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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

To Kilt or Not to Kilt

Linda Banche here. Historical Hussies is delighted to host guest blogger Amanda Forester. Amanda writes historicals set in medieval Scotland, and Sourcebooks will release her debut novel, The Highlander's Sword, on March 2.

Today she talks about the reason most of us read Scottish historicals--Men In Kilts! Sourcebooks will give away two copies of The Highlander's Sword. Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win one. Amanda will select the lucky winners. Please note that Sourcebooks can mail only to addresses in the USA and Canada.

Welcome Amanda!

Why did I decide to write a Scottish historical romance? That’s an easy one – KILTS! Is there anything in this world sexier than a rugged, broad-shouldered, brogue-speaking Highland warrior in a kilt?

When I began the research for my current book, THE HIGHLANDER’S SWORD, I started with two ideas. One was that archetypal Highland warrior who occasionally visits me in my dreams. The other was the beginnings of a story line in which a young woman who was promised to the convent, has her world turned upside down when she is married off to a Highlander instead. Now, came the fun part – all the research. I read lots of books, scanned lots of articles on the internet, and was intrigued by the Battle of Neville's Cross.

Time for a little history - the fourteenth century was a tumultuous one for Scotland, being frequently at war with their more powerful neighbor, England. In 1346, the Scots went on the offensive under King David II (son of Robert the Bruce) and invaded Northern England. After some initial successes, the Scots met the English army at Neville’s Cross. The English brought out the Welsh long-bow and harassed the Scot line until they were forced to attack. According to legend, Graham urged the Scots to charge before the bowmen took position shouting, “Give me but a hundred horse and I will scatter them all!” The Scots faltered and the Welsh bowmen were able to get in position. Graham charged but was followed only by his own men and suffered heavy casualties under the longbow.

It is in this setting that my story begins. I wondered what happened to the Grahams after this devastating loss and what would happen if a daughter, let’s call her Aila, was left the only surviving heir. They would be vulnerable to attack and Aila would need to marry a warrior to provide protection from their enemies.

For my hero, I envisioned a Highland warrior, scarred by betrayal, looking for redemption, and honor bound to provide protection for his clan. Can you picture him? He’s tall, broad-shouldered, his great plaid wrapped around him forming the traditional kilt of the Highlander, his two-handed sword strapped to his back. But wait [insert screeching sound here], as I did more research I discovered Scots of the 14th century didn’t wear kilts. What? No kilts?

Now wait just one minute here. I know my Scottish history. I watched Braveheart. That movie was based on the life of William Wallace who lived at the turn of the 14th century, and I can tell you, Mel Gibson was most definitely wearing a kilt! So I did some more research and discovered, much to my dismay, that the movie got it wrong. No kilts.

Back to the drawing board. Trouble was, my hero, Padyn MacLaren, refused to be dressed in anything else but a kilt. Have any of you ever had trouble with your hero? Well MacLaren is a wee bit stubborn, so once I had him in a kilt, I couldn’t quite get him out of it.

Besides, readers expect their Highlanders to be kilted… and so do I. So I decided to leave him in the kilt. But wait, I have a rationale, a reason why this was the right decision [clap your hands to the beat while I do my tap dance]. The kilt in the Highlands of Scotland represents the attributes of my hero, the spirit and essence of his character. The kilt stands for Scottish independence, for national pride, for the determination to never give up, to never be subdued. Even statues of the iconic William Wallace have him clothed in a kilt. It is no mistake that in the 18th century after England’s defeat of the Scots at the battle of Culloden, the wearing of the kilt was banned. I believe that is why people picture 14th century Highlanders in kilts, because though it is historically inaccurate, it is true to the spirit of the Scots who fought so courageously, against such great odds, for their basic freedom. And besides, would Braveheart have been such a great hit, and winner of five academy awards including best picture, if Mel Gibson had been wearing… pants?

Have you ever had trouble with your hero or heroine (either real or fictional)? Have they ever refused to do what you thought they needed to do? Let me know your tale of woe, trust me, I understand. Also, come visit me at - there’s videos and contests and all sorts of fun stuff!

Amanda, thanks for coming by today. Come back any time.


Anonymous said...

LOL Amanda. That's the age-old question. As a Scottish history buff, my historian's mind doesn't 'allow' me to see 14th C Scots in a kilt. So the story has to be strong enough for me to overlook that fact when I read it. :-)
On the other hand, I'm with you as far as your hero is concerned. Of course, he'd be much more intriguing in a kilt. After all, it's the ultimate image of a Highlander in the readers' perception. The book covers would be a little less tempting, too. And I just love men in kilts!

Guess that's what they call 'writer's discretion' ...

Steph (in Scotland, so sadly not in the run for a free copy)

PS - that statue of Mel Gibson as Braveheart you show is no longer there. I went to Stirling last August and they'd removed it. The statue wasn't the most popular with the Scots... :D

Amanda Forester said...

Thank you Linda for inviting me to join you here at Historical Hussies -love that name!

Hello Steph in Scotland! Visiting Scotland would be a dream come true for me, let alone living there! Very interesting that they took down the Braveheart statue. You are, of course, correct about the kilts. Trouble was once I had my hero envisioned in a kilt, changing him into a pair of trews was just so blah. I just LOVE a man in a kilt.

I hope you will forgive my slight "wardrobe malfunction" and give the book a chance - I tried hard to get the rest of the stuff right!


Linda Banche said...

Hi Amanda, and welcome to Historical Hussies.

As for kilts not being worn in 14th century Scotland, I think a little dramatic license is fine.

I've read your book, and I was impressed with the amount of historical information there, woven into the story so well that it adds to the atmosphere.

Anonymous said...


I'm definitely going to read your book. I love Highland romances and your era varies slightly from most others (often set in the late 13th or mid-18th centuries). That's an added bonus!

And not to worry about the kilt issue. I'm sure your hero is right in his insistence. I like him already!

But you should definitely visit Scotland one day. You would love it. :-)

Best wishes.

Carol Silvis said...

I love how you turned a looming "problem" into a positive outcome. Kilt on.

Amanda Forester said...

Thanks, Linda - I'm glad you liked the book!

Steph - I definately want to get to Scotland someday - I know I would LOVE it!

Kilt on, Carol! (images of Wayne and Garth here are making me smile)

Maureen said...

I definitely think of kilts when I think of a Scottish historical. I always have trouble with my real life hero since he can be a wee bit stubborn.
mce1011 AT aol DOT com

catslady said...

As a reader I say keep the kilt. It just seems to fit my thoughts on Scotland and seems sexy as all get out lol. By the way - it's my favorite kind of read!!

Joyce Henderson said...

Ooh, I love Medievals, and in that era a Scot is not a Scot wearing anything but a kilt! In my not so humble opinion. ☺

Research can really throw writers a curve ball, but we are nothing if not imaginative...right?

I write Indians, specifically, Comanche. While they were "Lords of the Plains" in their heyday, they were not the tall, elegant, broad-shouldered Native American like Plains tribesmen. Shoot, they were downright awkward afoot.

But, hey, I get around that when I write half-breeds...who take after their taller parent or ancestor. Failing that, I just write what I want my hunk to look like. My story, my rules. LOL

As I said, I love to read about Highlanders, but I remain loyal to my hunky Native American men wearing nothing but breechclouts and moccasins? LOL

Looking forward to reading your book, Amanda.

Audra said...

Of course our highlanders must have kilts-or they would not be highlanders.

Mary Ricksen said...

Keep the kilt, the heck with history!

Amanda Forester said...

Hi everyone! I'm glad you see so many kilt lovers like me!

Now for the drawing for the free books! [drum roll please] The two winners randomly selected from those who left a comment are: Mary Ricksen and Catslady!! Some one will be contacting you soon - enjoy!!

For those who are interested in trying again, check out my blog tour on my website for more opportunities to win!

Linda Banche said...

Mary, I have your email address and I've already contacted you

Catslady, please leave your email address here so that I can contact you about your prize.


aarbaugh said...

Thanks for choosing the subject of Scots and their kilts. I'm new to both writing & reading romances. This was sparked in part by my trip to Scotland last year. I'd have a difficult time wrestling with the kilt subject. One, because I've seen a few good-looking guys in kilts. And two, having a history background, I'd feel the pull to be historically accurate. I look forward to following your discussions.

catslady said...

Oh just saw this, sorry - my email is:

I'm very excited to have won this!