In Leap First, Elliot Taylor, cousin to Gregory, is Scottish — or half, to be precise — and grew up in Scotland. It might seem a bit random, so what’s behind the choice? It’s pretty basic: I’ve felt drawn to Scotland for a very long time.
I don’t really know how it started. I was/am a fan of Highlander, the Series (more so than the movies), but the interest sort of proved the point. It was the Scottish-ness of Duncan MacLeod that appealed. Well, other elements too, but flashbacks and any reference to his history were my favorite parts, however accurately or inaccurately they were portrayed. Stories involving the Battle of Culloden especially pulled at me.
Sometime in the late ’90s, I was in a used-book shop and saw a book called Outlander. Time travel (again, that bit of supernatural element) and Scotland… sure, I’ll try it. Instantly hooked. There were already 4 books in the series by then, and I read them quickly. The second dealt with (SPOILERS for any who haven’t read) an attempt to stop the ’45 Jacobite uprising and the Battle of Culloden. I was fascinated, drawn to the series by my existing interest.
Some years later, my sister and niece were planning a trip to Scotland and invited me. I didn’t think I would be able to manage it, for a variety of reasons, though I certainly wanted to go. A few months later, now a few weeks or so before their departure, my niece again made the offer. I had just given notice at my job, a leap into the unknown, and thought that financially, I probably shouldn’t go. But over the next several days, the idea would not leave me alone. It was one of those strong inner urgings, an intense feeling that I couldn’t ignore. So I investigated. There seemed to be synchronicity involved. There was no work conflict, since I’d be done by then; even at that late stage, there were seats available on their same flights, going and returning; and, they were using a timeshare trade for lodgings, with a cottage that had 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, meaning a spare that I could use. So, spring of 2004, we went to Scotland for a week. (My one and only trip out of the country thus far.)
How to describe it? It was extraordinarily beautiful but so much more than that. It was familiar. It felt like home in a way I hadn’t felt anywhere before. I felt connected. I’d have moved then and there if I could.
We did get to Culloden Battlefield one day; it was an eerie experience. Walking around the fields, where people still lay fresh flowers at the various clan grave markers, I could feel the battle. There was a presence, a residual energy that was palpable. (I’ve heard others describe similar experiences.) Driving back, we saw a double rainbow through the clouds.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 14 years since that trip, but I’ve never forgotten nor stopped wanting to go back. Four-and-a-half years later, I made Elliot Taylor Scottish, a choice begun with an innate attraction and reinforced by my visit. There’s just something special about Scotland.
An aside: I’ve wondered recently… if Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Scots had succeeded in winning back the throne of Britain, what would have happened to America? Would we be the U.S.A.? George III succeeded his grandfather on the English throne in 1760, just 15 years after the last uprising launched. Charlie’s father, James III of England and Ireland and VIII of Scotland, died in 1766, but would his roughly 20-year reign — from 1746 onward, after being in exile and fighting for recognition — have meant a different view or treatment of the American colonies? Would there have been the same reasons to rebel? If Charles succeeded him, what then? It’s impossible to know, of course. But I do wonder.
I’ll share some Scotland photos and a very different tale from the Culloden visit in another post.
Note: If my history is off, apologies. Dana (in the book) is the historical researcher, not I.