Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fictionalizing Real People, With Guest, Kate Carlisle

A lifelong love of old books and an appreciation of the art of bookbinding led New York Times bestselling author Kate Carlisle to create the Bibliophile Mysteries, featuring rare book expert Brooklyn Wainwright, whose bookbinding and restoration skills invariably uncover old secrets, treachery and murder. Kate is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America. She loves to drink good wine and watch other people cook.

In Scotland and around the world, January 25th was Burns Night. Copious amounts of whiskey are required, but it’s not called “Burns Night” because of the way the whiskey burns your throat. No, it’s named for the man to whom the glasses are raised: the poet Robert Burns. Rabbie Burns was born on that day in 1759 and, in a short 37-year life, he became a Scottish icon. The ploughman’s poet.

We did Burns Night up big in the Carlisle household. We followed almost all of the traditions. We recited our favorite Burns poems, ate cock-a-leekie soup, and toasted the lassies (which would be me, as I’m the only lassie in our house.) One tradition, we neglected. Call me squeamish, but I just couldn’t bring myself to eat haggis. Sorry, Rabbie! I’m a bitter disappointment to my Scottish forebears.

I have always been intrigued by Robert Burns and the passion he inspires in the Scots. They are very protective of their Rabbie. He was a man of the people, an everyman who rose to esteem in the eyes of laborers and aristocrats because he could turn a phrase. He worked his father’s fields and then took the time to write an ode to a mouse whose nest he disturbed. Randy Rabbie wrote many a poem to the women he encountered. He even wrote a poem called ‘The Fornicator.’

You can see why I find him so fascinating.

I’m not alone. 250 years later, the Freemasons of the Robert Burns Society consider it their mission to uphold the poet’s good name.

Rich fodder for a fiction writer’s imagination. And I’m all about the fodder. My latest book, If Books Could Kill, is set in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is my favorite city in the world, in large part because of the colorful Scots. They do everything with great passion, so setting a murder mystery there felt like a natural fit. Plus, there’s the whole city-under-a-city mystique. I once visited a modern-day pub that was built right on top of an ancient pub, and the bartender gave us an underground tour. I still get chills when I think of that dark, spooky place.

At the center of my mystery is a rumor about Robert Burns, himself. An 18th Century sex scandal that 21st Century Scots are desperate to squelch, at any cost. This scandal is completely fictional, but is based on the character traits that I learned about Robert Burns during my extensive research. It was great fun to create a fictional history for a real-life character.

If I should go missing, please tell the police to question the members of the Robert Burns Society. I fully expect to be kidnapped as punishment for taking his name in vain.

What person in history intrigues you the most, and why? Would you ever dare to create fictional events in the life of a real person? What are some of your favorite books that have done just that?


Kate Carlisle said...

Thank you so much for having me here today on Something Wicked! I'm looking forward to being here today.


Maureen Child said...

What a great post, Kate! Wish I'd been at your house for the toast to the lassies!

and your book is FABULOUS!

Kate Carlisle said...

Aww! Thank you, Maureen! I'm so glad you enjoyed If Books Could Kill!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Miss Kate, what a fascinating post. I must say Burns IS an interesting guy, isn't he? Sort of an everyman while being exceptional. I think the Scots do that well - for most of their history, the sharp divisions between the classes weren't so obvious or so strictly observed in Scotland as they were in England. Something I really liked writing about when I wrote Claiming the Courtesan - Verity can't understand the local yokels all treating the duke as a kind of equal. Well, clearly he's the boss but a man's a man for ae that, as Mr Burns would say! Can't wait for IF BOOKS COULD KILL!

jo robertson said...

Great topic, Kate! You may not know that Robert Burns is one of my favorite poets. When we visited Scotland a few years ago, Burns' home was the only place I really didn't want to miss seeing.

A singer named Eddi Reader sings the songs of Robert Burns. It's a beautiful and haunting CD, as only the Scots can do!

Thanks for sharing information about Burns.

Kate Carlisle said...

Anna, Thanks! I think you're right, that the Scots are less enamored with titles and royalty than the English are. And by the way, have I mentioned how much I love the name Verity?

Jo, Love this! Eddi Reader, My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose.

Beth said...

What a great post, Kate! I'm so excited to read If Books Could Kill *g*

Congrats on your latest release :-)

Kate Carlisle said...

Thank you, Beth!!! And thanks for stopping by!

Jennifer said...

Kate, I don't think I could eat haggis either, LOL!!!

Your book sounds so intriguing! I've ordered my copy of If Books Could Kill!

Kate Carlisle said...

Jennifer, I feel like such an American when I say haggis makes me squeamish. Really, the Scots have survived in harsh conditions for eons, but the harshest of all, I think, is the haggis.

Tawny said...

Kate :-D I'm so ecstatically excited to get my hands on If Books Could Kill!!! I loved Homicide in Hardcover and know I'll love this new story just as much - especially for the fun twist of Robert Burns' spicy fictional scandal *g*

Kate Carlisle said...

Tawny, Thank you! I can't wait to hear what you think of the Burns twist!

Kate Carlisle said...

Again, thank you so much, all you wicked ladies! I appreciate your gracious welcome. I had a lot of fun today!

Nancy said...

Hi, Kate--The historical personage who most intrigues me? Virginia Dare. I'd love to know what happened to her.

I've used real people in historical manuscripts but never as primary characters, though I'm toying with the idea.

Can't wait to read this book!