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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Little Gossip by Rose Anderson

Authors will tell you that some books write themselves while other stories take every last brain cell to finish. In my writing process there have been times where I've determined a story will turn out one way then it goes careening off in another direction. Where does this big shift come from? Mostly from sidebar conversations with my characters.

Every so often a secondary character will just pop into my head-- like that neighbor who wants to talk over the backyard fence when all you want to do is rake your leaves. Conversations like this take place at the craziest times too, like when I'm in a theater watching a movie or when I have a house full of guests. Fictional characters can be very rude that way. Ill-timed though they may be, I'll occasionally discover my bit characters know far more about the story than I do and bring an insider's perspective that I hadn't even considered.

I had a drop-in encounter like that when I was working on The Changeling (the story that launched a new pen name for sweeter stories). I stood washing dishes at the kitchen sink but my imagination stood in the Scottish Lowlands. I found myself at the doorstep of a centuries-old mansion just outside the town of Selkirk. When I write historical stories, each has its own distinct architecture and landscape so I recognized the mansion as Carterhaugh. The year was 1891. 

Because I love escapism as only good imagery provides, I write the sounds, smells, textures, and sights into my stories. I raised the heavy bronze door knocker in anticipation and made my presence known. Of course it sounded exactly how you'd imagine it would sound on a heavy oak door.

This door was opened by a slight woman of no more than five feet tall. By her crisp black dress and the hefty chatelaine of keys, I knew at once this was Mrs. Frew the housekeeper. She's worked here since she was twelve years old and was well into her 70's now. Her eyes sparkled with her smile when she said, “Ah Mistress Madeline! We’ve been expectin’ ye. Come in. Come in.”

My pen name was spoken with the polite and practiced tone of a woman long-employed at the top of the household hierarchy. I followed her down a hallway to an older portion of the manor where she led me into her private rooms. The charming sitting room had a cheery fire and was decorated with late-Victorian flounces and small China figurines. This space of her own was a perk for the housekeeper who oversaw the service staff, a duty she shared with the head butler Monroe.

“Please, sit doon,” she told me gesturing to the small floral-patterned settee with its finely embroidered pillows. The small basket of embroidery sitting beside her chair suggested she’d done them herself. A young woman lightly rapped at the opened door. I recognized her as chatty Winnet. The maid smiled at me and gave a slight dip of a courtesy. I could tell she’d like nothing better than to sit with us and share the household news for I’d written her exactly so.

“Ah there ye are, girl. Set it there.” Her last words came with a nod toward the small table before me. Winnet set her full tray down then curtseyed once more and was gone. Mrs. Frew saw to my tea and then her own before saying, “It’s so guid of ye t’ come, dear. I’d imagine ye have many questions and t’ tell ye the truth so do I. Perhaps we each can offer answers. ”

I said, “Perhaps we can, but first I’d like to say how well you’re looking today, Mrs. Frew. I know you’ve been feeling under the weather.”

“Och, never mind me. Mistress Madeline. Our healer Janet Roxburgh takes guid care of me. The lass has a talent for mixing healing herbs, ye know. She sees to me several times each week and all is well So what is it ye want to know?"

Her Scottish accent was exactly as I imagined while writing her--softer, more refined. I told her how happy I was she was feeling better. Then I asked how young laird Lenox was fairing at Carterhaugh.

“Oh, the young laird is a guid man, as guid as his uncle Laird Charles was, god rest his dear soul.”

Lenox was a good man. All my heroes were. At this point in the story, he had no idea he was a half-fae changeling. Being privy to the inside details as I was, I also knew Mrs. Frew had an inkling of Lenox’ true nature. Testing how willing she was to speak of it, I went straight to the point.

“Mrs. Frew, may I ask, do you notice anything unusual about Lenox?”


I nodded.

“Ye mean beyond that he’s an outsider to these parts?”

Not wanting to lead the conversation beyond my question, I nodded again.

She gave me an appraising look as if testing how trustworthy I was with sensitive information. That was a solid trait in many large households like this. The servant staff may very well talk among themselves, but they seldom shared such opinions on their lairds and ladies with outsiders. I saw when her decision lit her eyes. She said simply, “He reminds me of my cousin.”


She told how her auntie had born a son much too soon and far too sickly to survive. She was only a girl at the time but explained how she had gone with her uncle when he placed the wee laddie upon a faery hill in the hopes the fae would take him away and make him well with their magic, adding, “My uncle Robbie explained that once taken, the poor sickly babe would never return. Leaving him was the only hope, ye see. An’ sure enough, come mornin’ the sickly babe was gone and a hale and hearty changeling was in his place. A changeling is a mixed-raced babe, dear, in case ye don’t know. The laddie had slightly pointed ears, but not so pointed as to be taken as a full-blooded fae.”

I asked if this was a common thing, leaving babies like that.

“Oh aye, it was common in the Highlands when I was a girl. It’s the only chance the sickly babes have, ye see. My auntie happily raised her changeling as her own, for it meant the fae had her son and were doing the same. Owen, she’d named them both.” Glynnis smiled remembering.

I hadn't set out for any of the other characters to have actual experience with a changeling. This was a very curious addition to the story and I liked it. I urged her to share more, “And you say Lenox reminds you of baby Owen?”

“Aye, his lairdship has a similar presence.”

"Please explain."

Weel, manys the time I’d hold wee Owen and he’d set me to tingling from head to toe. It’s a sensation one never forgets, dear. That very same tingle comes from the touch of headmaster Eppa and from his daughter Janet every time she comes to treat me with her herbs. The tingling sensation also came from the hand of the new Laird of Carterhaugh.”

I’d written Mrs. Frew to be quite an astute woman. She certainly was.

“Mistress Madeline, if I may, do keep this opinion of mine to yerself, hmm? I don’t think our young laird knows what he is just yet. It would be a jarring revelation, no?”

No he didn’t know just yet, but he’d have to know eventually. His life was in danger. I reached over and gave her slight knobby fingers a squeeze of assurance. “His secret is safe with me, Mrs. Frew. Thank you for sharing your insights.”

She smiled and reaching for the plate of scones, said, “Mrs. Nevin, our cook, makes delicious scones. Do have one, dear. Now if ye don’t mind, I have a few questions myself...”

The Changeling is a spin on the Scottish ballad of Tam Lin.
Listen to the ballad here.

Read all the Tam Lin versions through time

Blurb ~

Half-fae Lenox Pendry is surrounded by secrets and none are his to keep. Torn from his mother’s arms as a newborn and raised a changeling, Lenox grows to adulthood unaware of what and who he is and oblivious to the danger unfolding as his birthday draws near. Unwittingly sent to the Scottish Lowlands out of harm’s way, he meets a beautiful healer named Janet Roxburgh. The townspeople believe her to be a witch. It would appear Janet has a few secrets of her own.

"Madeline delivers a well thought out beautiful story with a plot that unfolds before your eye, it's very cleverly written. The characters you meet along the way are believable and the reader can relate to them."
~A Reader

Stop by my blog for interesting topics all month long

Rose Anderson is a multi-published award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes across genres under the pen name Madeline Archer. She lives with her family and small menagerie amid oak groves and prairie in the rolling glacial hills of the upper Midwest.
The Changeling by Madeline Archer comes from the sweeter side of Rose’s imagination and is rated PG. Find Rose Anderson's scorching novels wherever love stories are sold

Sample Rose Anderson's Scorching First Chapters 


Cara Marsi said...

I love the Ballad of Tam Lin, Rose, and your story sounds great. My characters speak to me, too, but not in such depth as yours.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I think it is important to be flexible in plot and characterizations so that when you get great ideas--as when your characters talk to you--you can write something even better than what you originally intended. Clearly, you have a very creative mind!

Rose Anderson said...

Yes I have quite the imagination!

There are a few versions of the ballad. You can look the performers up on youtube.

Melissa Keir said...

What a great way for characters to appear to you. I'm sure the scones were to die for! I do love when I get some special insights into a character but I've not had another character come to talk with me. I must do some more visualization!

Jane Leopold Quinn said...

Your stories are always so full of the sights, sounds, aromas that add so much to them. That's the heart of story telling. The little details that put the reader right in the scene.

Gemma Juliana said...

I love Mrs. Frew, and this interview, Rose. You have a true gift for drawing out the heart of a character, and their very essence. The reader experiences your delight as part of the mix. Reading your stories is always a treat.

jean hart stewart said...

Love it when my characters talk to me, although sometimes they set the story on a path I never suspected. Writing can be fun, can't it. Loved your post.

E. Ayers said...

Doesn't everyone hear the voices? Doesn't everyone talk back?
Oh, shh! They just told me that normal people don't hear voices. I think normal people forgot to listen.

stanalei said...

A fascinating conversation, Rose. Thank you for sharing this side trip.

Paris said...

I loved this exchange! Your characters are so lovingly crafted that I can hear them speaking. You have a definite talent for setting the scene. Thanks for sharing:)

Rose Anderson said...

I'm glad you all enjoyed this little flight of fancy. Thanks for stopping by, everyone!

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