Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Spectacular to Spooky

Most Scottish romances seem to be set in the Scottish Highlands - and I can quite see why. The spectacular beauty of the north-wesr with its rolling hills and glens and stunning lochs, and the multitude of picturesque islands scattered off the coast, is a wonderful background for any novel. There are imposing and ruined castles among this scenery, along with bizarre yet somehow charming turretted monstrosities built by the Victorians (often incomers) in a misguided tribute to Scotland's past.

But Scotland is more than its Highlands. The whole country has its fair share of beauty spots and spooky spots - haunted castles, Pictish standing stones, unspoilt beaches with rocky, rugged cliffs that somehow manage to look older than those of any other country. I've set most of my books at least partly in Scotland, because obviously it's the place I know best, but also because something has inspired me about a particular historical character or building.

When I began Blood on Silk, I always meant the main focus to be on Romania and Hungary (also beautiful and inspiring countries!), but my heroine had to be Scottish and I always meant her to come home for the final show-down. And I always had a definite place in mind for that - the imposing cathedral ruins at St. Andrews, which incorporate a graveyard and, close by, an even older Celtic church with a tall tower I was always too wimpy to climb - it's always shut for safety reasons at university exam times. And of course it has a sea view.

The cathedral - represented on the cover of Blood Sin, the second of my trilogy - is one of my heroine's favourite places in the world. It's also one of mine. As a student, I used to gravitate there for all sorts of reasons - for fun with friends, for being alone when I was feeling down or looking for inspiration, or just appreciating where I was and what I had. It always drew me. So when I came to the climax of Blood on Silk, it was important to convey at least something of the cathedral's unique atmosphere.

Here's a snippet from that scene. If you've been there, let me know if it works for you. If you haven't, I hope it helps inspire you to come :).

By Marie Treanor
Out Now from NAL Signet Eclipse.
Order from Amazon

Scottish academic Elizabeth Silk is spending the summer in Romania researching historical superstitions for her PhD. While she is tracing local folktales, one subject in particular sparks her imagination. His name is Saloman, legend's most powerful vampire, a seductive prince staked centuries ago. Now, in the ruins of a castle crypt, Elizabeth discovers the legends are real. Her blood has awakened him. Her innocence has aroused him. But Elizabeth unleashes more than Saloman's hunger.

An army of vampire hunters has amassed to send Saloman back to hell. Sworn to help - yet fearing Saloman's deadly blood lust - Elizabeth seeks to entrap him, offering her body as bait. But something stronger than dread, more powerful than revenge, is uniting Elizabeth to her prey. Caught between desire and rage, Elizabeth must decide where her loyalties lie...and what the limits are to a yearning she can no longer control.

Elizabeth had always liked the ruins best by dusk. She could almost imagine the ghosts of monks gliding along the nave, heads bowed, praying. As the shadows lengthened and vanished into darkness, she could rebuild the walls and turrets in her head, think herself back six hundred years, and let the beauty and peace enfold her.

The hunters said its holiness didn’t affect the vampires, because humans had abandoned the church, despoiled and neglected it as Reformation austerity took hold. They said it gave no advantage to good over evil, but Elizabeth thought they were wrong. She loved this place and knew now that it was the right, the only place in which to face him and finish this.

“They have keys,” Mihaela murmured, jerking her head toward the British hunters—who seemed to be the proverbial Scotsman, Englishman, and Irishman of a million bad jokes. “Alarms and cameras are turned off , and we can shelter in the museum if we need to.”

Elizabeth nodded. “Where is Zoltán?” she asked as Konrad came up.

“Here,” said the vampire, so close behind her that she jumped. Zoltán laughed. He wore a real sword quite casually at his belt and on the other side, two sharpened wooden stakes like her own.

“That should give him something to think about. I’ve been unmasked all day. He knows I’m here, with you.”

“Then he’ll know you want him here. . . .”

Zoltán shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. He’ll still come.”

“And Maximilian?” Mihaela asked.

“Not here yet.”

“Can’t you sense him?” Konrad demanded.

“Of course not. He’s a master of masking. One more thing. I have a condition of my alliance.”

Konrad lifted his brows, and Zoltán smiled. “I kill Saloman.”

“No,” said all the hunters together. It sounded like a football crowd.

Zoltán laughed again.

Konrad said, “Only if you meet our condition in return.” And the others stared at him with as much outrage as anxiety. It was not, clearly, a condition he was allowed to agree to by all the rules and guidelines of their organization. But then, Elizabeth suspected he had no intention of keeping it anyhow.

“I’m listening,” Zoltán said.

“Order your zombies to return to their graves as soon as he’s dead.”

Elizabeth’s stomach twisted. It still seemed terribly wrong to countenance use of the dead in this way. And yet to stop Saloman, they needed every advantage they could find. They needed to be pragmatic. But she was well aware that if Zoltan did kill Saloman, the hunters would stake him straight afterward. No one imagined the mercenary vampires would hang around in loyal outrage.

Zoltán shrugged. “I’ll make it part of my summons. We have company.”

Four men were strolling through the cathedral from various directions, stepping through arches and climbing over a low, broken wall. They didn’t speak to one another or to Zoltán, just nodded distantly, and stood around to await another vampire’s enemy whose death they hoped would strengthen them. They were the first native vampires Elizabeth was aware of encountering, and the sight of them, the knowledge of them, sent an odd shiver up her back.

Elizabeth walked a little away from the others and sat down on a stone step, gazing up at St. Rule’s ancient tower on her left. A thousand years old, it reached into the night sky like a stark but powerful symbol of stability. She scanned around the magnificent stone walls of the cathedral itself, watching the last of the light fade from its arched, upper windows, and moved on to the single tower and broken arch facing her. It was an iconic image for her, and she was damned if she’d lose it.

I will be strong. Directly or indirectly, I will kill you.

Thanks for reading! So, do you have a place that means a lot to you, where the atmosphere really affects you? Either in Scotland or anywhere else...



  1. I know, Toni :). I think it's quite a common love among old St. Andreans :)


  2. I like to go to the beach. Listening to the sound of the waves is really relaxing. I also have wonderful memories at the beach house with my sister.

  3. I have a soft spot for Greece.

    I lived there for almost two years and LOVED it, I also met my husband in Turkey and we lived together in Greece for a few months. Our first child was 'made' there...hehe!!!

    in Germany

  4. Sounds lovely, Cindy :).

    Valerie, I have fond memories of Greece too, and Turkey! In fact, some of BLOOD ETERNAL happens in Turkey... :)


  5. Some day I will get to Scotland but for now I'll read books about it and dream of going. I love the dress on your cover.

  6. Thanks, She - it is eye-catching, isn't it? I love both those covers and am getting eager to see the third :). Hope you make it to Scotland soon!