How much research did Whence Came a Prince take?
Because these novels are based on biblical characters, I felt compelled to learn everything I could about Jacob and Esau, Leah and Rachel. Ninety commentaries and fourteen translations later, I began to fully grasp the complexities of this highly dysfunctional family. Then, because my novels are set in 18th-century Galloway, I had to research both the location—the Scottish Lowlands—and the time period of 1788-1790. I have collected an embarrassing number of reference books on Scotland and its history—750 at last count—and have visited Scotland to do on-site research seven times so far.
How do you think up your characters?
Since Jamie, Leana, and Rose are loosely based on Jacob, Leah, and Rachel, I fleshed out their personalities from the words and actions of their biblical counterparts as recorded in Genesis. I believe their very human flaws ring true in any century. Jamie’s uncle, Lachlan—akin to Laban in Scripture—is a sly trickster, and so made a fascinating character study, even though he’s a perfectly hateful man.
Do you have a favorite character? Why?
Definitely Leana—and judging by reader letters, I am not alone! She is a grace-filled, gentle-spirited woman who loves God with all her heart and lives out her beliefs sacrificially. Quiet and steady in nature—especially compared to Rose, her vivacious younger sister—Leana often suffers in silence. Though her faith is sorely tested, and we fear for her happiness, God did not forget the Leah of the Bible, and I have not forgotten Leana in Whence Came a Prince.
How did you choose the setting?
My husband and I visited Scotland in 1996 to celebrate our 10th anniversary. As soon as we crossed the border from England into the southwest corner of Scotland, I knew I was “home” (and burst into tears!). Though I’ve visited many other areas of Scotland since then, Galloway is still my favorite. The verdant, rolling hills, the quaint villages, the fertile countryside—och, ’tis bonny!
How personal are your novels?
Very! Only people who know me well can pick out those scenes that echo my own experiences, but they certainly are there, however unintentionally. Goethe said, “Every author, in some degree, portrays himself in his works even be it against his will.”
Do you prefer to write contemporary novels or historical novels?
Although I had a ball writing my first two novels, which were light-hearted contemporaries set in modern Virginia Mixed Signals and Pennsylvania Bookends, writing historical novels truly makes my heart sing.
Are there any new projects on the horizon?
Grace in Thine Eyes is next (March 2006), another Scottish historical novel set in 1808 and based on the story of Dinah from Genesis 34. Though that novel will stand alone, it is indeed the next generation of the McKie family.