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Interview with Norma Gail

Haggis, a noun: a Scottish dish consisting of a sheep's or calf's offal mixed with suet, oatmeal, and seasoning and boiled in a bag.

I’m taking a cue from author Norma Gail who put a well-researched glossary in the ebook version of her latest novel, Within Golden Bands. This heartwarming story is the second in a series about a modern young woman who marries, moves to Scotland, and learns about life on a sheep farm.

Norma Gail learned firsthand to eat traditional foods like haggis when she and her husband traveled to Scotland for their 30th anniversary. They chose to stay in B&Bs or small hotels to become acquainted with the locals. She felt at home the minute she stepped off the plane to put her feet on Scottish soil. She dreamed about a man in a kilt on a hillside covered with sheep, and the idea for the first book, Land of My Dreams, was born.

The sequel, Within Golden Bands, which will be released May 19, continues with Bonny and Kieran’s love story, and reveals their desperate desires for a family. Their trials and hardships tug at the emotions, but the satisfying ending reminds the reader of God’s love and faithfulness, even when life doesn’t go as planned.

What inspired you to write contemporary novels about Scotland? Many books with that setting are historical.
I decided to take a different track, but it’s not what readers are used to. The idea of sending Bonny to Scotland from the U.S. came from our trip there. If you're a writer your imagination runs wild. I wondered what it would be like to know I was moving to another country. There are so many differences. The first night we ordered dinner in Scotland the waiter asked if I wanted “still or sparkling.” It took me a moment to realize he was talking about water.

I know what it’s like to marry into an immigrant family. My husband’s family came to the U.S. from the Netherlands when he was a child. They kept Dutch traditions, food, and language. We visited the Netherlands with my in-laws once. I asked myself what it would be like to leave everything I know and transplant myself somewhere new. That’s what Bonny does.

Why did you make Bonny a college professor?
My character needed to have a job that would allow her to travel to another country and still earn a living because she needed to be there long enough to fall in love. I love history and literature, so that seemed to be a natural way to go.

How much research was required to add authenticity to your story?
We returned from Scotland with over 700 photos. That gave me plenty of material to help me remember what it felt like to be there. However, we only spent about 15 minutes at the Loch Garry overlook, never knowing how important it would become. I read everything I could get my hands on, fiction, internet articles, non-fiction, and took 3 different magazines through the years.

I needed to know about sheep, but I had met an author and editor at a writer’s conference who also raised sheep. Her insight has been invaluable. My husband and I are adoptive parents, so that came naturally, however, it brought up a lot of old feelings I thought were buried in the past. It was painful to write at times.

Why do you think modern-day readers enjoy clean, inspirational women’s fiction?
I think the term women’s fiction turns a lot of people off. The main idea is that it centers on the thoughts and feelings of the female character. However, adding in the element of romantic suspense makes it more exciting and gives it broader appeal.

Within Golden Bands
is women’s fiction from the standpoint that it relates to Bonny’s feelings as a woman with infertility problems, the struggle with her husband over a decision to adopt, and how the unfulfilled desire for motherhood makes her feel as a woman.

Your book covers painful subjects. Do you ever hear from readers who are touched by your stories?
I do hear from my readers, all the time. My stories are not simple, easy-reading fiction. They delve deep into the spiritual side of the characters and their struggles. I think fiction is a very valuable tool for helping readers understand how Christians live. The early readers of Within Golden Bands have included a young woman who had only miscarried two weeks prior to reading it, adoptive moms who knew about infertility and/or miscarriage, and a former founder of an adoption agency.

The stories have touched some readers so deeply that they had a difficult time reading about Bonny’s struggles. However, I hope that it will be healing. Everyone has said that the ending is very satisfying.

Is the book personal to you?
Yes, this book was a challenging journey for me. To adopt children was a difficult personal decision for me to make, but most definitely the right one. My husband and I are blessed with two adopted children. They are the family we were meant to have.

Do you plot out your stories ahead of time?
I don’t plot, which often gets me into trouble. Characters say and do unplanned things and then I have to get them out of the mess they’re in. I write and revise a lot. Interestingly, most people that mention story elements in their reviews say the stories appeared to involve deep plotting. I want to learn to be better at plotting but it’s so much fun to be surprised along with the characters.

Will there be a book three?
The idea is growing on me of placing Deirdre, the most hated character in Land of My Dreams, in a redemption romance. Her story should be told.

Tell me a bit more about the devotionals and poetry that you also write. Have you been a writer all of your life?
I began writing at a very young age, probably as soon as I realized I could make up stories like the ones I read in books. I have notebooks from junior high and high school full of stories and poems. The way I work out problems is to write. I feel like the written word has a lot of power. After all, God used it to communicate with us.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
First of all, attending my first writer’s conference to learn more about how to write. It had changed a lot from when I was the star pupil in my creative writing classes in school and the time my first book was published at the age of 59.

Also, being willing to listen to and learn from Eddie Jones, former head of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, who gave me my shot at becoming a published author. I had to let him pick my story apart and help me see it in a different light without being offended. I had to be open to seeing possibilities I hadn’t considered about how readers might respond.

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
I was a women’s Bible study leader for over 21 years. The scriptures play a part in every aspect of my life. Therefore, they play a huge part in my writing. I want my readers to grow spiritually through my writing. I want to know God as well as I am able to know him. I want that desire to grow in my readers, whether through devotionals, poetry, or fiction. I have no way to relate to a life without faith.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
It’s becoming more difficult now that my husband is retired. However, the biggest problem is stopping writing to do other things. I will let the house and cooking go to write. I can’t let relationships and caring for my 92-year-old uncle in assisted living go by the wayside. I can’t allow my time with the Lord to take second place. We’re still in the process of working out how we’ll manage my writing time with travel and my husband being home.

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you as an author?
When I was writing the first book, we were building a new house. I sat down to write some emails, but remembered I had to rush off to meet someone about the house. I hopped up and got caught in some computer wires. I ended up with a broken foot. Since it would be four days before I could have surgery, the doctor gave me a walker to use. Well, the walker wheels got caught on some floor tiles. I fell and broke my foot for the second time!

After the surgery, my knee gave out. I ended up in a wheelchair for eight weeks. I couldn't drive and boredom set in I decided to see if I have what it takes to actually get a book published. I started the first book in 2008 and got a contract in 2012.

Any event concerning your writing life for which you are particularly proud?
Just becoming a published author at the age of 59. We’re never too old to try new things. I have a friend who writes devotionals who is 96. She really inspires me.

Any regrets?
I wish I would have started to write earlier. I needed to reach the age where I didn’t really care what people thought but I had to see if I was good enough and knew I could handle it if I wasn’t.

If you could have coffee with an author, dead or alive, whose work you admire, who would that be?
Louisa May Alcott. She had such insightful characters. Also, Charles Dickens. His descriptions are so wonderful.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
We love traveling in our RV. It’s new since my husband just retired. We’ve really only had one year to travel and with the coronavirus, we don’t know what this year holds. However, my sister has some land about 3 hours away set up for RVs and we plan to go up there as often as possible.

What books are on your nightstand right now?
Bibles and Streams in the Desert, my favorite devotional.

Any sage advice for new or aspiring ACFW authors?
Take every opportunity to learn at writer’s conferences and from reading about writing and reading excellent authors in both the genre you want to write and in other genres as well. Never let yourself feel defeated. Just decide that setbacks will make you stronger and more determined.


Teresa Haugh lives with her husband in sunny Prescott, Arizona. When she is not writing, she enjoys music, hiking, reading, and visiting the gym (with audiobooks, of course). She loves meeting and talking with other authors about their writing journeys.

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