Friday, August 7, 2009

Welcome Monica McCarty: Mistress of The Highlanders!!

Wow-Wow-Warrior! Somebody pinch me 'cause I must be dreamin'!!!

THE Moncia McCarty is hangin' with TLN today! She's gonna give us the 411 on research and the inside scoop on her rise to bookshelves everywhere.

Now, go get your snorkel and floaties 'cause we're gonna to dive right in!! Look out below!

1) If you were a book, what would your blurb be?

It wouldn’t be anything you would want to read—my life is so boring compared to the people I write about. Married mother of two novelist about sums it up. I’ve tried to jazz it up a little in my author bio:

Monica McCarty is the award-winning author of six Scottish Historical Romance novels, five of which have hit the USA Today and NY Times Bestseller lists. Her interest in the Scottish clan system began in the most unlikely of places: a comparative legal history course at Stanford Law School. After a short, but enjoyable, stint practicing law, she realized that mixing a legal career with her husband’s transitory career as a professional baseball player was not exactly a match made in heaven. So she “traded” in her legal briefs for Scottish Historical Romances with sexy alpha heroes. When not trekking across the moors and rocky seascapes of Scotland, Monica can be found in Northern California with her husband and two children.

2) What are three words that would describe your "voice?"

This is one of those questions that maybe you should answer for me. I have very little perspective on my own writing. What I strive for is probably easier to answer. How about: rich, emotionally intense, and sexy. I’m steeling the “rich” from my first author quote by Teresa Medeiros: “Rich, ravishing and romantic!” The tagline I use on my business cards: “Hot Highlanders and Ripped from the Headlines History.” That about sums it up, LOL.

3) Was there an author or book that helped shaped your style of writing? Your character preferences?

Definitely, but there isn’t just one. I’m a long-time romance reader. I started swiping books off my mom’s nightstand when I was a pre-teen (scary!). So I was definitely influenced by the more “old-school” romance writers—Coulter, Woodiwiss, Lindsay, Rogers, Garwood, and McNaught—especially for conflict and emotional intensity. One of my critique partners (Jami Alden) and I refer to it as those “high school moments.” Remember how important and how dramatic everything was in high school? How you thought if this guy didn’t like you, you’d die? That’s what I want to tap into—those really strong, really intense, life or death feelings. I tend to gravitate toward more old school character types as well—the cold-hard alpha hero and the vulnerable heroine with the strong core. No “superhero” kick ass heroines for me—at least not yet, but never say never, right? When I read romance, I like to be able to identify with the heroine and fall in love with the hero; it’s pretty much the same thing when I write.

4) After hearing you speak at my RWA Chapter meeting a couple of months ago and reading your "Special Features" section on your website (which is awesome by the way!), it's obvious you love the research aspect of writing. Do you have any tips for doing research to pass along?

Thanks! I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed the Special Features section. It takes a ton of time and it’s great to know that readers are appreciating it. With tight deadlines, time management is probably my biggest difficulty. I’m always weighing where to put the limited non-writing time I have. Right now, most of it goes toward my website.

I do love the research aspect of writing historical romances. Not surprisingly, it’s the same thing I loved about being a lawyer. My research method differs according to the project I’m working on and what stage I’m at. I recently started a new series, which goes back a few hundred years, so I was basically starting from scratch. The first thing I do is go to the library. I’m fortunate enough to have two great University libraries close by. The Stanford Library has a fabulous Scottish section and I usually go there first to flip around and figure out which books I want to buy. Google books is also a great resource (they’ve scanned in most of the out of copyright books in from Stanford and Harvard now).

My biggest splurge since selling is buying books. I have a pretty amazing personal library of research books (see the resources section of my website: ). I also rely on Amazon and for recent books and for identifying the “tomes” of the period. I can’t start writing until I really have a good feeling for the period. While I’m in the midst of writing, I rely on Google to answer those little questions that come up. I also travel to Scotland quite a bit and have found great resource books in museum gift shops. For locations, ordinance survey maps can’t be beat.

5) What do you think is the most important factor a romance novel needs to grab hold of a reader and keep them coming back?

Compelling characters. I think it was F. Scott Fitzgerald who said, “Character is plot, plot is character” and I completely agree with that. The more I learn about the craft of writing, the more I think character is the key. Part and parcel of this is creating a sexy dynamic between the hero and heroine.

At the RWA conference a couple of weeks ago in Washington D.C., I sat in on a little bit of Donald Maas’s presentation and he said something that really resonated: you want to SHOW what is unique about your character in the first five pages. Then he challenged us to show that in the first line. One author who I think is a master of this is Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Her characters really fly off the page.

To keep readers coming back, I think great stories, characters you care about, and for me, a fabulous black moment. I love the “heart squeeze” and if an author can do that, she’s got me. Linda Howard, Judith McNaught, Penny Williamson, SEP, Kresley Cole, Lisa Kleypas and Julia Quinn are really good at this.

6) It took you four years to sell your first book. During that fourth year, you finaled in the Golden Heart, landed an agent and got "The Call." In the years since, is there any tidbit of information or advice you feel a newbie writer should know?

I think the most important thing is to keep writing. Don’t polish that first book to death, write a second (and third) while you are submitting the first. That way when you do sell, you’ll have more than one book if they want it. Or, if you don’t sell, you’ll have something to start submitting immediately. So my advice would be: keep writing and keep submitting.

I also found joining my local RWA chapter to be invaluable (that’s where I had the opportunity to pitch to my agent). Contests were hit or miss for me, but the Golden Heart was worth every penny. I know some will strongly disagree with me, but I do think quite a bit of luck is involved in getting the “right” judges—especially when you don’t write in the most popular places/settings. But it’s definitely worth the gamble. Being a GH finalist was one of the most exciting events of my writing career. The next year I’d sold and had my “pink ribbon,” but it didn’t even come close. The only thing that topped it was the first NY Times call with my second book, HIGHLANDER UNMASKED.

7) Tell us a little about your latest release. What can your readers look forward to in the future?

My latest release is HIGHLAND SCOUNDREL, the third book in my Campbell trilogy. It’s the story of Duncan Campbell, the bastard brother of Jamie and Lizzie (HIGHLAND WARRIOR and HIGHLAND OUTLAW respectively), who was framed for treason and forced into exile ten years ago. He returns to the Highlands not only to prove his innocence, but also to confront the woman he once loved who betrayed him. You can read an excerpt here (link to )

I’m really excited about my next series called THE HIGHLAND GUARD. The short tag line is “Special Ops in Kilts” (think Braveheart meets Susan Brockman). The premise is that Robert Bruce handpicks ten elite warriors with special skills to come together in one secret force to help him defeat the English. I’ll be revisiting most of the clans I’ve written about, including the MacLeods, the MacDonalds, the Campbells, the Lamonts, the MacGregors, and the MacLeans. First up is Tor MacLeod in THE CHIEF, due to be released on March 23, 2010. You can read more about the series here: (link to )

Are you properly dazzled and amazed?! Well, I sure as heck am! I'd like to give a BIG thank you to Monica for taking the time to "chill" with us today. She's a super sweet lady and I really learned a lot from her talk at the Yosemite Romance Writer's meeting. I left there so inspired!!

Thank you so much for having me, Sarah!

Now, I'd like to THANK all of you devoted TLN readers!! You make this all worth while. In fact, let me take you on a free trip to the islands! I've even invited the Beach Boys and Tom Cruise as a special treat! Come on! Let's go to KOKOMO!! Ah, who doesn't need a tropical contact high or just a look at a hunky-dunkie, young John Stamos beatin' on his drums. *sigh* Ok, who needs a Cocktail?! LOL While we're enjoying the sand and the surf, let's not forget to take a little time and enjoy Shark Week on the Discovery Channel! Our oceans depend on those beautiful creatures. Go feed your need for a true big, strong, fearless hero- just watch out for the teeth! LOL


Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Monica and Sarah,
Great article and thanks so much for the tips. I can't decide if the MacLeods or the MacGregors are my favorite clan. Who am I kidding? I love them all and am looking forward to your next releases.

Monica McCarty said...

Thank you for the great welcome, Sarah--it's great to be here! It was so nice hanging out with you and the ladies in Fresno. You have a very energetic and enthusiastic chapter!

Hey Rebecca,
You and me both! I don't know if I could pick a "favorite" clan among the ones I've written about. I do love Dunvegan though. Maybe the MacGregors for tragedy and heartbreak, the Campbells for their amazing castles and the MacLeods because they were the first clan I wrote about. :) So glad you are looking forward to the next book--I can't wait to get it out there!

Renee said...

Wow, your life doesn't sound boring at all. I mean you're a published author of Scottish books.

I'm a fan of Dunvegan, I've even tried to see where I fit in the family line. ;) And I love the MacGregors. After all their tragedies they must make awesome tortured heroes. (Can you tell my wips are based on the MacGregors?)

This was a fun blog, Monica and Sarah.

Monica McCarty said...

Hi Renee,
LOL, being a published author of Scottish romance does sound exciting, but day-to-day it feels like all I do is sit in my home office in front of a computer screen. I guess the exciting days are when I see my books on the shelves (balanced out by the worry when you don't!). It's always something isn't it? VERY cool that you are writing about the MacGregors. There is something inherently "sexy" about that clan. I think we have Sir Walter Scott to thank for that. :) I agree with you completely--their tragedies do make for awesome heroes. HIGHLAND OUTLAW (book #2 in my Campbell trilogy) features a MacGregor hero and it has definitely been one of the books people seem to like the best--wonder if that has anything to do with it?
Glad you enjoyed the blog and I hope to see your books on the shelves soon!

Jane said...

Looking forward to your upcoming Highland Guard series. I love the tag line. It's for me to choose a favorite, but I heart Rory. Thanks for the link to the video. I haven't seen the Kokomo video in so long.

Monica McCarty said...

Hey Jane,
Thanks for popping on over! I'm so glad you are looking forward to the new series--yeah! You aren't alone in Rory, he seems to be neck and neck with Patrick. I don't have a favorite either--depends on my mood.

Emma Lai said...

Wow...what an informative interview, ladies! I agree that you shouldn't polish your first ms to death. Once it is picked up the editor will have even more work for you to do. It's better to get it out there...after a brief shine.

Monica, I love the premise for your next series! Good luck...though it doesn't seem like you need it!

Laurie said...

Hey Monica! I am so excited to see you guest-blogging over here! :) and Special Ops in Kilts?! very cool! and your business cards? also very cool! post a scan of them on your blog for us! happy friday everyone!

Ginny M. Christensen said...

Hello Sarah & Monica,

Monica, it was nice meeting you at our YRW meeting. Thanks again for informing us about that black hole...that great moment. It really got me thinking.

Great Blog ladies. Monica, how wonderful that you get to travel and get first hand knowledge for your stories. What's your inspiration for your hot heros?

Good luck with the new book. I'm heading back to Aruba (via my poo)...with my pinacolada...humming away to Kokomo. That was me on the horse-the one on the right!


Karen Michelle Nutt said...

Scotland-- I'm so there. Thanks so much for the writing tips.

I wish you well!

Carol North said...

Hi Monica and Sarah:
I thoroughly enjoyed the interview, learning about Monica and her books, and the great tips.
You've sparked an interest in Highlanders in me.

Monica McCarty said...

Hey Emma,
Glad you liked the interview! You are SO right about the editor having more for you to do. My first two books were massive re-writes. Glad you like the premise for the series, it has been so much fun to write. It's an idea I had almost 8 years ago so I've been sitting on it for a while. :)

Hey Laurie,
Thanks for dropping over. Send me your snail mail on my email and I'll pop one in the mail for you. They are super cute. Happy Friday to you, too.

So nice to "see" you again. I'm so glad you enjoyed the meeting--it was great to meet all of you as well. You guys have great enthusiasm in your chapter, it was such a pleasure to speak with you all. Thanks for the well wishes on the new book! My inspiration for my heroes...hmmm....I'm supposed to say my hubby, right? LOL. Not someone like say, Gerard Butler??? Or Eric Bana? Hugh Jackman? Viggo (as Arrogorn)?

Thank you so much! I hope you get a chance to visit Scotland if you haven't, it's truly breathtaking.

Hi Carol,
I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview--I thought Sarah did a really great job with the questions. Hope you get a chance to check out my strapping lads in plaid!

Ginny M. Christensen said...

Oops. I guess I forgot to "proof read" before I hit submit. Where's that dang spell check when you need it! (I meant pool...swimming pool) LOL.

Monica, thanks for your response.
Looking forward to [meeting] those strapping lads in plaid. Oooh, they sound so...hunkalicious!

flchen1 said...

Just wanted to say hi, Monica! Looking forward to Tor MacLeod's story! Woohoo!

Tara said...

Thanks for the interview Monica!
When's your next trip to Scotland... I want to go with you! :)

Monica McCarty said...

Hey Ginny,
I'm sure I have typos all over the place! Hope you like my lads. :)

Hey flchen,
Thanks for popping over to say "hi." I think you're really going to like this next series.

Hey Tara,
It's going to be a crowded trip, LOL. I've had many want-to-be hitchhikers! I don't have a firm date yet, but I hope September 2010. Wish it was THIS year. :)