do. She decides to save him from the devils of his past—when she isn’t excavating in a cave, up to her elbows in broken crockery bits, and cataloging the treasures of the Picts, for future generations to discover.
DEB: What was your inspiration for this book? Have you always been interested in Douglas or Scottish themes in general?
EC: When I finished the last of my seven book Mackinnon series in 1997, I received a huge number of letters asking me to do a series of books on the Mackinnon’s Scottish ancestors. After THE BRIDE OF BLACK DOUGLAS was published in 2000, I was asked repeatedly, to bring back the ghost of the Black Douglas. So, I can truthfully say that my readers were, without a doubt, the inspiration for this book. I have always been interested in Scotland because I have Scots ancestors and I have always been captivated by their sad and tragic past. My Mackinnon books were set in Texas, Nantucket, Scotland, California and England. But, Scotland is the setting I have returned to again and again.
DEB: What type of research did you do for your book?
EC: Oh my, I’m afraid if I told you, everyone would fall asleep. My love of research is what drove me to write Historical Romance over other genres, simply because I love history. I truly find great joy in it and take great pride in my research. I can spend hours searching for one tiny bit of information. For instance, with this book I did in-depth research into the ancient Celts and the Dal Riada tribes of Ireland that first came to Scotland, including St. Columba who started the first monastery on Iona, a small island a short distance from Mull. For my archaeologist heroine, I had to study archaeology and the kinds of findings my heroine could expect to find. And then there was her sister, the doctor, and the ancient medical practices I chased down. Fun, but a lot of work.
DEB: What is your normal writing day like? Do you have things that have to be in place to write comfortably?
EC: I have my writing space with two nice, big windows, my wonderful desk (a replica of George Washington’s) and two working tables- one for my PC and big screen, with my laptop beside it, so I can have both of them on. The other table is for research materials. I keep a fairly neat office, but books do tend to pile up. In the morning, after I have my latte on my deck and read the paper, I do a few things around my house and yard, before I go to the gym. Once I’m home, I write the rest of the day, usually returning after dinner to write at some night (I live alone)- and I have been known to stay up all night, if I’m on a roll. I’m an extrovert and have a lot of wonderful friends, so I have to be careful to curtail my going so it doesn’t interfere when I’m writing. I don’t schedule a fixed amount I much I write every day… I just write until my brain shuts down and I find myself staring at the screen.
DEB: What was it like when you got the word that your first novel would be published?
EC: Oh my gosh! I will never forget . . . I was in NYC when my agent called and said Dell wanted to buy all four of my books. One was finished, two were partially done and the fourth was only an outline. I was stunned at first, and then simply elated and finally I cried, and then I ran up a HUGE telephone bill. But it was worth it.
DEB: Do have any advice for new writers?
EC: Believe in yourself and don’t stop trying. If you don’t sell your first book, don’t give up. I was rejected by EVERY major publisher in New York and was in the process of revising my first book, when Dell Delacorte was merged with Bantam Doubleday, which became Bantam, Doubleday, Dell. A woman from Philadelphia, who read manuscripts for Dell, mentioned to the new editor that she read a book by a lady from Texas several months before, and she couldn’t stop thinking about it. They went through the files and found my agent’s letter, then called and asked to have the first three chapters of my finished book. Two days later, the editor called back that she wanted the rest of the book. A few days later, they bought everything. I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn’t kept telling myself that I knew I was a good writer and I was going to prove it someday.
DEB: When you’re not writing, what kinds of books do you like to read? Do you have a favorite author?
EC: I was always a voracious reader, and one of the things I don’t like about writing is that I don’t have much time to read for pleasure. I try to squeeze one in whenever I can. I don’t read romances because I don’t want to be influenced by what others are writing, or their style. I have so many interests that cover many genres- mostly books on interesting subjects, countries I like to visit or write about, travel, geography, history, ancient medicine and civilizations, clothing- I have LOTS of books on Scotland and even ordered a copy of “The Bruce" by John Barbour, written in the 14th century, from England. After having Ken Follett’s book, Pillars of the Earth, for ages, I finally got around to reading it this fall. I’ve never been a big reader of biographies, but I do remember reading Clara Barton in elementary school and my first book report was THE YEARLING, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Oh, how I cried!
DEB: What are you working on right now?
EC: I am busy writing a sequel to my two Douglas books. LORD OF THE BLACK ISLE is the story of Isobella’s twin, Elisabeth, who is the doctor.
DEB: Tell us one thing that people may not know about you?
EC: The brother of one of my many times great grandmothers, a man named Samuel Argyll, who was also Governor of Colonial Virginia, captured Pocahontas.
Sourcebooks has been kind enough to offer two copies of The Return of Black Douglas for giveaway.
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