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.
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 www.amandaforester.com - there’s videos and contests and all sorts of fun stuff!
Amanda, thanks for coming by today. Come back any time.