Following the success of last year's Shade and on the run up to the release of follow up Shift, I am delighted to welcome author Jeri Smith-Ready as a guest here at The Mountains of Instead. I heart Jeri. She's fun, generous with her readers and writes excellent stories (she also put my name in an actual printed book, which helps). Best of all she adores Scotland. Scotland, for those of you who don't already know, is the home of The Mountains of Instead and I therefore may be slightly biased, so I'll hand you over to Jeri so that she can explain herself why Scotland is a home worthy of the swoonsome Zachary:
“The green is for the forests of the Highlands where my clan comes from.” Zachary pointed to the kilt’s vertical threads. “The yellow line is for the sun that shines once every three weeks.”
Almost every place I visit ends up creeping into my novels eventually. Scotland, along with Greece and British Columbia, is one of my favorite places in the world, so it’s no surprise it’s become a part of the world of SHADE. I went there for a week during my semester abroad in London twenty years ago, and fell insanely in love—with the landscape, the people, and the food.
Okay, not so much the food.
The world of fiction is chockablock with Scottish heroes, mostly rugged Highlanders in historical romance settings, often clan chiefs with a foreboding castle and a penchant for strong drink. These books sell well here in the States, because many American women have what we call a “thing” for Scotsmen.
(I’m told it doesn’t go the other way—American men aren’t particularly done in by a female Scottish accent. This bewilders me, especially considering my theory on why the accent is so attractive, a theory that I can’t really discuss on a YA blog without blushing.)
But I don’t write historical romances—I write paranormal YA. Which does lend itself to the cute, mysterious “New Boy in Town.”
Enter sixteen-year-old Zachary Moore. Not a Highlander, not chief of anything. Not much of a drinker. And he’s fresh out of castles at the moment.
He does, however, have the accent.
From SHADE’s second chapter, when Aura and Zachary first meet:
“Excuse me, [he said.] Are you really Aura?”
I didn’t notice the “really,” because my ears had heated at the sound of my name spoken that way, his tongue curled around the R like it was a piece of candy.
“What?” I said, eloquently.
“Aura,” he repeated, pronouncing it Ooora (again with tongue curl). “That’s you, aye?” You like a female sheep. Wow, it’s true what they say about Scottish accents.
“Um. Yeah, I’m—” I couldn’t speak my name without sounding lame and American.
I decided (for, I don’t know, bonus challenge character points or something) to make Zachary from Glasgow, though I knew it was a more difficult dialect to write. (I think someone on Twitter said, “Just don’t make him from Glasgow—that would be really tough.” Me: “Okay, I’ll make him from Glasgow.”)
I balanced his distinct regionalism by having his family move about quite a bit in the last several years, throughout the British Isles and…”other places” (I did say he was mysterious). Plus, Zachary tries his best to blend in while living in the United States. It’s not until Aura hears him arguing with his father (also a native Glaswegian) that she realizes how much Zachary moderates his accent around Americans. To her ears, it barely sounds like English.
Not wanting to fall into stereotypes, I purposely didn’t do a great deal of research into the “typical” Scottish temperament before writing SHADE. Yet I instinctively drew Zachary as fiercely proud, occasionally stubborn (okay, not occasionally), and deeply caring—traits which I later learned to fit the national character pretty well. Also, he’s punctual(Really, I was just painting the typical Capricorn—not that I believe in astrology, but sometimes it helps form a basic template).
Want to hear an incredible writing story? Zachary’s main distinguishing character trait, particularly in SHADE, is his patience. After all, he’s falling in love with a girl whose boyfriend died and became a ghost. Zach can’t afford to rush things. He’s forced to wait month after month for Aura to come round and realize what they could have together. So imagine my surprise when I discovered while writing SHIFT (Book 2) that the Moore/Muir family motto is Durum Patentia Frango, which is Latin for “Through patience I overcome difficulties.”
The serendipity knocked me over! I’d originally chosen the name Moore not for its motto, but because
a) it sounded good with the name Zachary
b) I wanted to avoid a “Mac” surname because I already have a McAllister main character in my vampire series
c) Maybe, just maybe, I wanted to evoke James Bond actor Roger Moore. (Not that I see him playing Zachary’s secret agent father Ian Moore—I’ve always pictured no one in that role but Craig Ferguson.)
Speaking of the Moore/Muir clan, in SHIFT we finally get to see Zachary in a kilt, the colors of the family tartan. He shows it off to a group of classmates at the Prom:
“So what’s the blue?” asked Rachel Howard.
“The blue is for the water. In Irish Gaelic, Moore and Muir mean ‘sea.’” He cocked his head. “But in Scottish Gaelic, it just means ‘big.’”
Yeah, I’m pretty sure he made that all up. Scotsmen have been known to have a little harmless fun with American gullibility. Not that I speak from experience.
When my husband and I first started dating, almost (yikes!) 19 years ago, I promised I would one day take him to Scotland (he’s a MacLeod on his grandmother’s side). Last week, I finally made good on that promise. We went to Glasgow to do research for the third book in the SHADE trilogy, SHINE, part of which takes place in that fair city.
I fell in love all over again, with the architecture, the people—and this time, yes, even the food! Glasgow was a feast for all five senses, and I’m still suffering from withdrawal. Luckily, we brought home lots of snack foods, like Tunnock’s Tea Cakes and Caramel Wafers, and Walker’s Highland Shortbread. It’s just not the same, though.
To lessen the pain of separation (or maybe to wallow in it), I like to look at my trip photos. Here are two of my favorites.
The first shows University of Glasgow beyond the Kelvin River, in the city’s West End, where we stayed during our trip (half a block from the delicious and gorgeous Òran Mór bar and cafe).
My Facebook friend Fraser, a native of Glasgow, took us to see the statue of the Duke of Wellington, who routinely wears a traffic cone on his head (not by design, but by local tradition of mischief, which sounds like something that would happen here in Baltimore). The duke wasn’t wearing the cone, but we found something even better: a Glaswegian unicorn!
We will go back soon. I know I said that about Vancouver seventeen years ago, but this time, I mean it. Scotland is lodged deeper in my heart than ever. One of these days, it might not let me go at all.
Thanks, Jeri, for such an entertaining and interesting post! And now over to you lot because Jeri has questions she'd love some answers to:
If you’ve read Shade and/or Shift, what do you think of Zachary? Is he too perfect, or just perfect enough? If you haven’t read Shade, what are some of your favourite foreign settings or characters? Do you enjoy reading about places you've visited? Has a book ever made you decide to visit a new place?
Answer one or more of these questions, or ask Jeri a question, in the comments below to enter today’s give away. There will be two winners.
1) a signed copy of Shift, plus a wee notebook with the Moore/Muir crest and “Spirit of Alba” tartan, courtesy of Jeri.
2) an unsigned copy of Shift, courtesy of Jeri’s publisher.
Additionally all commenters will be entered into a draw to win the Grand Prize - annotated copies of Shade and Shift, an early copy of Shine (book three of the series, of which there will be no other ARCS) and an Ipod Shuffle!
Open to international entries but comments will close after 24 hours - so get commenting!