Hi there, friends. I have something fun and a little different for you today. Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with talented fiction author Cristine Eastin who, like me, has a deep and profound love for Scotland. Her most recent novel, Love Inherited, is set in the Scottish Highlands. Although relatively new on the literary stage, Cristine is a skilled and creative storyteller. She describes herself as an “author of contemporary fiction spiced with romance, faith, and hope”. I am so delighted to introduce her to you today! So without further adieu…
Wendy: Welcome, Cris. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me.
Cristine: Thanks so much for the privilege of getting to do this!
Wendy: It’s my pleasure. Let’s just jump right in, shall we?
Wendy: What was the inspiration behind Love Inherited?
Cristine: Hmm…a gorgeous American woman inherits a huge Highland estate and tons of money and gets the drop-dead gorgeous laird…I didn’t have to go very subconscious to get to…wouldn’t that be fun? But seriously, having been an American young woman transplanted to England for two years, I know the outlander experience. And I wanted to write a story that, when the reader came to the end, would count for something. So I gave the main characters deep wounding or hurts they had to struggle with.
Wendy: The story of Love Inherited takes place in the beautiful Highlands of Scotland. Why did you choose this location as the setting for your book?
Cristine: Because I love, love, love Scotland. It’s where I’d love to live if they didn’t drive on the left. Living there in my writer’s head was second best. Having made eight trips to Scotland, I know it fairly well and I thought I could convey the setting to the reader.
The actual location of Love Inherited, Fionnloch, is a fictionalized Gairloch in Wester Ross in the northwest Highlands. My husband and I stayed at Shieldaig Lodge a few years ago and I was so captivated by the area that I set my book there.
Wendy: In your book, you explore themes such as love, healing, forgiveness, and faith. How has your own faith impacted your life?
Cristine: Hugely! When I accepted that what I had been raised to believe, then wandered away from, was true—it was life changing. That was thirty-five years ago. My faith makes a difference in my psychotherapy work in that a lot of clients come to me because they know I’m Christian and they want to actively use their own faith as part of the therapy process. It makes a difference in my writing in that I want to honor God. When writing romance, I want to show the Song of Songs love between a man and a woman that God gave us for a wedding gift and the kind of relationship that He wants with us.
Wendy: How has your career as a psychotherapist influenced your writing and character development?
Cristine: I know people. I know their wounding. The difficulty of healing. Desires, addictions, fears, defenses, the need to give and receive forgiveness. I know their struggle to love—themselves and others. I also know their joys. I hope I created characters readers can relate to so closely they hear China MacLeish’s heartbeat, feel Duncan Sinclair’s breath in their hair.
Wendy: Scotland is such an amazing country that has a way of drawing you in. Why do you think that is?
Cristine: For me, it’s the land, the people, the climate, and the heritage. The Highlands are a mix of lush, barren, and grand landscapes. A ruggedness that draws me like no other place I’ve been. The remoteness of the mountains holds a tantalizing danger to me, even from a distance. I do like to get away from it all, and were I younger, I’d be off trekking to the mountain bothies.
The Scots are referred to as “dour,” but I’ve found them to be more “no nonsense” people. I experienced the Scots as friendly and reserved. Maybe I’m just projecting myself on them. Anyway, I liked the Scots I’ve met.
The climate? Yes, I like the climate. I’ve been to the Highlands in September when it’s chilly and crisp and bluebird skies. I’ve also been there when it’s bucketed down for an entire week, blowing a gale. The clouds are spectacular. There’s something about the air in the Highlands that makes everything a little sharper—when it’s not shrouded in mist. It took three trips before my husband finally got to see the tops of the mountains in Glencoe.
I relate to the heritage by inclination rather than by blood. Fierce pride, independence, tied to the land and each other.
Travel tip: I won’t go during tourist season or midge season. Fortunately, those two seasons coincide, so that leaves a lot of the year open.
Cristine: Wendy, your turn. The song says, “Haste ye back.” Why do you keep going back?
Wendy: I am probably foremost captivated by the land. The landscape is so varied, vast, and unbelievably beautiful. I am enamored with its textures and colors and with the light. The climate and weather suits me to a T. My energy level abounds when I’m there! I also have an affinity for Scottish culture and have developed a keen interest in the country’s history. It may sound silly, but I feel so ‘myself’ in Scotland. I’m never happier than when I’m there with my Mr. C, exploring old ruins and ancient sacred places, marveling at the architecture, and driving some of the prettiest roads on the planet.
Wendy: You have visited Scotland several times in your life. Do you have a favorite region? What are some of your favorite sites? Where do you hope your next trip will take you?
Cristine: Always the Highlands. The Highlands region is defined by the Highland Boundary Fault which starts in the Isle of Arran, jogs up to Helensburgh, and cuts the country diagonally to Stonehaven. My favorite region might be the Isle of Skye. It’s scary rugged and scary grand.
Favorite sites: Dunnottar Castle, Doune Castle, the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Kilravock Castle, the Waternish Penninsula and Dun Beag Broch on Skye, St. Clement’s Church on Harris, and Dun Carloway Broch on Lewis—and anywhere a rushing burn or the sea is. My very favorite moment was leaning out the window of Dunnottar’s dungeon, watching the waves crash fifty feet up the cliff below.
The next trip, I think I’d like to experience the Isle of Arran, said to be a microcosm of the whole of Scotland in its varied terrain. Or maybe we’ll break with the Highlands tradition and go see Tantallon Castle.
Cristine: Wendy, where are your favorite places? And where are you and Mr. C going next?
Wendy: Goodness, I have so many favorites. St. Abbs, Hailes Castle, the Cairngorms, the coastal villages in Fife, Lauriston Castle, Holyrood Park, Cove Bay, Ardross Farm Shop, Dirleton Castle, Dunlichity Cemetery, and Auchindoun Castle just to name a few.
The fun thing about exploring Scotland is that you never know what surprise is just around the corner. If you look for them, there are treasures at every turn. Just put me in a car on a single track road in the middle of nowhere with no agenda and I’m as happy as a clam.
As for our next trip, we actually already have it all lined up! Next spring we are renting a bonafide 16th century castle in Moray. Like as in renting THE WHOLE CASTLE. It was at one time in a completely ruinous state but received a total repair and renovation in the 1970’s. It’s even said to have a ghost. To say that I’m counting the days is an understatement!
Wendy: What other books have you written? Do you have any other projects in the works that you would be willing to tell us about?
Cristine: My first book, Fifty Days to Sunrise, is set in small-town Minnesota. It’s about grief, love, family, and healing. Romantic happy ending guaranteed.
A Wee Scottish Cookbook is the companion cookbook to Love Inherited. Readers told me they wanted recipes for several of the dishes served up in LI, so I complied.
My ‘Work In Progress’ is a romance set near Nairn, a little northeast of Inverness. There’s a woman rebuilding her life, a farmer with a deep past, a nasty neighbor, and a badboy who resembles Jason Momoa. No fluffy romance this, they’ll be grappling with some heavy stuff.
Wendy: What advice would you give to someone who has always wanted to tackle writing a novel but just can’t seem to make the leap?
Cristine: Don’t do it for the money! (wry smile here) Do it for the satisfaction of holding your baby in your hands. Do it to touch even one person with what you write. Do it for love; you define who or what you love enough to write. Try it. Unlike what Yoda tells Luke Sykwalker, there is “try” in writing.
Wendy: Other than writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Cristine: I have a long list of revolving hobbies. The main ones are reading, walking, downhill skiing, and photography. I recently picked up knitting again, and I need to get back to playing my Celtic harp. Quilting might take another rotation through, and my neglected yoga mat is calling.
Wendy: And one last question – what is something else that you would like your readers to know about you?
Cristine: I’m an animal lover!
Wendy: Thank you, Cristine. This was so much fun! Thank you again for stopping by and sharing more about yourself.
Cristine: Thank you for having me!
*photos courtesy of Cristine Eastin