Thursday, 10 October 2013

Kate Robbins: Bound to the Highlander

Today, Heart of Fiction welcomes Kate Robbins.

If I were to look at a map, and I have, Newfoundland is practically at Ireland's nine o'clock, which means if I were to stand at Mizen Head and wave, Kate just might see me!

In the short time I've known Kate, I've been amazed at the similarities between the Newfoundland culture and the Irish one. It's been fun chatting about similar foods, traditions, and even slang. Pretty cool, actually.

The one unique thing Newfoundland has that Ireland doesn't is Kate herself. She's a real spitfire, and from what I've seen, her amazingly positive attitude comes from the heart. Since accepting the contract for her book, Bound to the Highlander, she has gone nonstop with promotions and talking to anyone and everyone she can about the series. Probably not so much about the promotion but probably because she can't contain The Happy. I know this last week has about done her in. I'm sure if Newfoundland has been experiencing earthquakes recently, it's probably Kate's bundle of nerves resonating through the earth.

And today is finally here and that loud yelp you heard earlier was Kate seeing her book available on Amazon for the first time. Why so much excitement? This is Kate's debut novel! AND, before it was even published, it won the 2013 TARA Award for Historical Romance. Definitely worthy of a whoop-whoop!

Bound to the Highlander is the first book in The Highland Chiefs Series published by Tirgearr Publshing. It's set in the early 15th century under the reign of James Stuart. When Aileana Chattan's father dies, she learns of an old marriage promise made for her. She's promised to James MacIntosh, the nobleman she blames for her father's death. James is torn between the traditions he grew up with as much as he does for progress to help Scotland become a unified country. When faced with the marriage to Aileana, he must find a way to break the contract so he can move forward with his life and political aspirations. Only, he didn't realize the effect Aileana would have on him once he sees the woman she's become.

Bound to the Highland harkens back to classic Scottish romances written by the greats -- Judith McNaught, Julie Garwood, Iris Johansen, Elizabeth Stuart, Bertrice Small . . . the list goes on. This story delves deep into Scottish history but is equally played out against a love story so emotive you may find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat. Kate expertly weaves strong characters, rich culture, and a twisting plot that drives the reader forward through the story until the final page comes too quickly. For those who say Scottish romance has been played out in the industry needs to think again. This book is a fresh and welcome addition to decades long Scottish romance storytelling.

I think I misspoke when I said Ireland didn't have Kate. Tirgearr Publishing is fortunately enough to have Kate on its team, and as Tirgearr is an Irish company, I guess Ireland has Kate too!

We were fortunate to have caught a few minutes to chat with Kate. She's one busy gal. On top of the promo for Bound to the Highlander, she's also writing the next book in the series, Promised to the Highlander.

Welcome to Heart of Fiction, Kate, and congrats on the release of Bound to the Highlander.

It's been incredible watching your excitement grow for this book. As the days have drawn closer to publication, words in your emails have practically leaped off the screen at me. I can just imagine what life must be like in your house at the moment. Behind all the excitement for the release of your debut novel, do you have a routine you're trying to manage? What's it like?

I have a full-time day job and so spend some time every evening writing, blogging, or reading from my TBR pile. I do something writing related every day.

On the weekends I commit bigger chunks of time to my own work. It’s hard to flip in and out during the week but on the weekends, I negotiate with my family to sneak away and write to my heart’s content. They’re unbelievably supportive. I am blessed.

Newfoundland often is enveloped in a fog bank too, which means outdoor play is not always ideal.  On those days, it’s easy to justify staying in to write.

You work full-time too? Oh, my! Your coworkers must be just as awestruck by the whirlwind you're in at the moment. Don't know how you manage full-time and all the rest. LOL

So, when you've negotiated some time from your family, and you're not working, and you're dedicating some writing time, what's the space like you write in? Are you the 'starve for my art' writer with a dilapidated desk in the basement, or a Barbara Cartland writer with poodle on your lap and a secretary to take down your words?

I’m a nomadic writer. Depending on if I’m creating from scratch, revising a scene, or self-editing, I am either at my computer desk, on my bed, or in the dining room. Oh, and I sometimes snuggle up on the couch too. I also work on either our home desktop computer or my laptop.

I have two different portable laptop desks too; one has folding legs and the other is cushioned and rests on my lap. Hard core, I know. I think I’m all over the place because I’m affected by my environment when I write. I have various bits and bobs of Scottish inspiration scattered around the house for when the need to write strikes in that specific room.

I’m also an office supply junkie. Pens, pencils, note pads, and journals can be found at the ready at the locations listed above. I love lighting candles to get me in the zone too, and if the man-cubs are about, I sometimes use noise-reducing headphones.

My faithful feline, Freddie, can usually be found keeping vigil at my feet wherever I am.

Hmm . . . I was hoping for the poodle! LOL I think my hubs would draw the line at scattering the house with research info and notebooks, but then, I've done that with yarn so I guess we're kind of rowing the same boat on that score.

What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?

I’m a huge reader. And I read everything, including genre fiction, literary fiction, and non-fiction. Since acquiring my ereader over a year ago, I have read more books than ever before.

I love spending precious time with my family. We get up to all kinds of tomfoolery when we turn the world off and focus on each other. Battleship and Mastermind smackdowns are common during the colder months. We can often be found sitting ‘round our fire pit in the backyard during the summer roasting spider weenies and making S’mores.

I also have a neglected garden and a 5k power-walking route that beckons sometimes. Well, it beckons a lot, I ignore it far too often.

LOL Right behind you on procrastinating about the power-walk!

You're a gas character, Kate! Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule . . . and you're whooping and cheering . . . to have a chat with us today.

Kate will be here through the day to answer any of your questions. And Tirgearr Publishing is giving away a copy of Bound to the Highlander to one lucky commenter. So get your skates on and be sure to leave your contact email address so we can get a hold of you if you win.

Want a look at the prize? Keep reading --

• • •

Aileana Chattan suffers a devastating loss, then discovers she is to wed neighboring chief and baron, James MacIntosh -- a man she despises and whose loyalty deprived her of the father she loved. Despite him and his traitorous clan, Aileana will do her duty, but she doesn't have to like it or him. But when the MacIntosh awakens something inside her so absolute and consuming, she is forced to question everything.

James MacIntosh is a nobleman torn between tradition and progress. He must make a sacrifice if he is to help Scotland move forward as a unified country. Forced to sign a marriage contract years earlier binding Lady Aileana to him, James must find a way to break it, or risk losing all -- including his heart.

From the wild and rugged Highlands near Inverness to the dungeons of Edinburgh Castle, James and Aileana’s preconceptions of honor, duty and love are challenged at every adventurous turn.

Near Inverness, Scotland, April 1430

A horse’s scream pierced the air sending a chill down her spine. Brèagha. Aileana Chattan quit pacing and dashed to the window. Thank God, they were home at last.

She strained toward the eerie quiet below just as the procession crested the hill beyond the gatehouse. She was right, it was her uncle’s horse Brèagha, but the poor beast hobbled as three men grasped his leather reins and struggled to keep the distressed animal in check. Bile rose in her throat when she spied the body face down across its back.

She tore through the hallway, down the winding stairs and raced out into the courtyard. Cold mud soaked her feet and her heart pummeled as the somber hunters approached. She looked to Andrews, her steward, to confirm her fear.

“I’m sorry, lass.” He shifted his weight, but did not look up.

Her gaze returned to the body. Fiery red hair hung in tangles and pale, limp hands were red streaked. Shivers coursed through her as she beheld his unmoving form.

Her uncle, their chief, was dead.

A soundless ‘No’ faltered on her lips. Men and horses spun around her, threatening her balance. She reached out to cling to something. Anything. Air slipped through her fingers as she stumbled forward. Andrews caught her the moment her knees buckled.

“I’ve got you, Lady Aileana. Come, we must get him inside.”

He placed one strong arm around her shoulder and kept her moving forward, her feet skimming the ground.

No one spoke as they entered the large stone and wooden stable. The huntsmen pulled her uncle’s body from the horse’s back and laid him at her feet. She dropped to the ground beside him. The foul stench of manure filled her nostrils and she fought the urge to retch.

“Why did you bring him in here?” The stable was no place for their chief.

“He ordered us. We had no other way to get the laird’s body home and he wanted us to save Brèagha for you,” Andrews said.
Her gaze shifted between her uncle’s body and the horse’s wild eyes. She swallowed the thick knot which had lodged in her throat.

“What happened?”

“We were tracking deer when something spooked him.” Andrews’s voice was low and grim. “Your uncle’s sword was drawn. They were both injured when they fell.”

The horse snorted and bobbed his head up and down. Aileana stood to view his injuries better. A deep gash oozed jagged crimson lines down his flank, pooling at his hoof. She moved to Brèagha’s side and buried her fingers in his mane. His coat was covered with a sheen of sweat.

“Dear God, you won’t see week’s end.” She must save him. “Andrews?”

“Get Argyle’s surgeon,” Andrews said. The stable hand took off to do his bidding.

There wasn’t much she could do for the faithful beast, but she had to try. Uncle Iain had wanted it. Aileana returned to kneel by her uncle’s side and brushed a lock of red, matted hair from his brow. She gathered his limp hand into hers and searched for any remaining hint of life, but there was none. Aileana closed her eyes, spilling tears onto her cheeks.

She pictured the two of them walking through the glen with the heather splashed mountains all around. She had loved his tales of legends and victories and could feel warm air caressing her skin and fluttering her skirts. He smiled, giving her all the comfort she needed.

Brèagha’s grunt brought her back to the present and her eyes flew open. In this story, there was no victory. Her velvet gown was no protection from the cold, uncaring earth beneath her, and the image of Uncle Iain and the colorful mountains faded to gray.

The men, her men, encircled her. They waited for her signal to move the body to his room for cleansing. Blood pounded in her ears as she struggled to do what she must, though she hated to release his hands. She cried out when she tried to fold them across his breast, but they slipped to the ground.

“Let me help, m’lady.” Andrews’ strong, weathered fingers covered hers and together they laid her uncle’s hands across his chest. Andrews pulled her up and held her close. His strong arms tightened around her, reassuring her as she tried to contain her grief.

“Move him,” Andrews said. “Now.”

Thank God for Andrews. He didn’t want his chief laying in filth any more than she did. The men nodded and encircled him.

“What’s this?” The familiar voice boomed from the doorway. “What’s happened?”

Gawain Chattan scanned the stable until his gaze landed on the body. His tall, thin frame was a silhouette against the gray sky and his expression was masked, even as he lifted his eyes to meet hers.

“The laird is dead,” Andrews said.

His words pierced her. This was really happening.

• • •

Kate Robbins writes historical romance novels out of pure escapism and a love for all things Scottish, not to mention a life-long enjoyment of reading romance. Her journey into storytelling began with a short screenplay she wrote, directed, and produced which was screened at the 2003 Nickel Film Festival in St. John’s, Newfoundland. She has also written and directed several stage plays for youth.

Kate loves the research process and delving into secondary sources in order to give readers the most authentic historical romance possible. She has travelled to Scotland and has visited the sites described in her Highland Chiefs series.

Bound to the Highlander is the first of three books set during the early fifteenth century during the reign of James Stewart, first of his name.

Kate is the pen name of Debbie Robbins who lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada with her hubby, the man-beast, and her two awesome boys, the man-cubs.

Find Kate online --

Kate Robbins
Tirgearr Publishing


  1. Welcome, Kate, to Heart of Fiction. Congratulations on the publication of not only your debut novel, Bound to the Highlander, but also the first in a series called The Highland Chiefs. And what an accomplishment to win the 2013 TARA Award for Historical Romance before the book was even published :-)

    Where did you get the idea for this story, indeed the series? I know you have a love of Scotland, but what drove these stories for you?

    1. Thanks Kem! I'm thrilled with the book and so pleased to have worked with Tirgearr on it. You guys are the best!!

      The story idea came from a conversation between two friends about the movie PS I Love You. My friends loved the scene where Gerry Butler and Hilary Swank meet on an old Irish country road. Being a lover of all things Scottish my brain jumped over there and I envisioned the meeting between James and Aileana.

      This sentence from Bound to the Highlander, "The early morning mist was refreshing as she walked along the well-beaten road leading north toward Inverness" were the first ones I wrote and remain unchanged.

      I've always been in love with Scotland, right from reading my first historical romance as a teenager. You can blame/credit Johanna Lindsay and her wonderful novel A Gentle Feuding for it. :)

      It's a good day in Debbieland. :)

    2. Great line. Don't you just love it when they come to you like that? I've got a great one liner that I wrote about 20 years ago. I'm still looking for a book to put it in ;-)

      I hope Debbieland is a sunshiny place today!

    3. Oooooh, I'd like to read that line. :)

      Debbieland is usually interesting. Today it's over the top!

    4. My one-liner --

      God is for evil men. He presides over war, ignoring the cries of those begging for peace and mercy.

      Yeah, I bet today has been OTT. Long may it continue!!

    5. LOVE IT! You can definitely write a story around that.

    6. Yep, great opening line. The story for it is brewing.

  2. Huge congratulations on your debut novel, Kate - looking forward to reading it! And I'm so impressed that you hold down a day job and family too - you deserve all the success I'm sure this will bring, in addition to an award already!

    1. Thanks Romy! I hope I've done the history and culture justice. Everything I share about Scotland is from pure admiration. Would love to live there and write full time some day.

      Juggling is hard work but keeps me focused. I have to account for every second of every day and have an amazing family who support me 100%. I'm blessed.

  3. Sounds like a fabulous book, Kate! Hope you sell a million.

  4. Congrats on your release, Kate! your book is set during one of my favorite time periods in Scottish history! Can't wait to read this one!

    1. Thanks Kristi! I find the time period fascinating too. Just an incredible amount of stuff going on socially and politically.

      I hope you like it. :)