Sally, we share a love for Scotland, which features in several of your Ben Reese novels. Where did your fascination for that wild, beautiful land start?
Sally: I've always gravitated to books about England and Scotland, which may be related to my mother's father being an Elliott, born in Jedburgh in The Borders in 1880, who came to America when he was eight. He didn't sound Scottish, or talk much about Scotland, but knowing him probably made me pay more attention when I read about Britain.
It was going to Scotland for the first time (I think in 1980) that pushed me over the brink. For it was then I got to know David Munro, a Ph.D. Geographer (and former Director of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society) who later drove me all over Scotland and Northumberland (and gave me great destinations when I drove myself) as I did research for the Ben Reese mysteries that chronicle the experiences of an archivist-ex-WWII-Scout. David knows even the most remote parts of Scotland like the back of his hand, and he has an encyclopedic grasp of history, so his most casual conversations gave me information and insights I wouldn't have gotten otherwise. And standing in the ruins of Dunnottar? How could you not be changed?
We also share a fascination with the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne. You feature Holy Island in PRIDE AND PREDATOR, the second of your Ben Reese novels as I do in A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, the first on my Monastery Murders. What drew you to Holy Island? Can you share something special about your time there?
Sally: My love for Holy Island started when I saw a photo article on Lutyens' renovation of Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island's eastern tip. Lutyens is an architect I've long admired, and what he did with the castle's interior made me want to live there.
You have set stories in England, Scotland, Italy and France. Do you have a favorite location either to write about or to visit?
Sally: Scotland is still my favorite place, with certain spots in England running a close second – Oxford (and the Cotswolds among them) where I researched parts of Pursuit And Persuasion while our daughter studied. I saw beautiful places in Tuscany, of course, when I was writing the Ben Reese novel, Watches Of The Night. I loved the art and architecture in Florence - but loved Siena more. I'm not a big city person. I like small villages and lovely towns, and countryside even better.
I love Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia, and Beaufort and Charleston, South Carolina, where I placed Out Of The Ruins.
And exploring the Loire Valley in France was a very interesting experience too, when I was working on the French Resistance and the US OSS because of a character in Breeding Ground. Studying the Resistance all across France had been overwhelming, and I'd had to narrow my focus to the Loire Valley. But I still felt distanced from French culture during the war. It was in a tiny B&B in an idyllic old mill southwest of Tours that God gave me the gift I needed to write the WWII backstory that's a part of Breeding Ground's plot.
The mill owner (totally unbeknownst to me when I made the reservation) had spent his life studying France in WWII. We talked for hours, and yet it was his telling me of an event that had happened in the village a mile or so from the mill during the Nazi occupation - and how the villagers reacted still in 2010 - that I put directly in the novel, for it gave me the perspective I needed to encapsulate that time.
I really enjoyed what I saw of France. But as much as I love Scotland and England? No. I suspect I'm a Scots-Anglophile by interest and genetics.
You can see more about Breeding Ground here: http://j.mp/1i2E81m
Visit Sally's website here: http://www.sallywright.net/
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