Saturday, April 15, 2017

0 Shelley Sackier, author of THE FREEMASON'S DAUGHTER, on having an official house bagpiper

We are delighted get the scoop from Shelley Sackier about her latest novel THE FREEMASON'S DAUGHTER.

Shelley, what was your inspiration for writing THE FREEMASON'S DAUGHTER?

My go to answer for this when anyone asks—and a lot of people do—is “Have any of you actually ever seen a Highlander in full battle dress?” But the real answer is bagpipes.

I’m addicted.

I love the bagpipes. I love bagpipers. I have albums of bagpipe songs. I Facebook stalk some of my favorite bagpipers because I live for snippets of their posted performances and hope that one of them might find their way to my neck of the woods. For years, I had a man who was my house’s official bagpiper and made him perform and welcome guests at any party I threw.

People would come with earplugs.

But I suppose it all started when I was first visiting Scotland and touring a good swath of the country. Bagpipe music was like the equivalent to our American Muzak. Only much more classy and with a massive amount of gravitas. It was the background music to countless places I visited and lent each experience this undeniable sober significance.

Whenever I pop on one of the old albums, I immediately get weak in the knees and then see battle scenes and an impassioned drive for independence. Easily a million stories in the making.

How long did you work on THE FREEMASON'S DAUGHTER?

At least a full decade. Yeah, ten years. Mostly because I was an absolute embarrassment to any guild of writers and the craft of writing itself, but also because of the research involved. This book had me crisscrossing through different countries, hunting down castles, scouring through library stacks, and desperately attempting to interpret the words of dozens and dozens of Highlanders. Those were some impressive men. Big. Huge. Basically just buildings with feet wrapped in a kilt.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

There are a lot of handstands involved. I know that sounds a bit wonky, but I’m truly giving you the scoop on what works for me.

Oftentimes there is some sort of anthem to start off the day—could be bagpipes, occasionally BeyoncĂ©. I usually require some epic musical material to underscore the importance of making my giant vat of coffee.

Once all that is done and dusted, it gets as quiet as a tomb. I have to have it that way. Occasionally I go outside and shush the birds. And that’s some feat, as I live on top of a mountain—basically smack dab inside a National Geographic special—and wild animals are noisy. It’s not uncommon for me to fly off my chair and dash outside, and then fist pump the air and shout at the sky or toward the woods to pipe down.

I might have shared too much there.

I usually work for about forty-five minute stretches of time, then get up from my twenty-seven dollar Staples swivel chair and do sixty seconds of handstands against the wall or outside on the grass. My hound usually does a few downward facing dogs beside me, because we’re really into couples’ yoga. Then I choose one of a few other five minute activities. I go to the piano and pound out some Beethoven or Rachmaninov—or some other long dead, cranky composer who wrote moody, angry music—which is wholly enhanced by the fact that I’m playing it on an outrageously out of tune piano. I belt out a few old show tunes in the front hall which has some awesome acoustics. Or I fold socks. That last one is surprisingly effective with helping to work out narrative plot problems.

So, ultimately no, I would not be welcome in a coffee shop or library.

What are you working on now?

Flora Homeopathica. Yeah, I know. Sounds super sexy, don’t it?

It’s a YA story of imaginative fiction about a girl who grows up in some dilapidated old kingdom, studying as an apprentice to the kingdom’s grizzled healer, and then discovers she has a few unusual talents—those of the magical sort—that some folks admire, but others want to kill her for possessing.

There’s a lot of herb grinding involved, a couple of brothers, and a few people who are definitely in need of some therapy.

It’ll be epic.

It better be. Because I spent an entire day questioning an internist about all the effective emetics available in the 18th century. Just him and me with half a dozen homeopathic textbooks opened to pictures of poisonous plants that could make you puke.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

It is super important to watch as many mannequin challenges on YouTube as possible. Seriously. Because this is your best bet for a training manual.

More than anything, you have to learn to eavesdrop. On everybody. It’s the best method for getting a feel for how people act naturally when they think no one is watching them. It’s how you learn about dialogue—and realize, sadly, just how utterly boring most real life conversation is and what things will actually make your ears prick up with interest. And it’s how you jump start creativity when your muse is taking a snooze.

Spying on people is not just for James Bond and four-year-olds. It’s one of the fattest, heaviest, most worthy tools in your writer’s toolbox. So sharpen that puppy on up.

But remember, you have to practice becoming invisible or people will realize you’re there and just text each other their thoughts. Be the mannequin. Act like wallpaper. Hold your breath. Don’t blink. Ears wide open.


The Freemason's Daughter
by Shelley Sackier
Released 4/11/2017

The Outlander series for the YA audience—a debut, full of romance and intrigue, set in early eighteenth-century Scotland.

Saying good-bye to Scotland is the hardest thing that Jenna MacDuff has had to do—until she meets Lord Pembroke. Jenna’s small clan has risked their lives traveling the countryside as masons, secretly drumming up support and arms for the exiled King James Stuart to retake the British throne. But their next job brings them into enemy territory: England.

Jenna’s father repeatedly warns her to trust no one, but when the Duke of Keswick hires the clan to build a garrison on his estate, it seems she cannot hide her capable mind from the duke’s inquisitive son, Lord Alex Pembroke—nor mask her growing attraction to him. But there’s a covert plan behind the building of the garrison, and soon Jenna must struggle not only to keep her newfound friendship with Alex from her father, but also to keep her father’s treason from Alex.

Will Jenna decide to keep her family’s mutinous secrets and assist her clan’s cause, or protect the life of the young noble she’s falling for?

In Shelley Sackier’s lush, vivid historical debut, someone will pay a deadly price no matter which choice Jenna makes.

Purchase The Freemason's Daughter at Amazon
Purchase The Freemason's Daughter at IndieBound
View The Freemason's Daughter on Goodreads


Shelley Sackier grew up in a small farming community in Northern Wisconsin continually searching for ways to grow warm. Realizing she would never be able to enjoy ice cream like real people should, she left the state and lived the blissful life of a traveling musician. Discovering her stories needed more space than two verses a bridge and a chorus could provide, she began storytelling in earnest.

Her first novel, DEAR OPL (Sourcebooks 2015), is a tale about a snarky, overweight thirteen-year old, who suffers from loss everywhere in her life except on her body. To learn more about Shelley, visit where she blogs weekly about living on a small farm atop a mountain in the Blue Ridge and how it’s easiest to handle most of it with home grown food, a breathless adoration for tractors, and a large dose of single malt scotch.


Have you had a chance to read THE FREEMASON'S DAUGHTER yet? What are your best techniques for observing others and remaining stealth? What's the longest you have eavesdropped into a conversation before the individuals noticed? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,

Emily, Jocelyn, Anisaa, Sam, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, and Lori Ann

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