Chatting about Surrender

    The cover as it appeared on the book.

    Why in the world would I want to waste time chatting about a book that's been out for more than a year? Well, first of all, it's a RITA finalist, which is really exciting. Secondly, I just finished reading it in preparation for writing Untamed, the next book in the MacKinnon's Rangers series. But thirdly, it's my bloody blog and I can.

    I've had a love/hate relationship with this novel. The love comes from what I feel for the entire cast of characters — Annie, Iain, Morgan, Connor, Captain Joseph, Killy, Cam, Dougie, McHugh, Lieutenant Cooke and, yes, Lord William Wentworth. I love and cherish them all. The hate comes from the struggle I experienced trying to write this book, unequaled except now perhaps by Unlawful Contact.

    I missed my deadline by months on this book because I got stuck several times and because I was convinced it was crap. When I sent it to my editor, I called just to warn her and said, "This is the worst piece of crap you've ever gotten from me." I don't know why I feel that way except that it must be part of my writing pathology. (Those of you who've read stuff while I'm writing it — you're a small list of very patient people — might agree.) I'm always convinced that whatever I'm writing sucks. I didn't feel that way with Sweet Release or Extreme Exposure or Ride the Fire, which was grueling for other reasons and which, until maybe this week I considered to be my best novel. But that is neither here nor there...

    So I turned in Surrender, and my agent and editor surprised me by saying they loved it. But I haven't touched it since it came out, and I haven't read it since I was proofing galleys, when my negative impressions were reinforced. Dial 1-800-Writer-Shrink. What can I say?

    So it was a thrill to sit down and read it now so many months later and discover that I loved it. Yes, I loved it. It felt like someone else had written it. I'd forgotten enough for the entire thing to feel fresh to me. I found myself wondering where I'd gotten all the Scottish vocabulary — through hard and constant research, of course — and I found myself falling in love with Iain and his brothers all over again.

    An intermediate stage. Notice the lack of shirt and the long hair. But why are there tipis? I said no tipis!

    I asked you all to email me and share your favorite moments from the story so that I could compare them with mine. I got several fun emails today, and I cherished each one. I learned your favorite moments overlap largely with mine. So you've shared yours; now I'll share mine.

    Annie flees the Abenaki and is saved by Iain: I felt like I knew everything I needed to know about Annie when she faced down the man who was about to rape and kill her. "You dinnae have me yet!" And, of course, I love that Iain can't let her die, even if it means death for him and his men. As he later tells Wentworth, "I could no more have left her to be killed than I could have slain her myself."

    The flogging: The whole thing from the scene in the guardhouse to Iain walking through the camp with grin on his face. "I hear you had a bit of a collieshangie in the night. Sorry to wake you so early." I love the way he kisses Annie and how he insists on taking the full 100 lashes. I love the way Annie forces herself to watch each one.

    Annie's relationship with Lord Wentworth: I loved all the scenes with Wentworth in them. They were so fun to write, because Wentworth is such a complicated fun character. He's smart. He's cruel. But he's not evil. The chess game, the dinner party, all of it was so fun.

    The sweatlodge scene: The fight prior to Annie's near-death experience in the river was fun, too. "Or was that someone else's tongue in my mouth?" Iain is such a baaaad boy. The sweatlodge scene was tricky in some respects -- trying to tell the story and not be disrespectful at the same time.

    The original art, which is quite lovely. Nathan Kamp is just hot. But the short hair and waaay too much clothing made me think "men's camping novel," not romance. It was back to the drawing board — sort of. Click on any of these images for detail.

    Captain Joseph meets Annie: "She hasna met an Indian who wasna tryin' to kill her," Connor explains. I laughed when I read that.

    Connor saves Annie: I have a soft spot for that brat of a MacKinnon. I had to be careful not to let him steal every scene from Morgan. But I loved it when he aimed at that bastard soldier's head and said, "You Regulars have trouble hittin' marks, aye? We Rangers dinnae miss."

    The first love scene: "Do you ken the history of the Highlands, Annie?" As Bo once said, "That's Iain MacKinnon at his barbarian best." I knew that scene pushed some boundaries, but I just loved seeing him pushed to the edge and then, in turn, pushing her to the edge.

    The shaving scene: SueZ mentioned this one. I had so many emails from people who loved that scene and who couldn't believe I'd put it into a historical.

    Father Delavay trying to teach Catholicism to Rangers: The scene where he tries to explain the Immaculate Conception amused me greatly when I wrote it. "She got a big belly wi'out the mess of a man's spunk." "No, you silly Scot!"

    The wedding: "Marry me now, here, in this place — while we have time." The idea that Iain might be killed in battle at any time made their relationship so vulnerable. That sense of time as being precious really fueled their relationship for the latter part of the book.

    Checkmate: When Lord Wentworth tries to "betray" Annie to the Rangers, only to find out they know her real name and that Iain has purchased her indenture. "Well played, Major." Haha, Wentworth, you randy bastard!

    When Iain kisses Annie's pregnant tummy: Oh, yeah. I cried. I'm a sap.

    A couple of you mentioned the scene where Annie has Iain by her side when their son is born and says: "You've seen so much death. Now see life..." For me, that moment was a chance for Iain to redeem so much of the joy he'd lost.

    And the two that stand out for me more than the others:

    When Iain saves Annie from Uncle Bain: "You've never met a man like me." The image of him standing in the road wearing a plaidie, carrying a broadsword and painted with Indian designs and vermillion instead of blue Celtic paint was in my mind for ages. It was quintessential Iain, the strength of the Scots in America represented in one moment.

    And when the Rangers rebuild the farm as a way of saying farewell to Iain: This scene was in my head from the beginning of the story, and I didn't even let myself think it because it made me sob. When I finally reached that scene, and the men told their stories about how Iain had saved them and Dougie started up the chant, "MacKinnon! MacKinnon! MacKinnon!" OMG! I was bawling the entire time I wrote that scene. Truly bawling my eyes out. Iain was such an honorable and selfless man that the payoff had to be big. I hope it took you by surprise and meant as much to you as it did to me.

    I spent a week working on the last two paragraphs of the story. A week. I'm not kidding. I hope that last page resonated with people — about feeling sadness and great happiness together and not being able to feel one without risking the other. A week! Sheesh!

    Well, now Surrender is out of stock at the publisher and backordered nationally by all the big booksellers. It's very hard to find, but they're going to print more in time for RWA's book signing. I'm hoping for a new cover and a rerelease to coincide with the release of Morgan's story.

    I am listening to Celtic music again. I haven't let myself do that since I finished Surrender. My editor would understand that that means: My brain is switching to historical mode. If you made it to the end of this very long post, thanks for indulging me!

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