Best Selling author Deborah MacGillivray: Riding The Thunder!

Summoning Thunder. . . Inspiration Found in the Oddest Places


Deborah Macgillivray

Thomas Wolfe once wrote that we can never go home again.  In the strictest meaning, perhaps not.  But in my soul, I do go to those off-the-beaten-path, special places that were once a part of my life.  I revisit spots that have a magical hold over me, and see people who affected me in some inexplicable, remarkable way.

I found I leave pieces of myself in my books.  Sometimes it’s an insider joke.  Others it’s a touchstone.  My dear friend, Dawn Thompson, had a touchstone in all her books.  You will see the phrase green darkness used at some point in every novel she wrote, an honor to Anya Seaton’s book Green Darkness.  It was the book that made Dawn want to write.  Now that Dawn has left us, I carry on her touchstone by working that phrase into all my historicals.  My tribute to her. 

Nowhere is this leaving a trail of bread crumbs the key to one’s self more evident than in my contemporary romance novels the Sisters of Colford Hall ™ (Montlake/Amazon Publishing).  In the first three books of the series, The Invasion of Falgannon Isle, Riding the Thunder, and A Wolf In Wolf’s Clothing, I drew heavily on my memories of growing up of places and people that moved me in some form.  Most of these people and spots are now long gone, though they still live in those shining images dear to me.  In The Invasion of Falgannon Isle it was the Scots and their wonderful, quirky humor, the ability to accept there’s more to this world than just what meets the eye, and their tendency to laugh at any situation.  Not just at, but with.  I took those precious remembrances and spun a fantasy, creating an imaginary isle with 213 bachelors and only three unmarried women two were gay and the remaining one was a woman the males couldn’t court because of an ancient curse!  It’s a Brigadoonish romp which came straight from my heart.  And with The Cat Dudley a poker playing feline it’s an island where I could easily retreat to and live in bliss!

When I shaped the series, I wanted each book to stand on its own, though still be very much a part of the series.  I desired paranormal elements in each book, yet those components should be unique to each story.  I aimed for each novel to be fresh, not just a blueprint of the previous books, so I looked to the other half of my roots for the second book
the beautiful state of Kentucky for the setting.  One reader who read Riding the Thunder remarked that she loved the book so much she wished there really was a place called The Windmill.  Well, in truth there was.  Once upon a time there was a small restaurant/motel named The Wind Mill.

(“idealized” postcards from the 1950s)

Located on Lexington Pike, it was halfway between Lexington and Nicholasville.  Long ago, the suburban sprawl of Lexington saw the distance between the massive college town and the small southern community sadly fade.  The Wind Mill was also the halfway point between Michigan and Florida on the “Blue Highway”.  Decades before the interstate system was put in place, the road was the main artery from North to South.  Truck drivers required a place to eat and to catch some rest, as did many vacationers heading to sunny Florida.  Those frequent travelers used the spot as a stopping point in the long drive.  There was truly a motel, restaurant, swim club and a Drive-In theatre.  And yes, there was even a horse farm across from it.

The place was nothing special.  By the time I began visiting there, it already had a slightly seedy, rundown air of fading into the Twilight Zone of time.  My visits to the area rarely lasted long, only a week or two each year, but for some odd reason the quirky place that was out-of-step with the rest of the world made a deep impression in my young mind and heart.  And very much like Scotland, the people there seemed to have a slower pace to life, able to enjoy the moment
truly relish their oddball sense of being unique. These out of way places have their own speedgenerally slow and stop. . .LOL and it filled my imagination with a wonder and magic I cannot truly explain.  So, yes, The Windmill did exist.  It had a Wurlitzer that tended to play the wrong tunes at times.  There was even a very special young man nicknamed Ooo-it.

Over the years, I visited the area less and less.  It hurt too much to see the city sprawl, the giant Lexington pushing closer and closer, until finally consuming the tiny town of Nicholasville.  All the area’s special flavor, its eccentricity was lost.  Only those images remained, frozen in my mind. . . seeds waiting to come alive.  I wanted to capture that timeless feel, so thus my stage was set for the romantic battle of Jago Mershan and Asha Montgomerie.

My stories always evolve from the questions of who and why.  I see a scene in my head, such as the opening of Chapter One:  Jago sitting at the bar, waiting, and drinking a beer.  Who is he?  Why is he there?  Who is he waiting for?  He’s waiting for Asha, naturally.  Then, when Asha enters, it’s more questions.  Where did she just come from?  How will she react to this lone wolf invading her domain?  What is a woman from England doing in a nowhere spot in Kentucky?  I knew who she was basically, the little sister of the heroine in the first book in the series, but the questions then propelled me to define Asha and her quirky world and how Jago fit into it.

Cats seem to have a penchant for wandering into my contemporary stories, so I wasn’t surprised the nameless cat appeared and took up with Jago.  I kept trying to give the black cat his name, only he defied my efforts, so I permitted that, too, to become a part of the story.
As for the tune Tell Laura I Love Her the song was very popular when I was a small child and it seemed to play endlessly on the Jukebox at the real Wind Mill Restaurant.  Records were not updated too often.  LOL.  Bobby “Boris” Picket, J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers, The Kinks, The Hollies. . . all played on the 45s, three songs for a quarter.  Everything from those few weeks scattered through my early life lived on, razor sharp in my mind.  I recall the beautiful Wurlitzer, the shiny lights holding a faerie magic, like a lit Christmas tree, the Wallette changers on the walls by each booth.  If I just close my eyes and allow my mind to cast back in time, suddenly, I conjure the way the afternoon sun slanted through the plate-glass windows, which ran across the front of the brick building.  It’s all there for me the Drive-In showing Vincent Price movies; the sound of someone bouncing on the diving board at the swim club; I hear the chatter in the restaurant, or the taste cheesecake topped with fresh strawberries.  Scents, as well, play a big part  in those memories popcorn in the concession stand, baby oil and chlorine from poolside, and the smells of food cooking in the diner.  I feel the breeze off the Kentucky River caressing my face; I hear the rush of the water over the weir at Lock Eight.  All of these elements supercharged my senses and created such vivid and happy memories within me.  Inside my heart The Wind Mill was not a rundown place whose magic was extinguished by progress of the times.  It lived and was nurtured within my soul.  Pure magic.

Finally, one day Riding the Thunder was born. . .

Deborah Macgillivray is the author of the Award-Winning contemporary romance series, the Sisters of Colford Hall ™(Montlake/Amazon Publishing) and Scottish Medieval Historical series, The Dragons of Challon™ (Kensington Books).  She also has an anthology, Cat O’ Nine Tales, dealing with her favourite subjectsRomance and Felines.

Her titles include:  The Invasion of Falgannon Isle, Riding the Thunder, A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing, A Restless Knight, In Her Bed, One Snowy Knight, and Cat O’Nine Tales, available in paperback and eBook through and wherever books are sold.  

She now lives in a small town in Northern Kentucky where she is working on the next books in both series.

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Candy Thompson said…
Great blog! Very interesting! I would recommend any of your books! Riding The Thunder is fabulous!!! Couldn't put it down!!! Can't wait for more books!!! :)

I enjoyed your behind the scene look at your series. I'm loving this series! I just started Book 3. :)
Jacquie Rogers said…
I love these little sneak peeks into the real setting behind the fiction. :) Your familiarity with the locale sure does make the settings come alive in your books. You have a real talent for honing in on just the right detail to make the scene unique.
Gerri Bowen said…
Having read all three, I enjoyed reading your blog and learning a little bit more about the locales. Makes me want to reread them! Wonderful reading for those who have never read them! :)

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