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Talking Location With … author Katy Moran – SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS

4th July 2024

Katy Moran#TalkingLocationWith…. Katy Moran, author of My Lady’s Secrets – SCOTTISH HIGLANDS

After writing an alternate-history Regency trilogy that whisks readers from Cornwall and the Russian steppes to a French chateau, I was drawn closer to home for my next book. My Lady’s Secrets is a wildly romantic historical novel ignited by a real-life scandalous political assassination in 1812. The heroine, Cressida, is a spy and disgraced debutante forced into one last mission – this time with Lord Byron and her annoyingly attractive estranged husband, Greville. The prize for my heroine is high stakes: her freedom, what’s left of her reputation, and her life. This wasn’t a book I could set in sleepy English country village. This trio demanded a dramatic setting.

I wrote the first draft in lockdown when I needed to entertain myself as much as I had to settle on a plot location. My Lady’s Secrets had to take place in the alien chaos and bustle of Regency Britain, but somewhere I could easily imagine. For decades, we’ve hitched a boat to a trailer and driven north to the Highlands of Scotland in the height of summer to stay with our friends. So when my characters fled high society Regency London, immersed in a deadly game of cat and mouse, they became guests of my heroine’s glamorous, ruthless cousin at her Scottish estate. Originally, My Lady’s Secrets was set in a corner of the Western Highlands so familiar I can see the shape of the tallest hills with my eyes closed.

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Bitterly estranged but forced into close proximity, my hero and heroine discover that this grand, remote house harbours a lethal secret ready to blow their own deadly mission out of the water. At first, writing this was easy: Cressida and Greville climbed the same hills as me, marvelling at the same waterfalls, and Lord Byron swam in the same loch (I took a liberty here, sending him on a fictional trip to Scotland in the summer of 1812).

Katy Moran

Photo credit: Visit Scotland

Towards the end of the first draft, I ground to a halt. My Lady’s Secrets is my tenth book, and I’d never written about anywhere I was so familiar with before. My own world crept in. Writing somewhere I knew so well had been invaluable in the first draft but as the story developed it felt wrong. The villain My Lady’s Secrets is so calculating and self-serving that it seemed sacrilegious, letting them roam around a place I’ve spent so much time with the people I love most, even though the location was still quite heavily fictionalised. I stopped writing, stuck for a few days.

A walk is as good a cure for writers’ block as I know, so I took my dog up the hill. Looking out across the rolling green landscape of the Welsh borders, I understood why I write about places I’m drawn to but less familiar with: that element of the unknown allows the story space to grow. Cressida, Greville, Byron and their messy, complicated friends, relations and accomplices needed a place of their own. I shifted everyone to Loch Ifrinn, a wild sea-loch that exists in my imagined furthest north of Scotland. The moment I swapped the Western Highlands I knew for the white beaches, fog and moorland of this new, half-fictional place, my heroine and hero were free to take on their own identities, coming alive in a world all of their own.

Katy Moran

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Catch Katy on Twitter X: @katyjamoran and IG: @katyjamoran

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