Author of the Month
Sue-Ellen Welfonder [March 2005]
Chosen by reviewer Reviewer Faith V. Smith, MyShelf.Com
An America Miss with a Scottish Heart! Sue-Ellen Welfonder’s Medieval Scottish romances, beginning with “Devil In A Kilt” have turned up on premier websites, magazines and on readers’ shelves. She has a grasp of what readers want and a way with heroes and heroines that make her fans laugh and cry. Sue-Ellen lives with her husband and her muse (their Jack Russell Terrier, Em) in Florida. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and her own clan society, the MacFie Clan Society of North America. When not writing or walking her dog, she can usually be found scouring the history section of used bookstores, or curled in a corner of the sofa late at night, happily lost in the pages of a research book on medieval Scotland.
Faith: How old were you when
you started to write?
Faith: How old were you when you started to write?
Sue-Ellen: Much older than the many romance authors who claim to have been six or so when they penned their first tale! I am definitely not one of those who crayoned their first book, selling it to friends for a dime or having it read over my elementary school's pa system. Far from it, it was never my intention to become a writer. My most fervent goal was always to become an airline stewardess (as such were called back then) and see the world. I achieved that goal, was blissfully happy in my flying career - a career that lasted over twenty years. But I was always an avid reader. I also wrote a great deal, but for my own personal pleasure: I kept meticulous travel journals all through my flying years. As well, I would write many-paged letters to friends describing my travel adventures. (this was before e-mail) One of those friends was romance author Becky Lee Weyrich. One day, she told me she felt my letters 'transported her to the places I'd been' and she said I should consider writing romance. I thought she was crazy, thought I could never write book. But her urging took seed and I eventually decided to try. At this time I was in my late thirties. I can honestly say that without Becky, I would still be flying. I would never have thought of writing as a career.
Faith: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Sue-Ellen: Well ... I am a very private person so I do not like talking about myself. The basics are that I was born and raised in Miami, lived in Dallas for some years when I was flying (fell in love with Texas and Texans), married a German and spent fifteen years living there, in Munich, before returning to Florida. I am of Scottish descent and grew up learning to love and appreciate Scottish history and culture. I make several trips there each year and am more passionate about Scotland than anything else. My other great loves are medieval history and dogs. I have a Jack Russell Terrier who owns my heart and helps me write - he is always sprawled across my lap when I sit at my desk. Cooking and gardening (I had a lovely herb garden in Munich) were great joys until I met an unforgiving creature called a deadline. I prefer understatement in all things, can't stand 'flash and brash' and enjoy living quietly.
Faith: Why did you choose Scottish Medieval for your chosen genre?
Sue-Ellen: Why? Ah well, let's just say that nothing makes my heart pound more than Scotland. I have always loved Scotland, since earliest childhood, and I have also always been fascinated by medieval history. Both passions have simply always been there. Perhaps my own Scottish ancestry ignited my great love of Scotland since I have been immersed in its culture and lore since birth. And I have been visiting Scotland annually all my adult life. It is impossible to go there, even just once, and not be consumed. So combining those two great loves - Scotland and medieval history - makes Scottish medieval romance the only choice for me.
Faith: How many manuscripts did you submit before you were published?
Sue-Ellen: Only one, a paranormal with a ghost hero. It made the rounds and was rejected everywhere. It was one of those 'books of the heart' for me. But I see now that although the premise is fine (in my opinion) my writing skills at that time were sorely lacking. The manuscript would need a major rewrite to be publishable. My debut book, Devil in a Kilt on the other hand, went to Warner Books and was snapped up within two weeks of landing on my then-editor's desk. That book, Devil in a Kilt, was the fourth manuscript I'd completed.
Faith: What to you is the hardest part of writing?
Sue-Ellen: Honest answer? Being reviewed. Knock on wood, most of my reviews have been good ones, but the nasty ones are like getting kicked in the teeth. A writing friend once described the sensation as standing naked on a stage, under a glaring spotlight, while a fully-clothed announcer stands beside you, pointing out all your flaws to an equally fully-clothed and jeering audience. Before selling, I never considered how excruciating I would find this aspect of writing and if I had, I may well never have ventured down this road. Especially as private as I am. Along with reviews, I would also add the nasty things that can appear on Amazon and reader message boards. Since I absolutely believe that negativity can derail creativity, I do not visit online romance sites, do not peek at message boards, and do not look at Amazon. I have abided by this mindset for several years now and my nerves are much better for it. With constant deadlines, I'd rather play ostrich than risk upsetting myself and thus ruining good deadline time.
Faith: Do you ever suffer from writer's block?
Sue-Ellen: Yes and no. My story ideas always come to me in one fell swoop, so I know the whole tale, everything about it, before I ever write the first line. That being so, I never sit here and wonder where to head next. What can happen is that I can get burdened by a personal setback or crisis and then find it hard to drum up the energy to write through whatever is troubling me. When that happens, life can get dark and scary. Especially with a looming deadline. And because of that looming deadline, I then force myself to just get down as many words as I can, trusting in my ability to fix them later on.
Faith: Who is your favorite character in all your books and why?
Sue-Ellen: Without question, Sir M aka Sir Marmaduke Strongbow. He was the hero's sidekick in Devil in a Kilt and, later, the hero of his own book, Bride of the Beast. He also has a role in my upcoming July '05 release, Only for a Knight, and in my current deadline book, as yet untitled. He was based on a real historical personage of his times: Sir Marmaduke Tweng. The real Sir M was a contemporary of my own greatest historical hero, Robert Bruce, Scotland's hero king in the early 1300s. Like Robert Bruce, Sir Marmaduke Tweng was considered one of the most accomplished knights in Christendom and although Tweng was English, the two men knew each other from the tourney circuits and the English Court. Tweng was also known for his valor and chivalry. At Bruce's famed victory over the English in 1314, at Bannockburn, the real Sir M was unhorsed but wasn't wounded. After the battle, he wandered the field looking for Bruce, determined not to surrender to any but the Scottish king. Once he found Bruce, he went down on one knee to offer Bruce his sword, but, honoring his old friend's valor and reputation for goodness, Bruce bade Sir Marmaduke to rise, took him to his royal tent to refresh himself, and provided him with an escort of trusted Scots knights to see him safely over the border to England. The men are said to have remained friends for life. When I decided Duncan, the hero in Devil in a Kilt, needed an English friend as sidekick - a good and wise soul to temper Duncan's darkness and doubts - I remembered Robert Bruce and Sir Marmaduke Tweng.
I'd like to add that I never considered the name 'Marmaduke' as being detrimental because I had no plans whatsoever to someday make this character a hero in his own right. I did change the last name to Strongbow, but otherwise felt honor bound to keep the name Marmaduke. And for that reason ( honoring the memory of a true historical valiant ) I would still keep the name if given a second chance at writing his book - even though some readers thought it necessary to chide me for my choice and to ridicule the name on certain online romance sites and amazon.com. But those who know and love Sir M will know he is big-hearted enough to stand above such pettiness.
As to 'why' I love him best, well, to me, there is no beauty more deep than a shining heart and a good soul. Sir M has these qualities in great abundance. He is a caring man, one who can be passionate and gentle, and he is loyal to the bone. Compassion and depth will always win out over dashing good looks in the long run. I suppose that is what makes Sir M so appealing - despite the loss of his one-time handsomeness. Plus, don't we all just plain enjoy seeing the underdog win?
That said, dear old Devorgilla, the mischievous crone first introduced in my second book, Knight in My Bed, comes in at a close second. I adore her. She plies her magic in each of my books and also helps me with my website. Being seemly allergic to self-aggrandizement in any way, shape, or form, I find the whole concept of self-promotion ... difficult to put it tactfully. So Devorgilla, who is quite cheeky and bold, helps me announce wee successes and such on my website. She has also been known to do the occasional reader newsletter for me. And for the curious, the real Devorgilla truly did exist in medieval Scotland and was quite a great lady, much loved and respected in her time.
Faith: Do you have a particular schedule you adhere to when you are writing?
Sue-Ellen: Not really. I wish I did. Sadly, the neighborhood where I currently live is plagued by on-going construction - older homes are torn down and big, 'monster' houses are built to replace them. For each of my books, I can walk outside and point to the house that was a construction site during a particular book's deadline. The constant and ceaseless construction noise and disruption means that I do much of my best work at night, usually beginning from about 9 p.m. through the small hours. I am a night owl anyway, so this works for me. Mornings find me useless, unable to type my own name much less write. So I do household chores and grocery shopping, etc ... up until about 11 a.m., then settle in to write. I work straight through the day and night then, breaking only to exercise in the afternoon and for dinner.
Faith: How do you handle a rejected manuscript?
Sue-Ellen: Not well. Luckily, I have not had to face this problem since I sold. Though, I know being pubbed is not assurance that all your proposals will be accepted! When I was still unpubbed, I took rejections very badly. They lamed me and plunged me into a whirlwind of insecurity and self-doubt. My 'elixir' is Scotland. Whenever I am troubled, whatever the reason, I simply think about my next trip to Scotland. Nothing else lifts my heart faster.
Faith: What do you read when you have time to read?
Sue-Ellen: My pleasure reading falls
outside my own subgenre. I love nothing better
Faith: Do you have any plans to write a different type of book?
Sue-Ellen: No. I write Scottish Medievals because Scotland (and its medieval history) takes my breath away, fills me with wonder and awe. To me, it is all about Scotland. I might have the skill to research and write, say, a Western-set romance or a comedy-driven Regency-light romance or a Navy Seal romance, Chic Lit, what-have-you, but such a book would fall utterly flat because my heart would not be in it. Such settings and themes do not make my pulse pound, just plain don't interest me. And that would show. That said, I might someday attempt to write Scottish-set contemporary paranormals - but they would be closely entwined with Highland and medieval Scottish themes. And I would only write such books in addition to my Scottish Medievals. Never as a replacement. I am definitely not one of those historical authors who will suddenly switch to romantic suspense. My readers can be assured I will always be writing Scottish Medievals.
Faith: I know you love to go to Scotland for research and relaxation. Where is your favorite place to do this?
Sue-Ellen: Oh dear. This is a tough one. Every inch of Scotland is steeped in legend and lore, brimming with layers and layers of history. To walk anywhere in Scotland is to be enchanted, to feel the ancient sanctity of the place thrumming through you. Even so, I do have my favorite haunts, the dearest being the far north, a region called Sutherland - Scotland's wild and remote northwest. I prefer this area for its emptiness, its lonely beauty. But it also has so very much to offer ... century upon century of rich, sometimes heart-grinding history. That, combined with a scenic beauty beyond description. Also, as opposed to the more popular tourist destinations in Scotland, in this area, you can visit countless spectacular castle ruins and other archaeological sites (brochs, stone circles, etc ..) that are incredibly well-preserved because they are less known and receive so little intrusive tourist traffic. For example, I am almost always wholly alone when I visit these places. No busloads of tourists scrambling about ... just me, the wind and moors, and the whispers of the past. Dornie in Kintail where 'Duncan's castle' of Devil in a Kilt can be found (in reality, Eilean Donan Castle) and the beautiful Isle of Skye also remain mainstays of my every trip to Scotland. But it is the far north that truly holds my heart.
Faith: Any advice you can give aspiring writers?
Sue-Ellen: Firstly, to seriously consider if they truly want to do this. This is a brutal and fiercely competitive business. To look deep and think hard about whether they can handle the heat and pressures that come along with being published. If so, they should then start early to develop a very thick skin. Otherwise, just do it. Join RWA, study the craft, practice discipline so that you write something every day. And do not get too hampered by the ‘rules’ – what works for one person may not be the best method for the next. Find the best way for yourself and, if it works, do not let nay-sayers distract you. I have a list of ‘how to write’ resources on my website. Aspiring writers might find something of use there. It can be accessed here: www.welfonder.com/links.htm#writerly
Faith: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers?
Sue-Ellen: Only that those who enjoyed
Devil in a Kilt might be pleased to know
Faith: Thank you so much, Sue-Ellen!
Lady Amicia MacLean's most fervent wish is realized when she weds handsome Magnus MacKinnon. She has loved the man since her youth when he rescued her from a fall, but she never thought her girlish dreams would come true. Now, she anxiously awaits his return from battle to see if their surprise wedding is welcome and if he returns the same devotion she holds in her heart for her warrior husband.
Magnus returns home tired, beaten and dissolute, to find he has been married by proxy to a woman he has cherished from afar for years. He should be overjoyed, but instead he is furious. He doesn't want Amicia's dowry to rebuild the fortune he lost while fighting for the king. He doesn't want her sympathy or her open invitation to take her as a man takes a wife.
His pride will not allow him to accept her seductive offer.
Amicia fights Magnus's pride and stubborn spirit as well as his comely and petite cousin in order to win his affections. Magnus is determined to withstand the siren call his wife puts forth, but he is caught in a trap of his own making when he is called upon to honor a pledge he gave a fellow knight.
Welfonder's latest foray into medieval romance is magical. She brings
back Devorgilla, a beloved character from her previous books and surpasses
her readers' expectations. Her heroine is true-to-life with an audacity
that matches the twenty-first century and the fact that Amicia is a bit
more endowed than the run-of-the-mill heroines won her a special place
in my heart. A sensitive and soul-tortured hero, along with accidents
that happen on purpose, sinister evil and a ghost from the past make Wedding
For A Knight, an excellent choice for a book that will rival a bubble
bath for taking a reader away!
2005's Honorary List