Thursday, June 28, 2012

Guest Rosemary Gemmell Has An Excuse for Research

I’m sure I won’t be the only writer who loves to visit new places as a thinly veiled excuse for researching ideas and settings. What better way to get a feel for a country or historical setting than to go there in person. We can never truly know what it was like to live in any particular era apart from our own, as “the past is a foreign country” according to L.P. Hartley. So we thoroughly research our period and try to depict the setting, background and everyday life as accurately as possible. Here in Scotland, we have a wealth of history on our doorstep so it makes sense to explore as many of the ancient buildings that fit the period in which our stories take place, or that might inspire a different era.

One of my favourite buildings is Pollok House in Glasgow which lies within Pollok Park. The House dates from about 1750 and is a fine example of Georgian architecture. Although now managed by the National Trust for Scotland, it was the ancestral home of the Maxwell family who had links to the original grounds for 700 years. The old Servants’ Quarters in the basement now houses a shop and Kitchen Restaurant. The inside of the house is gracious and almost homely, although it does have a magnificent collection of art, including famous Spanish works by Goya and El Greco.

The White Cart Water runs through the estate and is spanned by an 18th century bridge not far from the house. I always imagine graceful Georgian people wandering around the beautiful grounds. On some days, visitors can see the working Clydesdale Horses, and nearby is a field of Highland cattle. All within easy reach of the centre of Glasgow.

Another favourite place is Inchmahome Priory, ruins situated on a very small island off the Port of Menteith. Established in 1238, on the site of a previous church, the Priory was a haven of peace and spirituality with its community of Augustinians, parishioners and visitors. But like most of Scotland and England in the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation intervened and this gentle way of life came to an end. The monastic church and cloisters are mostly in ruins, although there is still a sense of how they must have appeared when complete.

After becoming a mausoleum in the 1600s, the small Chapter House lay complete and now houses some of the carved stones from the priory. The striking effigy of Walter Stewart who died in 1295, and his wife, Mary, lie almost entwined together for all eternity. There is also an effigy of an armed knight and a 14th century gravestone. It’s not difficult to sit on the cold benches and imagine the Augustinian brothers discussing the day’s business.

One of the most famous visitors to the island was the child, Mary Queen of Scots, who stayed at Inchmahome Priory for three weeks in 1547. The only reminder of her time is a bower of boxwood trees to commemorate her visit. The island is a very peaceful little oasis only seven minutes by small boat from the mainland.

These are only two of the many historical places that never fail to inspire me. The only problem now is finding time to turn the inspiring research into stories. And those are just the places within reasonable driving distance of home. Next stop during the summer is several parts of Europe, including my favourite Venice. Somehow I don’t think the tax man will believe it’s all for research!

Rosemary Gemmell

Dangerous Deceit, Regency intrigue in England, 1813, is available from Champagne Books in ebook and print, and from Amazon (UK) and (US)

Blurb for Dangerous Deceit

Spirited Lydia Hetherington is uninterested in marriage, until her brother's friend, Lord Marcus Sheldon, rides into her life to unseat her from her horse and unsettle her heart. An undercover spy for the government, Sheldon is equally unsettled by Lydia. But spies, villains and a tangled web of deception bring danger, until a traitor is unmasked.

Complicated by a French spy, her best friend's unrequited love for Lydia's brother, James, and a traitorous villain, Lydia gradually finds her emotions stirred by Lord Sheldon. But what is his relationship with the beautiful Lady Smythe and his part in an old scandal?


“I believe you have lost something, Miss Hetherington.”

Lydia’s eyes widened as she watched Lord Sheldon lazily hold out his hand. He was holding a gold ribbon such as Agnes had threaded in her hair earlier that evening! She put her hand to her head and realized, belatedly, that her hair had started to come undone at the back. The ribbon must have caught on the bush where she’d hidden. She couldn’t think what to say for a moment until she saw the challenge in his stare.

“I fear you must be following me, my lord. I was unaware that the ribbon had come loose as I took a turn around the garden. I wonder that you should know to whom it belongs.” She held out her hand. “Thank you for returning it.”

She saw his shoulders stiffen and was sure he knew perfectly well she’d seen him with the Frenchman.

Then Lydia saw the speculation in his grey eyes replaced by amusement as he walked towards her. “Allow me, Miss Hetherington.”

Before she guessed what he intended, his hands were on her upper arms and for a moment he looked into her eyes. Then he gently turned her away from him. Next minute, he was expertly threading the ribbon through her hair.

Lydia held her breath as she felt his fingers brush against her head. It was as if something made her skin tingle. Too soon, he had secured the ribbon. Yet still his fingers lingered for a moment against her hair and she hoped he could not hear the loud beating of her heart.

She tried to persuade herself it was only because of her near discovery at eavesdropping. But she was far too aware of the nearness of his tall frame and the intimacy of the moment, and most especially the effect it was having on her.

Then he was turning her around once more to face him. He stepped back at once and bowed. “I trust you will be more careful where you walk in future, Miss Hetherington.”

Hoping she appeared more composed than she felt, Lydia replied as firmly as possible. “Thank you, my lord. It is my good fortune that you are so comfortable with a lady’s hair style and so solicitous of my well being.”

Lydia returned his stare, determined not to betray how bereft she’d felt as he stepped away from her. There was no doubt that he’d seen her in the garden and was warning her. But against what, she wondered.

Rosemary Gemmell Short Bio

Rosemary Gemmell’s short stories and articles are published in UK magazines, in the US, and Online, and her children’s stories are in three different anthologies. A few short stories have been included in various international anthologies. She has won several competitions and has adjudicated short stories at the annual Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Her first historical novel, Dangerous Deceit, set in Regency England, was published by Champagne Books in May 2011 (as Romy). Her first tween novel, Summer of the Eagles, which is set in Scotland, was published by MuseItUp Publishing in March 2012 (as Ros).

General writing/information blog:

Romancing History blog:

Children’s writing blog:

Twitter: @rosemarygemmell


Jannine Gallant said...

Loved the photos and the history about your area. I'd be inspired, too. Thanks for sharing woth us, Rosemary, and best of luck with your book.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

(Hope this doesn't appear twice, as it wouldn't go through first time!) Many thanks for allowing me to guest on the lovely Roses of Prose blog today.

Thank you, Jannine - I could spend half my time visiting interesting places, and get no writing done at all!

Erin OQuinn said...

Are those your photos? Spectacular! As I look out my window at the drought-brown hills of central Texas, I heave a great sigh of jealousy ... With such inspiration, no wonder you write so well.

I love your writing, Rosemary. Summer of the Eagles, although a tween book, caught at my heart and still graces my electronic library. This adult novel reads like a sassy bit of sweet romance. Congratulations, and best of luck. Thanks for an engaging post this morning. xxErin

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks so much for dropping by, Erin - you are so kind and supportive. Yes, these are my own photos and this is just two of the wonderful places I can visit within easy reach.

Thank you again for such a lovely comment about Summer of the Eagles - especially coming from such a good writer!

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

I love the way your country honors its history and architecture. (Every pile of rocks has a name and a story.) Sadly, in American it would end up as "road fill."

Brenda Whiteside said...

You're so lucky. Lovely. I love to travel to the places I write about too. I'm starting a book set in Austria, and although I've been there, I'm trying to figure out how to go back. For the book of course. LOL Thanks for the post. Good luck with your book.

Melanie said...

Love your photos! If I lived in Scotland, I think I'd be visiting these wonderful old places. You keep giving me new places to my "must see the next time I'm abroad" list.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Welcome to the Roses of Prose, Rosemary. I simply loved your pictures and your excerpt. Thanks for sharing part of your history which brought the pictures to life. How beautiful, both the pictures and excerpt. You have a graceful style of writing.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Julie - thanks for coming over to comment. I guess we have a lot of very old places!

Thanks a lot, Brenda - I often find new places inspire me to try something different! Austria is beautiful.

Hi melanie - thank you! Hope you get that next trip sorted soon.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thank you so much for that welcome and your kind words, Vonnie - it's a pleasure to be here and to share a few photos from Scotland!

Joanna said...

Lovely pieces of history and pictures, Rosemary. I was interested in the ruins as, by coincidence, I'm writing a short story today that somehow led me into a ruined castle. Your picture is a good source of inspiration. Thank you!

Paula Martin said...

Great photos, Rosemary! Every time I go around one of our many stately homes, my imagination runs riot, and I start thinking of a story I could set there. Could do a whole series of stories actually - IF I had the time LOL!

Nancy Jardine Author said...

Hi Rosemary. As a Scot, I agree that you picked nice places today! Lovely blog.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hello Joanna - thanks for coming over! So glad the photo gave you inspiration.

Thnaks for dropping in, Paula - and isn't that always the problem?!

Hello Nancy - thanks! It's good to see a fellow Scot!

Maddy said...

Makes me feel a little homesick until I'm reminded of the weather by the the neutral color of the skies.

Joan Fleming said...

Lovely photos, Rosemary. I live in the the same area, but I've never visited Inchmahome Priory. It's now on my 'to do' list!