TweetUSA Today bestselling author Sue-Ellen Welfonder aka Allie Mackay writes Scottish historical romance and contemporary paranormal romance. Her passions are animals, nature, and anything old and quirky. She lives on Florida’s southwest coast with her husband and her muse, Snuggles the writer cat.
Time to chat with Sue-Ellen!
What is your latest book?
Master of the Highlands. It’s a Scottish medieval romance about a hot-blooded Highland warrior who learns that even the boldest hero is no match for the searing passion of the one woman he cannot resist. It’s a powerfully emotional story and I love it because I enjoy writing about people who have lost everything yet go on to win love, happiness, and so much more. In real life, the bad guys win too often. In books, we can let the good guys have a go at it. I love that.
Master of the Highlands
He was lord of nothing…
No man is a worse candidate for penance than hot-tempered Iain MacLean. As a fierce Highland warrior and brother to a mighty, well-respected laird, he never dreamed he’d someday don a pilgrim’s robe and travel the land, bending his knee at holy sites rather than swinging his sword. But that is exactly what he must do after accidentally setting fire to his family’s chapel. He will lose everything unless he delivers his clan’s greatest treasure to a sacred shrine – the price for his wild and reckless ways.
Until he claimed her heart…
No lass is less suited for the convent than passionate Madeline Drummond. Neither should any maid see her family’s castle overrun, her people threatened, and worse. She couldn’t prevent tragedy, but she will take revenge on the murderous villain who destroyed her clan. Retribution will ruin her, leaving her no choice but to seek forgiveness in a nunnery. When the fiery Highlander and the lady meet, desire flames and their souls are scorched by a single kiss. Together, they journey across Scotland to regain Madeline’s ancestral home. And as wrongs are righted, she learns vengeance can be sweet – especially as the one true love of the Master of the Highlands.
Is your recent book part of a series?
Master of the Highlands is part of my Highland Knights trilogy about Clan MacLean. All three titles can be read alone and are available now.
Do you write under a pen name? If so, can you tell us why?
I write under my real name (Sue-Ellen Welfonder) and a pen name, Allie Mackay. When I was still ‘traditionally published,’ I wanted to expand into paranormals and signed with a second publisher for this genre. A pseudonym was my choice because I wanted to differentiate my historical romances from the new books that were mostly time travel romances.
The pen name was not a secret and I have always been clear about also writing as Allie Mackay.
My family background is Scottish (Hebridean) and so I was born loving Scotland. Likewise, I’ve always been fascinated by medieval history, Celtic legend and lore, and the paranormal. So when I started writing, these passions flowed into the stories.
I believe in writing what you love. Only then do words come to life. Jumping on trend bandwagons just because a genre is hot will produce flat prose – unless you are passionate about that kind of story. Your heart has to be in there, along with the ink.
Are your characters ever based on people you know?
Sometimes, yes. More than anything, I’m in my characters. They share my likes and dislikes, world views, and experience things I’ve seen or done. Where can story come from if not from our own lives? The good and the bad, it all swirls in the mysterious well we dip into when writing. I believe you can see the writer in the words, especially if you know the author.
Many times, I’ve actually dreamed plot twists, character names, and many other tidbits that I’ve need for my WIP. Has this ever happened to you?
Yes. I credit it to the ‘magic’ of writing. I’ve had dreams that became whole chapters. Dreams so vivid I went straight to my desk and typed as if in trance. Who knows where such things come from? When it happens, it is certainly a gift.
Authors, especially Indies, are constantly trying to understand why some authors sell very well while their talented fellow authors have a hard time of it. It’s an ongoing conundrum. What do you make of it all?
I think luck has a lot to do with it. The same thing can be seen outside writing. Why does one ballet dancer become the star when so many others are equally accomplished? Same with musicians, artists, actors, you name it.
Some argue that talent plus hard work will ‘see you to the top.’ But the cold, hard truth is that many gifted souls work very, very hard and yet never see much success. Someone else hits the scene and soars, never looking back.
So I think it is luck. Maybe karma?
How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?
Incredibly important. Likewise titles. I’d even go so far as to say that I can’t start writing a new story until I have just the right names and a title. This is a ritual for me – just like I clean my desk and office between books. I need that ‘clean slate and fresh start’ for my workspace. And I need names and a title for my story people and their world to spring to life.
No, I’ve never changed a character name. By the time I settle on one, I’m usually sure it suits. In a weird writerly way, I like to think characters tell us their names. That they whisper into our ears, letting us know who they are.
Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?
No. I never wanted to write. My dream was to be an airline stewardess and travel the world. I did that for many years and loved every minute. I was encouraged to write by my favorite author, Becky Lee Weyrich. I’d sent her a fan letter, we became friends, and I’d send her letters about my travel adventures. I wrote my first book mainly so she’d stop bugging me to write. To my surprise and horror, really, the book sold. And so I became an author.
Do you feel your latest book is your personal favorite or one of your previous novels?
My all-time favorite book is Some Like It Kilted. The hero is the one I wish would materialize in my office and sweep me away. Some Like It Kilted is the book I would love to disappear into for real, never leaving its pages.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you get around it?
I don’t believe in writer’s block. I think the stories are always there, waiting to be inked to life. And it is ‘life’ that can block writers. Things that knock us sideways and take our breath, leave us gasping. The loss of a loved one or pet, illness, financial setbacks, anything that sets our world off-kilter. Often outside influences out of our control – in my life, that was once having to write through two years of nonstop construction chaos. I nearly lost my mind from the daily barrage of noise and mess and intrusion. But the words were there, even then. I knew what I should be writing. I was just so physically and emotionally gutted that I’d stare at the pc screen in a stupor.
I’m not sure there is a solution. You just soldier on. What helps me is getting out in nature, reading, yoga and cycling, getting enough sleep. Above all, hit pause, replenish the well.
What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?
I’m vegan, but my favorite comfort food is still the same as in my pre-vegan days. I’m a potato zealot and love potato-anything. I love to cook and bake and enjoy pretty much everything (as long as it is vegan). Even as a child, there was nothing I didn’t eat with glee.
If you had a million dollars to give to charity, how would you allot the funds?
No brainer: animal rescue.
What might we be surprised to know about you?
Probably that English is not my day-to-day language. I only speak English with friends or when I am out shopping, etc. German is spoken in my home. I also think and dream in German, and it is the language I feel most at ease speaking. My husband is German and as I was very young when we married, I spent much of my adult life living there, in Munich.
What makes you angry?
Animal cruelty, injustice, arrogance, narrow-mindedness, bullying.
What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?
Kindness, compassion, caring for the environment.
What simple pleasure makes you smile?
My cat snoring.
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