XOXOAD is excited to welcome author and poet Claire R. McDougall and celebrate the publication of her debut novel, VEIL OF TIME. Maggie Livingstone comes to a remote Scottish village to recover from a tragic loss and the collapse of her marriage, but to her shock, she finds herself waking up in the 8th-century version of the town, when it was a thriving community. She certainly never imagined the pull she’d feel for Fergus, brother of the Scottish king. Now she must choose between two timelines and two lives. We think fans of the Diana Gabaldon classic, OUTLANDER, will love VEIL OF TIME!
If you were to visit Dunadd Hill (above) in western Scotland today, this is what you would find. But once you read my book, Veil of Time, you will never see it like this again – this remote outpost of Argyll was in its heyday the center of the Celtic world and where the kings of Scotland were once crowned. Ten-foot-thick walls ringed the hill from its mid-section to the top, and the sea that is now a couple of miles away once came right up to its base. This is the eighth-century world where my book is set.
Maggie Livingstone comes to the Dunadd that looks like the above picture and ends up back in the time of Murdoch the king and his alluring brother Fergus. The huddle of houses you see in the foreground is made up of a farm owned by a childhood friend of mine, plus a couple of holiday cottages. When I go back to Scotland I stay at the cottage called Comgall, with its big windows looking out onto the river Add, which winds around the base of the hill on its way out to sea. Here is where Maggie starts to have the seizures that send her back to Dunadd’s ancient past, and it’s here, sitting in the armchair by the window, she contemplates not having the operation looming just months away that will remove her seizures for good.
One thing that might surprise you about ancient Dunadd is the role of women in that pre-Christian culture. We hear all the time about the druids and stone circles, but in actual fact, these people were matrilineal, and because they worshipped the goddess, not god, they venerated women and were protective of Mother Earth. So the main druidess in my story, Sula, is not too happy when the monks pay a call and start up with their nonsense about pagan religion as evil.
There are many themes in this book, but the ultimate inspiration for me as an ex-pat and writer is just the landscape and the beauty that is Scotland. It is a very unoccupied country: the land is always on the verge of taking everything back. You stand on the top of a hill in Scotland and for miles in any direction there are hills piled back on hills, bounded only by the sea, and man has had very little impact. You’re a visitor there and you know it; you feel the power of the land and it claims you, not by meaning to, but just by taking those breathless landscapes and painting them deep under the skin. Which is why I like my book cover. I am no longer young and beautiful, but if you poke around and lift a layer or two of me, Scotland is branded there, and I can’t ever leave it no matter how far removed I am from its shores. So I write about it instead. It’s all that’s left to me.