Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Inspiration – where I get my ideas from…

We’re thrilled to welcome Emma Fraser to ‘Love is the Best Medicine’ today.  Writing as Anne Fraser, Emma has delighted us with her Medical Romances, and now writes historical fiction.  Over to you, Emma…

As an author one of the questions I’m asked most often is where do I get my ideas from?

Some of you will know that I used to write Medical Romances for Harlequin Mills and Boon. As an ex-nurse ideas for those books were never a problem. But I have always been fascinated with the past – perhaps being Scottish has something to do with it. In Scotland, evidence of by gone lives is never more than a few feet away.

For my first historical When the Dawn Breaks, I started off researching the first women doctors. Almost immediately the name Elsie Inglis came up. When I trained as a nurse in Edinburgh there used to be an Elsie Inglis Hospital but I never knew why it was called that. It turns out that amongst other things Elsie Inglis was the driving force behind the establishment of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals – an all women unit that went out to Serbia, France and Greece during WW1. (The British Government refused their help so Dr Inglis went straight to the Serbian and French governments and offered to help them instead. They accepted with alacrity and within months, the Scottish Women’s Hospital was serving close to the front lines in these countries.)

When I discovered the story I knew I had to write about it and the kind of women who would have the courage and determination to not only become doctors and nurses at a time when it was still very difficult for women to qualify but who would have the courage and determination to volunteer to work close to the front line.

For my second historical, We Shall Remember, my daughter told me about two Polish doctors who had found away of mimicking a false positive for Typhus and they used this discovery to save thousands of Polish lives during WW2. The real event turned out to have only a small part in my story but it led to the creation of my Polish heroine, Irene.

So real events are one place I find inspiration but so too are places. In When the Dawn Breaks I knew I wanted it set partly on Skye. I worked there for a while when I was a teenager and still think it one of the most magical places in the world. Co-incidentally my first ever published piece – an article for the school magazine when I was seven – was a story about Dunvegan castle and it’s dungeon. One of the scenes in When the Dawn Breaks is set around this dungeon.

In both books I was also inspired by the thought – what would I do if I had been forced to trek over frozen Montenegrin mountains in the dead of winter (When the Dawn Breaks) or been asked to go back to a country to spy knowing I could be facing death at any moment? (We Shall Remember.) I doubt I would have been as brave as either of my heroines!

My third book, The Shipbuilder’s Daughter was partly inspired by mother who was a Green Lady (a midwife and health visitor) and who worked in one of the poorest areas in Glasgow during the fifties. This is a photo of the syringe she would have used on home visits.

The Shipbuilder’s Daughter is set in the late twenties and thirties but many of the problems of over crowding and poverty were as bad in the fifties as in the twenties and thirties. Glasgow was famous for its ship building industry – but while the owners of the shipyards lived in luxury, their workers often lived just above the breadline. My grandfather worked in the shipyards after serving in world war one but the incessant smog that afflicted Glasgow at that time, spurred him to return to the place of his birth – North Uist – a place I spent many happy childhood holidays. And North Uist is where my heroine goes to work as a doctor when she is forced to flee Glasgow.

I feel so lucky to live in a country steeped in history with some of the most stunning landscape in the world and all three books are at least partly based in Scotland.

But ultimately my stories are about people and their relationships. A place or an event might start me thinking about the book, but it is the characters and their story that really matter.

Are there any places in Scotland that you have visited and been inspired by or that you’d like to visit and why?

Thanks to my medical author friends for inviting me on to this blog!

‘When the Dawn Breaks’ and ‘We Shall Remember’ are both available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com


14 thoughts on “Inspiration – where I get my ideas from…”

  1. I love Scotland, Anne and have visted probably half a sozen times, the latest in 2014 when we took out kids to Edingburgh then ventured further north past Loch Ness and all the way up to Eilean Donan castle – that was our 3rd of 4th visit to the castle!
    I’ve just started rwading the Outlander series – via audiobook – and am now beginning to understand/appreciate the history of the highlands.
    I’d like to keep going north next time and go to Skye and the Mull of Kintyre and the Orkney Islands.
    I’ve said it before but it bears repeating – love your covers. Both styles are great. The photo and the illustration. Congrats on your success. I’m thrilled these stories of amazing women are being brought to life xx

  2. Hi Amy – lovely to hear from you. Eilean Donan is in such a beautiful spot. I must have driven past it hundreds of times on my way to Uist before I stopped there to actually go inside. I still stop there whenever I drive to Uist just to sit on a bench and admire the view! Skye is absolutely stunning as is Harris. (Uist is bleaker but most like how island life used to be.) Orkney is also amazing – packed full of history so leave plenty of time to see everything when you go.
    As far as my heroines go, I’ve always thought that most war stories feature men – but women did amazing things too. I like writing about tough, determined women who don’t let society dictate how they should lead their lives.
    And thanks for the comment about the covers…

  3. Hi Emma

    WOW I do love the sound of these stories and The Scottish highlands is a place I would love t visit but seeing as how I live in Australia I tend to visit there through books that I read 🙂 although I have ancestors that come from there fingers crossed I get there one day 🙂

    Have Fun

    1. Thanks Helen. Australia is quite a distance from Scotland sadly but lovely that you can ‘visit’ through the books you read. Have you a favourite?
      The Scots are spread throughout the world – not least the Highlanders because of the clearances. Which means we always get a lovely welcome when we go abroad! I hope you get the chance to visit one day – we love showing our beautiful country off!

  4. Such wonderful inspirations, Emma! I’ve been lucky enough to be able to visit Scotland often, but have never got as far as the Outer Hebrides, which is an omission I must correct!

    Congratulations on all your well deserved successes. ‘We Shall Remember’ remains the only book which has ever made me cry on the Underground. While the image of stony-faced London Underground commuters isn’t always totally accurate, I do try to leave the crying over books until I get home 🙂

    1. Hi Annie

      I’m kind of happy I made you cry – even if it was in public! (Perhaps not glad but you know what I mean…)
      Not that many visitors to Scotland make it to the islands – they are both too far and difficult for people with limited time to get to. If I drive it takes me the best part of a day to get to Uist although the plane only takes an hour from Glasgow. But when folk do make the journey they are usually rewarded. The islands have some of the best preserved archeological sites in the world (Skara Brae in Orkney for starters) as well as their share of castles and other places of historical interest. Flora MacDonald (a relative of mine would you believe?) came from South Uist where she met Bonnie Prince Charlie who was hiding on Uist. But it is the scenery on the islands that draws people from miles around. There – I hope I’ve convinced you to add the islands on your next visit to Scotland!

  5. Hi Anne! You know I’m a fan of your books, both Medical Romances and historicals. I was in Inverness as a young lady and loved it. I’d love to go back. THough I wouldn’t dare put a story there as the Scottish authors do such beautiful jobs of it. Where Scottish stories are set, I’ll be happy to be in the reading chair, not the computer chair. Welcome back and it’s great to “see” you.

    1. Hi Lynne

      I’ve missed ‘seeing’ you and my other fellow medical authors too although I often ‘catch up’ by reading everyone’s Facebook posts. And thanks for the kind words about my books. To be honest, Inverness was a bit of a dump at one time, but over the last couple of decades it’s turned in to a lovely place to visit and not just for those wishing to spot the Loch Ness monster! The surrounding area is gorgeous too and I would urge visitors to Scotland to start their visit in Edinburgh before going to Inverness for a couple of days and then heading North- East or North -West. The direction doesn’t really matter – we have a stunning coastline!
      ps Aren’t the Outlander books written by an American?

  6. Emma, how lovely to see you here and be able to catch up with what you have been doing. I love your historical medicals and often recommend them to friends. I am looking forward to reading no 3!
    I have only visited Edinburgh so far – most remiss of me – but it was a really wonderful trip. We went to the Tattoo and I don’t think I have ever watched anything that has stirred my blood the way the massed bagpipe bands did. My husband and I were spellbound from start to finish and I shall certainly go back one day. I have Scottish blood (paternal grandmother was a McCloud) so I think the genes came to the fore!

    1. Apologies- I didn’t get your comment until now- I’m in London and am only now back online. Thanks so for comments on my books and more thanks for recommending them! I know Edinburgh well have trained as a nurse there – but I have never been to the tattoo ! I’m going to have to address that. (My father was a piper and hearing he pipes always brings a lump to my throat.)

  7. Anne, Scotland’s on the wish list. My husband’s great grandfather came from there and I think we should visit. Though apparently there are very few people in his village and the policeman and the local poacher are both relatives! One day ….

    1. Sue, you made me laugh with your comments about the folk in the village – I believe it. Most people in Uist seem to be related to me in some way. Not that my family are incestuous in any way its just that people, especially the older ones, always seem to know who your forebears were! (The gaelic way of identifying people such as Emma, daughter of Anne, daughter of Peter helps)

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