Harriet Schultz is an award-winning journalist whose career began at TIME where she was involved with the magazine’s Watergate coverage. She loves to travel and has visited all of the locations in both of her novels. Harriet lives in New England and actually likes winter.
What would you like your readers to know about you that wouldn’t necessarily be found in your official bio?
I’m the mother of boy/girl twins, I love to drive fast, chocolate is my downfall and I can’t start the day without caffeine. I met a young Ted Kennedy at a party in Washington when I worked at TIME magazine. I have the picture to prove it!
Tell us about your book Legacy of the Highlands, or A Legacy of Revenge (I wasn’t sure which book you wanted to feature)
Legacy of the Highlands is a contemporary romantic suspense story filled with passion, intrigue, twists and turns and a pace that readers say keeps them turning the pages – great news for a writer! The story connects a murder in present day Boston to an oath taken by the victim’s ancestor in fourteenth century Scotland. Locations include Boston, Miami, Scotland and Buenos Aires because the handsome, charming hero is Argentine.
When you first began to write Legacy of the Highlands, did you know from the start that there would be a sequel or in your mind were you simply writing a stand-alone story?
When I began to write Legacy, I didn’t even know if it would ever be published! As a longtime journalist, fiction was brand new to me and I began the book as a way to discover whether I could even write fiction. I was thrilled to realize that I have a vivid imagination.
I thought that I’d tied up all of Legacy’s loose ends and that it was clear that the hero and heroine were together, but readers said they wanted more. I was surprised that the adventures of Alex, Diego and friends weren’t over and that there was enough going on to fill another book, A Legacy of Revenge.
The inter-connections of your characters were very intricate, complex; do you create deep backstories for all your characters before beginning the process of writing the story or do you figure it out as you go?
Ha! I rarely have any idea where the story is going from one day to the next, which might be why writing doesn’t come easily to me. I envy authors who can plot a story, outline it and then just sit down and write. My characters’ backstories evolve as needed order to advance the plot. For example, I had no idea that Alex’s BFF was into the occult or that she was a personal shopper until I wrote that chapter, but I wasn’t surprised that Alex loves peanut m&m candy since that’s my favorite too!
How much time do you put into researching? Do you have all the facts before the first word is written?
My background as a reporter, especially the years I spent at TIME, provide me with the ability to formulate the right questions, which makes online research easier. I did much more research for the first book and have several manila folders filled with historical information, Scottish dialect, geographical details, etc. I also looked into weaponry, drugs and ways to kill people so I’m probably on a government watch list!
Which secondary character was your favorite to write?
In Legacy of the Highlands, I enjoyed Alex’s relationship with her best friend, Francie. I think we all wish for a BFF like that and if we’re lucky, we have one.
I enjoy writing male characters and in A Legacy of Revenge, Diego’s friend Sebastián Cabrera intrigued me. He’s gorgeous and a shameless womanizer, yet there’s something vulnerable about him.
Do you think he/she will warrant his own story?
I hope so, because I’ve begun to write his story. I still don’t know if it will develop into a novel and so far there are only three pages. As usual, I have no idea where the story is headed.
Can we have an excerpt from Legacy of the Highlands?
Here’s an excerpt from Legacy of the Highlands. Will Cameron is murdered early in the story. This scene takes place at his funeral.
Alex was oblivious to the sea of black-clad friends, family, colleagues and curiosity seekers who crowded around the grave until she noticed the strikingly handsome man standing some distance from the throng. Diego Navarro. He was dressed in perfectly tailored black, his eyes hidden behind sunglasses, his body somehow tightly coiled and lithe at the same time.
He has some nerve to show up here, Alex thought, as he raised one finger to lower the dark-tinted barrier between them and her eyes met his for an instant.
The gaze of the man who had once been Will’s dearest friend never strayed from the young widow. He’d expected Alex to be devastated, but her pallor and weight loss alarmed him. Every protective instinct he had prodded him to pull her into his arms and shield her from further hurt, but he knew that was impossible. He wasn’t even sure if he should be here now, but how could he stay away? Until their fight, Will had been his best friend. And Alex? He’d acknowledged long ago that his feelings for her had never been brotherly.
How long did it take you to finish your first manuscript?
The first draft took about a year, but then it went through many, many revisions over the next two years as I queried and submitted the manuscript to agents. Every time I read the story I found more to tweak and at some point you must say, “that’s it. The End.”
Are you a one-genre writer or do you think you might cross over to others?
I’m not sure. I love to write romance since it allows me to create the perfect imperfect man, but I found that I have a passion for writing evil also. I wonder what that says about me?
Is there a genre you’d like to attempt to write?
Since historical romances are my favorite books to read, it would be fun to try one of those, but writers tell me that readers insist on accurate descriptions of whichever period you set the story. No men in pajamas, for example, in a Regency romance. They weren’t invented yet.
What is your writing process? Do you write at the same time every day, the same place?
I can’t say that I have a “process.” When I’m really into the story, I write every day, sometimes for a couple of hours, sometimes for fifteen minutes. I always review and edit what I wrote the previous day to get me back into the story.
What was your biggest obstacle in getting from first draft to publication?
The two years I wasted trying to get an agent. I received the most flattering, lengthy rejections that all included some version of the word “but” toward the end before they declined to represent me. The only good thing about the process was confirmation that my story was good and that I could write.
What would be the one, most important piece of advice you would offer to an aspiring writer?
There are many successful authors who are not the best writers, but who are terrific storytellers. Don’t worry about every word. Just make up the best story you can and get it on the page.
I’m not sure that I have just one, but it would be a toss up between Nora Roberts and Diana Gabaldon.
Favorite fictional character?
The hero of the last book I read. Obviously I’m fickle although I still have a soft spot for James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, the hero of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.
If you could go back or forward in time, anywhere, where would it be and what would you take with you from the present?
I’ve given this question a lot of thought and honestly can’t decide. The past holds some glamour, but the idea of chamber pots instead of toilets makes that time lose its appeal. And the future? Not.
Go to snack when writing?
I don’t snack when I write, so if I wrote more I’d be skinny.
Favorite activity to relax?
I read or hang out with my husband or friends and if shopping were an Olympic sport I’d hold a gold medal. It’s not always relaxing, but I love to travel.
What can your share with us about your next project?
Readers of Legacy of the Highlands asked for a sequel and now they want me to make it a trilogy. It’s wonderful that they can’t seem to get enough of the characters so I’ll have to ask Alex, Diego, Serge, Mairi, Sebastián and friends to leave their comfortable lives, embark on more adventures and risk their hearts. I’m not sure what their answer will be.
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