This is probably too obvious, how does your approach to a historical romance differ
from your approach to contemporary?
Writing for me is all about the story and character. Once those two things are in place, all
other aspects of a book kind of fill in around them no matter the time period. A spunky
chef trying to carve out a place for herself in Seattle’s restaurant scene wouldn’t really
hold up in 12 th century Scotland, whereas a warrior woman determined to fend off
invaders with her sword in New York City in 2019 would probably be arrested or shot.
That said, I personally find writing contemporaries to be a lot harder than writing
historicals! Modern society is so much more sophisticated and complicated. Even modern
romantic relationships are more complex. Women in medieval times had a lot less control
over their destiny, but as the manipulator of my characters love lives, I can make certain
they have all the power they need to achieve their happily ever after.
What is your connection to Scotland?
I married a Scottish Highlander and very happily became part of the Russell clan even
though I have a wee bit of Scottish blood in my own family line. But it didn’t matter how
much of a true Scot I was, as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by Scottish
history. I preferred reading biographies about Boudicca, Flora MacDonald, or Mary
Queen of Scots to anything else and spent many long hours with my nose in books about
the myths and legends of the British Isles.
When I started writing fiction, I realized I had to focus my research efforts a little more
so that I could be as accurate as possible with the details in my books and chose to
concentrate on the time period between the 12 th and 17 th century. There’s a lot of history
in those 500 years! I will never run out of story ideas.
Since this story has an “on-road adventure” aspect, did you have to study historic geography?
Yes, research is vital to authenticity in historical fiction, but it’s something I love to do!
The hard part of researching is to know the fine line between too much detail and just
enough in a story.
Not all research comes from books or old documents. To really get the details right for
the All the King’s Men series, I went to Scotland and visited the areas my characters
traveled through in Seven Nights with a Scot. I was able to see for myself Scotland’s
coastlines, islands, and inland lochs, as well as the fault lines, mountains, hills, bogs, and
After seeing the geography in person, I then worked backwards…using historical maps
and archeological references to figure out the lay of the land as it was in the 16 th century.
The most difficult aspect of writing about historical geography is trying to figure out
where the trees were! All the peat bogs (and the Vikings) left Scotland rather treeless at
times, so sometimes you just have to use the information available and take your best
What inspired you to give Vivian paranormal precognition?
Each book in the All the King’s Men series focuses on a different aspect of the Berwick
Witch Trials. In Seven Nights with a Scot, I focused on two aspects of everyday life that
were accepted as normal before the “Burning Times”—wise woman healing and second
sight. For generations prior to the 16 th century, healing knowledge was passed down from
one generation of women to another. Often, these same healers were also blessed with
“second sight,” probably because they were more in sync with nature and the
supernatural. But in the 16th century, almost overnight, anyone possessing these skills was suddenly viewed with both suspicious and fear. I wanted my heroine, Vivian, to
experience the terror many of these women felt as their gifts suddenly became a
curse—one that could end in a fiery death upon the stake.
What are you currently reading?
Like so many other authors during this time of year, I am reading entries in the first round
of judging for the RITA Awards—the highest award of distinction in romance fiction. It’s
so exciting to read outside of my typical reading habits, and to find new-to-me authors
who I will go on to love in the years ahead. Before I started reading my RITA entries, I
had started The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (love it!), as well as Kiss Me Like
You Mean It, by Dr. David Clarke (for insight into relationship building between
characters), and Witches: James I and the English Witch-Hunts by Tracy Borman (more
fun Scottish research).
Gerri Russell is the award-winning author of historical and contemporary novels including the Brotherhood of the Scottish Templars series and Flirting with Felicity. A two-time recipient of the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Award and winner of the American Title II competition sponsored by RT Book Reviews magazine, she is best known for her adventurous and emotionally intense novels set in the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Scottish Highlands. Before Gerri followed her passion for writing romance novels, she worked as a broadcast journalist, a newspaper reporter, a magazine columnist, a technical writer and editor, and an instructional designer. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four mischievous black cats.