A History Book Disguised as a Debut Novel

Today, I am interviewing Sheena Macleod author of Reign of the Marionettes, a historical novel set in the Highlands in Scotland.

Welcome, Sheena!

Q: Would you please tell us a little about yourself?

A: I live in a small seaside town in Scotland with my family, and two dogs – Lola a Dalmatian and Missy a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  My working life was spent in mental health nursing, first as a practitioner and then as a specialist practitioner (Cognitive Behavioural Therapist). Around this time, I moved into nurse teaching, gaining an MSc in Advanced Mental Health Nursing and then a PhD.  After taking early retirement from the University of Dundee, I combined my love of history with my passion for research and set out to write a series of historical fiction novels. Reign of the Marionettes, a historical drama based in Restoration London, is the first of these books and my first published novel.

Q: When and what made you decide you wanted to be a writer?

A: I love to read and have since childhood. I became interested in the Highland Clearances and started researching the life of the Duchess of Sutherland – Elizabeth Sutherland Leveson-Gower – who is regarded as one of the principal agents involved in clearing tenant farmers from the internal straths and glens of the Highlands in Scotland to make way for sheep.

I traced Elizabeth Sutherland’s family back through the generations, trying to understand her background and role in the Highland Clearances. The main character in Reign of the Marionettes, Elizabeth Herbert, is a distant relative of the Duchess of Sutherland.

Q: Where do you get your ideas for your books?

A: From history. Fact is sometimes stranger than fiction.

Q: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

A: I write historical drama and enjoy including small details of the time. Despite writing historical fiction, I try to keep a current feel as if events are happening now.

Q: How are your books published?

A: Reign of the Marionettes is published by Dark Ink Press.

A short story, “Ghosts of Culloden”, was published in a fiction anthology in March this year by the One Million Project. Over a hundred authors from around the world contributed short stories to form three anthologies- Fiction, Thriller, and Fantasy. All proceeds, less costs of publishing the anthologies, will go to help Cancer Research UK and homelessness.

Q: How many books have your written?  Which is your favourite?

A: I have written three books, but have only published one. The other two books are still works in progress.  I hope to have both of these books published by the end of this year.

One is a novel set against the background of the Highland Clearances. The second is a factual book/novella which I am co-authoring for the 100-year celebration of some women gaining voting rights in the UK.

Q: Which writer inspires you?

A: Too many writers to mention inspire me. At the moment, Diana Gabaldon springs to my mind. I read Cross Stitch (Published as Outlander in the US) when it first came out in the UK and immediately liked it. Gabaldon’s characters are unforgettable.

Q: What book are you reading at present?

A: I am an avid reader and go through phases in the genre of books I read. I love thrillers, crime, historical fiction, and mysteries.  I like stories that show life as it is or makes me think. I have just finished reading Chris Longmuir’s Death of a Doxy, a crime/ mystery based on the first female policewoman in Scotland and which is set not far from where I live. This book is the third in the Kirsty Campbell mysteries.

Q: What would you consider to be the worst thing about being an author?

A:  Writing is like a muscle that needs regular exercise. Taking time to write every day can be a challenge.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: Writing is a craft as well as an art and takes time to perfect. Stay with it. Coming from an academic background, I didn’t fully appreciate the skills involved in fiction writing. For me, novel writing is like serving a never-ending apprenticeship.

Q: Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from one or all of your books?

A: Now that is a hard one. I have always admired Helen Mirren. She would make a great Elizabeth Herbert, the main character in Reign of the Marionettes.

Q: Who did you fabulous book covers?

A: Michelle Arzu. I love her work. Michelle is an author as well as a talented cover designer, so she understands what I am looking for.

Q: What do you think makes a good story?

A: I like a story that makes me think and stays with me long after I have laid the book down. Everyone is different in their reading preferences. I like a bit of fact in my fiction or some social commentary. Something I can take away with me, even if it is about the nature of being human. How people tick.

Q: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

A: Last year I attended the Boston Book Festival. It was a great experience. I met up with other Dark Ink Press authors.

Q: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?  What sources do you use?

A: As most of my work is based on actual events and characters who lived during these times, research is a huge part of my writing day. I use any sources I can get a hold of, including newspapers, records and textbooks. For Reign of the Marionettes, the Popish Plot trial records are available online but these are long and stylistically difficult to read. I selected and dramatised aspects of these.

Q: How do you select the names of your characters?  Have you ever regretted choosing a particular name?  Why?

A: Almost all my characters are people who lived and participated in the events of the novels I write. I couldn’t have made some of their names up; Butler – a servant. Titus Oates- a villain. Israel Tonge- a minister. Castlemaine – an English earl.

Q: What is the hardest type of scene to write?

A: Definitely anything intimate or X-rated. I stop short of any graphic sexual details and provide enough information for the reader’s imagination to take over. I admire people who can write such scenes but I have never been able to.

Q: How can we find out more about you and your books?


Through my Facebook author page at –   https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012591013136

And through my website –   https://www.sheenas-books.co.uk

Q: What can readers who enjoy your book(s) do to help make it/them successful?

A: Apart from reading my books, reviews are always appreciated.

Q: How can readers connect with you?  (website, twitter, facebook, etc.) 

A: Contact Sheena at:

E-mail – sheena.macleod@sheenas-books.co.uk

WordPress –   blogs @reignofthemarionettes.wordpress.com

Twitter – Dr. Sheena Macleod @cathro1

Goodreads –    https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16250614.Sheena_Macleod

Q: Where can readers purchase your books?

A:  AmazonmyBook.to/ReignoftheMarionettes

Barnes and Noble –  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/reign-of-the-marionettes-sheena-macleod/1125405382?ean=9780998480121


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(Note to my readers from the USA – you probably noticed a difference in some spellings of various words.  These are not misspelled, just a different variation.)


If you would like to be interviewed for my Wednesday Author Series, please visit this blog post.

1 Comment

Filed under Authors, Books, Crime Fiction, e-books, Fiction, Genre, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

One response to “A History Book Disguised as a Debut Novel

  1. Enjoyed meeting Sheena and learning about her and her writing. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. Great interview, Cindy and Sheena! 🙂 Sharing…