Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Scot Free

As far as I know, I am not Scottish or Irish---I am completely un-Celtic except if you go back about 1,000 years. Like our president, I'm a mutt. My mother was from Austria. Her father's parents were Italian but he was born in Hungary. Cue the gypsy violins. My maternal grandmother was a Viennese girl. We're waltzing now. My father's family was almost entirely from England---and traced themselves back to the Mayflower, of course---except for his maternal grandfather Anthony Miller whose family came from Germany. It was considered such a blot on the family escutcheon (perhaps because of two world wars)that this Germanic connection was always hushed up. No oom-pah music, please.

However, I get to be an honoray Scotswoman. Bring on the bagpipes! My husband's family emigrated to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia from somewhere in Scotland in the 1800s. Eventually they wandered down to Maine, changing their name from Robertson to Robinson to ditch their Canadian roots. When we visited Scotland we came home with a bolt of the Robertson plaid which serves as our Christmas tree skirt. It was originally intended for pants, but John decided the wool was too itchy. :) Even though he's got great legs, a kilt was never considered.

When I go back to work on Andrew and Gemma's Scotland-set book, I will listen to Celtic music and look at gorgeous pictures. The location of the book plays more of a role in the plot than anything I've ever written, although the proposal for Any Wicked Thing comes close. I'm having a ton of fun researching castles and medieval life. Sometimes I find it hard to get back to the 21st century.

Have you ever visited a castle/Scotland? Do your characters sometimes seem more real to you than the people you work with? Do you wish you could ditch your Real Life roots and stick to fiction? Where is your family from?


Sarah Tormey said...

First, I wanted to let you know that I still find myself laughing about the "squirrels" in my head at random moments throughout my day. I just love that image!

Seeing as my stories are set during the Regency era, I often wish I could abandon present day and disappear into their world. I'd especially love to spend my days riding through Hyde Park.

Not that my family hails from England. My roots are very much Italian. Even if there was a trace of some other culture it would be wiped out by the Italian relatives and of course, the Italian food from my childhood.

I'm thrilled I discovered you blog and continue to enjoy your posts! Now back to my squirrels . . .

Sarah Tormey

Tiffany Chalmers w/a Tiffany Clare said...

We can celebrate mutthood together, Maggie! LOL

I'm Italian, French (Flemish), Irish-Canadian, Yugoslavian (I'm guessing Serbian. My husband on the other hand is first generation Canadian. Both his parents hail from Scotland (Edinburgh/Auberdeen) The Chalmers Kilt was worn by the kids growing up (it's blue) So my husband did wear them when he was a young lad.
I'd love to visit Scotland, both the hubby and I, best part is, we can stay with his relatives :)

And my characters always seem real to me. It's frightening that I can have conversations about them and make them sound real.

Only castle I recall visiting is Casa Loma in Toronto---it's soooo cool.

Keira Soleore said...

Love this comment, Maggie: "Like our president, I'm a mutt."

Me: Like our president's dog I'm mostly pure-bred.

Keira Soleore said...

As to Scottish castles, I've been to Glamis Castle and wild Dunnottar on the shores of Aberdeenshire.

Janga said...

I'm all Scots-Irish on one side and German-Irish on the other. According to family lore, there is also a Native American line mixed in on the paternal side five generations back, but I have seen no evidence of it--just overwhelmingly fair-skinned, blue-eyed faces everywhere I look on the family tree.

My characters do seem real to me. I think it would be difficult to maintain a strong level of investment for the length my process requires if they did not.

irisheyes said...

I'm American of 100% Irish descent. I could say I'm 100% Irish but my father would spin in his grave. He hated when we said that - he always corrected us. I think being 100% Irish back in his day was not a good thing or as fashionable as it is today. Thanks to my husband's contribution of German, English and Irish my kids are going to be the mutt variety. My MIL used to say that my husband had a little Irish in him - the part he sat on! Wasn't that a nice sentiment for her to be passing on to her DIL?! LOL

My characters are starting to seem real to me. Even though I haven't been writing near as often as I should they occupy my brain ALL the time.

Maggie Robinson said...

Keira, you are certainly pure, LOL. I've been to Cawdor (which isn't really a castle), Edinburgh and Sterling in Scotland. Think I've been to a ton of ruins in GB. Maybe because I've seen so many swashbuckling movies, castles seem awfully familiar (either that, or I've lived before!).

Sarah, so happy my squirrels are still providing you with entertainment!

I don't think I'd really like to go back in time any longer than a few hours for research purposes. I'm much too spoiled by contemp life.

And yum to Italian food!

Janga,no one in my family looks much alike. It's like we don't share any DNA whatsoever. My much older second cousin would always squint at me and say I looked a little like another cousin, Betty Graham, but as she was dead, I couldn't tell, LOL.

Ah, Tiff. You have to go to Scotland. It's the most beautiful place ever. And then the kids can wear their kilts!

Irish, isn't it insidious that these fictional people seem so real? And your MIL sounds like mine...she thought of herself as being 'honest' when anyone else would call her 'rude!'

rubyslippers said...

Hi Maggie,
I have to tell you that Hannah and I were absolutely splitting our sides over your squirrels! I could see the little devils at their posts!

As for my background, with the maiden name 'Grant' it's pretty obvious that I have Scots blood! My brother has researched our family at length (He maxed out the 'Family Tree' database when he hit 30,000 names -- that was several years ago!) Sadly, that is the one line that we have had difficulty tracing. My other 3 grandparents are all English -- several descended from Mayflower passengers, the rest emigrating in the 1630's.

I have visited only one castle -- the Brann Castle in Transylvania, Romania. Yes, that would indeed be Dracula's castle! (Only he was a prince, not a count.)

My dibble-dabbles in writing have not given birth to any 'real' characters, yet -- they're more like a kindergartener's stick figures. I'll keep dabbling away, though. Someone's bound to make an appearance someday.

Keep writing!

Maggie Robinson said...

Julie, Romania??? Yikes. I would think the bad vibes of Dracula would still be reverberating even after all those centuries.

My husband tried to trace exactly where from Scotland his family came to no avail. Maybe someday we'll figure it out and go back and visit.We spent a morning at Iona in Cape Breton doing geneological research. Fascinating (and gorgeous scenery).

And I'm sure you'll you'll flesh out those stick figures when you're ready!

terrio said...

I'm a complete mutt. My mother is adopted but I know her birth mother was German. My mother's high cheek bones and blond hair back that up. Though she didn't pass that to any of her children.

My father grew up with an adoptive father but his mother was part Native American. Which just means I can tan if I *really* try. His birth father didn't grow up with his actual parents and they didn't exactly keep records in the hollars of WV. Basically, I can only pray there isn't inbreeding back there somewhere.

I was going to say I've never seen a castle but then read Tiff's comment and remembered she took me there. So Casa Loma for me too. I have sort of seen an American version of a castle. Biltmore is likely as close as you'll get in this country, and it's absolutely amazing.

Never crossed the ocean, but someday!