Thursday, 5 February 2015

Story Behind The Story - How Castles, Lairds & The Scottish Highlands Inspired The Love Programme

Writers get their inspiration for books, plots and characters from all sorts of places, people, even things they see on TV. 

I'd like to share with you the inspiration for my very first published novel, The Love Programme, which is celebrating its second 'book birthday' this week.

My husband and I used to live in Scotland (near Edinburgh) and the glorious Scottish Highlands, one of my favourite places in the world, was a mere hop, skip and a jump (well, 2 hours in the car away) up the A9. 

One one visit to the area around Aviemore I remember standing at the Glenmore Visitor Centre not far from the stunning beach (yes, an inland beach!) at Loch Morlich and looking at the view of the snow covered Cairngorms and thinking that it felt as though I was in Canada not the UK. 

The scenery in that particular part of the world, I think, is simply the most breathtaking I have ever scene – and that, for me, includes the spectacular landscapes of British Columbia in Canada.  

During our holiday in the Highlands hubbie and I climbed up to the base station of the Cairngorm mountain itself and looked down, enthralled, on a view of Loch Morlich and the surrounding forests and mountains in the Badenoch & Strathspey part of the Highlands. 

Then it began to snow (huge flakes which covered the ground in a matter of seconds) and we had to walk back down to the car park sharpish! The weather in these parts is not to be messed with and by the time we had reached our car we noticed that the snow gates on the trail were already closed because of the blizzard, preventing anyone from trying to get into the car park or up to the base station for safety reasons!

I was fascinated by the area and as well as exploring as much as we could and doing loads of hill walking we visited all of the locations used for filming the BBC TV series Monarch of the Glen.

The programme ran for seven series from 2000 to 2005 and, at the time, it was hugely popular.  I loved the series and had all of the DVDs so I could watch them again and again and swoon over the mountains, lochs - and the handsome lairds!

One of our first 'filming location' stops was the impressive gate house and adjacent loch with a beautiful beach of pale sand, all set on the Ardverikie private country estate and enjoying a spectacular setting.

Next it was off to the Broomhills station on the Strathspey Steam Railway, which served in the TV programme as Glenbogle station. It felt wonderful to stand on the station platform and picture the emotional scenes filmed there in the programme when Lexie - the estate's former housekeeper and now wife of the laird - left on a steam train in floods of tears.

After that it was off to the tiny town of Kingussie and the village of Newtonmore which served as the village of Glenbogle for filming purposes - it all looked so familiar even though we'd never been there before!

I fell in love with the area and knew I wanted to write a novel set among these hills, forests, lochs and villages. Wouldn't it be great to create a book set in a historic but glamorous castle with a real life (and rather handsome) laird I thought - and so my Scottish romcom The Love Programme was born.

In the book Lucy finds herself needing to get away for a while (thanks to her childhood sweetheart walking out on his bride to be) and she ends up becoming part of a reality TV programme being filmed in a castle on a luxurious private estate in the Scottish Highlands. 

The filming is for a new series called The Love Programme where a select group of people try to sort out their relationship issues with the help of a trained psychologist. They get to go on specially tailored dates in the Highlands, from forest picnics to dining in fancy seafood restaurants on the coast, exploring the area and their emotions as they do so.

They also get to meet the troubled young laird of the estate - a man who, according to the TV programme organiser, is firmly off limits to the Love Programme contestants.


The Love Programme is currently on sale to celebrate it's 2nd birthday:

About The Love Programme:

Can a reality TV series about love help Lucy to sort her life out? 

Lucy’s childhood sweetheart Marcus walks out on his wedding to someone else and tells everyone it’s because he’s still in love with Lucy – even though he and Lucy broke up a long time ago. 

Having people think she was carrying on with someone else’s husband-to-be makes Lucy the talk of the town – and not in a good way! 

Lucy knows she’s innocent but people aren’t interested in hearing the truth. Even her boss wants to get rid of her –claiming she’s putting off the customers at the travel agency! 

The only thing for it is to get out of town for a while and, thankfully, fate seems to agree. As a last minute stand-in contestant on a reality TV series about love, Lucy ends up staying in a gorgeous Scottish castle where the programme is being filmed. 

Now, Marcus is trying to track her down in an attempt to rekindle their former romance and Lucy finds herself questioning her life and her choices - as well as developing confusing feelings for the castle’s laird, a man she’s told is definitely not part of the Love Programme and very much off limits. 

Lucy needs to figure out what (and who) she wants in her life – and fast! 

About the author:

Zanna Mackenzie lives in the UK with her husband, 3 dogs, a vegetable patch that’s home to far too many weeds and an ever expanding library of books waiting to be read.

Being a freelance writer and editor of business publications is her ‘day job’ but, at every opportunity, she can be found scribbling down notes on scenes for whatever novel she’s working on. She loves it when the characters in her novels take on minds of their own and start deviating from the original plot!

Formerly a travel agent and therapist (she has qualifications in clinical aromatherapy, crystal healing, naturopathic nutrition and herbalism) she loves walking the dogs and gardening – that’s when she’s not writing or reading!

Zanna has written five novels: The Love Programme, How Do You Spell Love? If You Only Knew, And The Earth Moved, Precious.

Zanna on social media:

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