She earned a degree in music, and worked for many years as a freelance musician, music teacher, band director, and instructor in private music lessons on harp, piano, winds, and brass.
Laura is the mother of 7 boys and 2 girls, and lives in Minnesota.
Her latest book is Blue Bells of Scotland: The Trilogy.
You can visit her website at www.bluebellstrilogy.com.
Blue Bells of Scotland is a time travel and historic adventure, about two men, polar opposites but for their looks and love of music. When they both spend the night at the top of the same castle tower, they wake up in the wrong centuries, caught in one another’s lives.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?
Shawn is a modern-day musical phenomenon, who wears accusations of self-centeredness like a badge of honor. He drinks, gambles, lies, and cheats on his girlfriend. Niall is a sharp contrast, a devout medieval Highland warrior, the epitome of responsibility. The fate of Scotland rests on his shoulders.
Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
I came across a character in a Diana Gabaldon book saying that writers are like cannibals: they take bits and pieces of all their friends and make a stew out of them. I pull characters out of my imagination, but often realize later that I have used parts of several people to make up one character. At other times, I ‘borrow’ traits from people: a certain way of laughing, a depth in the eyes, a turn of phrase, a combination of clothes.
Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?
I’m usually aware of the plot before I start, but I’m more aware of the themes. With Blue Bells of Scotland, I had a basic plot, which involved only Shawn. But Niall had other plans, and the book changed quite a bit from the original concept.
Q: Your book is set in Inverness and Bannockburn in Scotland. Can you tell us why you chose these cities in particular?
I chose Bannockburn because that’s the location of the battle which is the backdrop for the medieval half of the story. However, Niall needed to make a long journey prior to the battle, so I researched castles some ways away, from which he might travel. In addition, his castle had to be close enough to a city where an American orchestra might play, that its members might visit that castle on their days off. Inverness, with Castle Urquhart nearby, fit those requirements, so Inverness and Eden Court Theatre entered the story.
Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?
Yes and no. Niall’s life, into which Shawn steps, is governed by the war with England. Shawn’s physical discomfort as he hikes Scotland’s mountains, the dangers he faces from English soldiers, and the outrage of others at his behavior—all the things that lead to him changing—are things that could not have happened in his twenty-first century American life. But there are many times and places that have physical challenges, dangers, war, and different outlooks. I could have written a similar story in many settings. What really led me to Scotland was the title of the folk song, whose themes of noble banners and streaming deeds I wanted to include in the story.
Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?
Page 69 happens to be the last of a chapter, so there are only a couple of paragraphs! But Niall, the medieval warrior, has recently woken up in the 21st Century. He is suffering from severe infection, the result of an arrow wound, and thinks maybe he’s suffering delirium. From his chambers three stories up, he’s seen Shawn’s girlfriend and a man walking on the shore below. With his dagger drawn, he heads down to the shore to find out from them why his castle is deserted and half-broken down.
Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?
Crashing into a boulder at the foot of the hill, he leaned in, scooped the other man over his shoulder with strength he’d never had, and ran, jarring the monk with each step. The town appeared ahead. A more beautiful sight he’d never seen! Already, his chest heaved for air. His legs screamed for mercy. He couldn’t look back. A stitch ripped through his side. Shapes formed ahead as he closed in: crowds! His salvation!
The merry sounds of a festival reached out to him. He pushed himself, Brother David’s abused body slamming into his back, his moans filling his ears, and reached the edge of the throng.
Jugglers in harlequin clothing danced around him, spinning balls in the air. He gripped Brother David’s legs, batting at the jugglers with his free hand, fought his way through to a booth laden with vegetables.
“Turnips, tasty turnips!” bawled an old woman, grabbing his sleeve. He spun his head, searching for Allene. Now there were more stalls, musicians strolling the street, a man with a monkey. He reached the outlying buildings of the town, his head twisting side to side, hunting for a hiding place.
“Your fortune for a penny,” cried a scarved woman in front of a painted gypsy caravan.
“Breads, buns, rolls!” bellowed a fat man draped in white.
Shawn pushed through a gaggle of giggling children. Brother David grew heavier. Shawn’s legs trembled under the weight. Stone houses and merchants’ stalls rose around him.
“Fruits!” a young girl shrilled in his ear, snatching at his sleeve. “Five a penny!”
He took another step, twisted to peer down a dank alley for a hiding place.
An acrobatic team strolled by on their hands, pointy shoes waving in his face. A boy led a string of ponies, brushing against him, making him stumble. The smell of cheeses and fruits and meat and animals filled the air. Shawn spun, the weight of the monk on his shoulder growing; seeking sanctuary. People called and laughed. Colors spun in and out. His legs weakened under Brother David’s weight.
“Alms!” cried a toothless beggar, stretching a bony hand from among rags.
His knee buckled. He grabbed a stone wall to steady himself.
Something gripped his elbow. He spun, yanking his arm back….
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Laura. We wish you much success!
Thank you for having me! It’s been a pleasure!