My Heart's in the Lowlands: Ten Days in Bonny ScotlandMy Heart's in the Lowlands: Ten Days in Bonny Scotland
Liz Curtis Higgs
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You've traveled there in her riveting fiction; now discover fascinating southwest Scotland for real---with Higgs as your tour guide---in this beautifully detailed travelogue of her favorite place in the world. Without crossing the pond or even changing time zones, you'll discover the quaint villages, old bookshops, charming tearooms, and many other delights. 224 pages, softcover from Waterbrook.
     

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liz higgsFavorite Bible Verse:  Psalms 16:11 - You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

 Our Interview with Liz Curtis Higgs

What inspired you to write a travel guide about Scotland?

 Quite simply, I love the country—truly the most beautiful place on earth! Over the past decade I’ve visited Scotland almost once a year, doing research for my Lowlands of Scotland historical novels, visiting Christian bookshops, and ministering in churches. With each trip across the pond my travel diary grew, as did my library of books about Scotland (827 at last count!). When people began asking, “Will you ever do a tour?” I realized an armchair travel guide would let me escort all my readers there, one by one. 

What inspired you to write the book in a story format?

Though My Heart’s in the Lowlands is definitely a nonfiction book, I want readers to feel like we’ve embarked on a ten-day trip together. From the moment our plane leaves the runway, bound for Glasgow, each day unfolds with various adventures and discoveries, written in the present tense so we share that sense of immediacy. One of my endorsers, fellow novelist Donna Fletcher Crow, kindly described the writing as “a wonderful you-are-there, conversational style.” I do hope that’s true, because it was such fun to create a literary trip for two. 

How closely is My Heart’s in the Lowlands based on your life?

Truly, it is my life, lifted right from the pages of my travel diary. A few souls cross our path in this book who are composites of various people I’ve met over the years, but there are many real folk as well—shopkeepers, B&B owners, ministers, friends—all of whom I’m eager for you to meet. Should you travel to Scotland in person, Angus and Helen and Benny will be there!

 

How long did My Heart’s in the Lowlands take you to complete?

 Ten long years, if you count all the research (smile), but just one year of start-to-finish writing. I might have completed it sooner if the book hadn’t kept expanding—more villages to visit, more castles to explore, more Earl Grey tea to drink, and four dozen pen-and-ink sketches to fit around the text. God bless my editors at WaterBrook Press, who gamely kept adding pages until we reached The End. What is the symbolism for the title “My Heart’s in the Lowlands”? Robert Burns, the illustrious late 18th-century poet, wrote a song called, “My Heart’s in the Highlands.” An interesting lyric, since Burns was in fact a Lowlander, born in Ayrshire and buried in Dumfriesshire. As a tribute to his talents, I used bits of his poetry at the start of each chapter and adapted his sentiment for my title. Breathtaking as the Highlands are, it’s the Lowlands that have captured my heart. 

 

How much research did My Heart’s in the Lowlands take?

Lots, as you might guess! I surrounded myself with books, double-checked historical facts, emailed Scottish resources with specific questions, and reached for the phone when nothing but a long-distance interview would do. Even after many visits there, I made yet another trip after I finished writing the manuscript, just to be certain I got every detail right. Lowlands is full of sentences like, “After a few harrowing turns on blind curves, the road stretches before us in one long, undulating line, drawn by a steady hand through hilly pastures.” I don’t trust my memory or maps or Web sites for such descriptions; I had to see that road all again to be sure. So, last September I traveled the exact route described in Lowlands with my printed manuscript beside me, pulling over to make adjustments along the way.  Heaven knows what other drivers must have thought!

Is My Heart’s in the Lowlands the beginning for you to write about travel?

Now, there’s a tempting thought, since I dearly love traveling! I’ve learned never to say never when it comes to writing, but in truth, there’s nowhere that means more to me than Scotland. Novelist Lisa Samson wrote, “Liz's love of Scotland…shines like stained glass through every word." If that’s true, then I’ve accomplished my goal. Should I fall in love with another corner of the world, perhaps then I’ll consider writing a second armchair travel guide. Otherwise, I’ll pour my heart into writing Scottish historical novels and pray my readers never tire of the journey. What are some of the challenges you face as an author?Time is the only real challenge. Everything about the writing process delights me—yes, even self-editing and rewriting and proofreading. But the clock is always ticking and deadlines hang over my head like the Maiden, Scotland’s version of the guillotine. Long hours and late nights and hurried meals are just part of the package. When a reader takes time to say, “I loved this book,” all the effort is worthwhile. 

 

Are there any other new projects on the horizon?

One more nonfiction book will be publishing this Fall: Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible, a new addition to my Bad Girls of the Bible series. Once again, I’m combining contemporary fiction and verse-by-verse commentary—“girlfriend theology,” I call it—taking a fresh look at the lives of Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Leah, and Rachel . They’re far from evil, but hardly perfect; mostly good, yet slightly bad.  In other words, these five sisters from Scripture look a lot like us!  Then it’s fiction, fiction, and more fiction—all historical, all Scottish, all based on biblical stories, in the same vein as Thorn in My Heart, Fair Is the Rose, Whence Came a Prince, and Grace in Thine Eyes.

After being immersed in Scotland for My Heart’s in the Lowlands, I am more than eager to return to storytelling!

What area of Scotland most influenced you in the writing of My Heart’s in the Lowlands?

From my first visit in 1996, the southwest corner of Scotland felt like home to me, maybe because the verdant, rolling hills reminded me of places I’ve lived—eastern Pennsylvania and central Kentucky in particular. Once I chose that region for the setting of my novels and began doing research, Galloway became more than just an area on a map. Each village has its own charms, each historic site boasts its own features, and each person I meet makes Galloway seem more like home. 

 

What advice would you give to a person trying to become a travel writer?

It was harder than I expected…and more fun than I could have imagined!

My advice? Be prepared to spend copious amounts of money, time, and effort. Keep a digital recorder and camera at the ready. Be bold. Ask lots of questions and seek varying opinions. Be adventurous. Drive, walk, or ride down every narrow road that beckons. And record every detail, especially scents, tastes, sounds, and textures.

What message would you like your readers to take away from My Heart’s in the Lowlands?

Though it is an armchair travel guide, designed for the sheer joy of visiting a place vicariously, this book contains many spiritually meaningful moments as well. We visit two ancient abbeys and many venerable churches, taking time to worship on both Sundays that fall during the span of our trip. Wee bits of religious history appear in appropriate spots, and I hope my own love for the Lord is apparent. My goal was to create an intimate experience for my readers, a chance to travel abroad without ever leaving home, in the company of a friend who cannot wait to introduce you to her beloved Scotland.  

 

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