Writing is a Great Way to Travel

The Boston Globe says Molly MacRae writes “murder with a dose of drollery.” She’s the award-winning author of the Highland Bookshop Mysteries and the Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries. Molly’s short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine since 1990. After twenty years in northeast Tennessee, Molly lives in Champaign, Illinois. http://www.mollymacrae.com

Why did I choose a bookshop in the Scottish Highlands as the setting for my new mystery series? For some of the same reasons my main characters buy the shop and uproot their lives to move there and run it. It’s Scotland! The Highlands! A bookshop!


A long time ago—back in the mid-70s—I was lucky enough to spend a year in Scotland studying British Prehistory at Edinburgh University. I loved my studies and I loved Edinburgh (The castle! Arthur’s Seat! The closes, wynds, bridges, cemeteries, and cobbles! Haggis! Cheese! The smell of ale brewing!). If you’ve never been to Edinburgh, I encourage you to go.

My Friend the Highland Cow

While I was there, I was also lucky enough to travel around the country—from Inverness to Jedburgh, from Aberdeen to Kyle of Lochalsh. By train, bus, bicycle, ferry, and foot to Oban, Iona, Loch Lomond, and Loch Ness. I skied in the winter and in the spring wandered down green lanes to watch new lambs leaping straight up in the air for the joy of it. I’ve been back to Scotland since, but not nearly often enough.

Then, one day, I saw a real estate listing for a bookshop in the Highlands, and I started wondering what if? What if I threw caution to the winds, bought that shop, and just moved over there? I’d managed an independent bookstore, so I had some idea of what I’d be getting into. It was such a nice dream. Reality is kind of a wet blanket, though, don’t you think?

View from my Window in Edinburgh

But did I let reality get me down? No. Writing is my antidote for reality.

I couldn’t pick up and move to the Highlands to run a bookshop, so I dreamed up characters who could. I researched UK laws on Americans buying businesses and moving over there, and gave my characters the knowledge and wherewithal to do it. That’s how Janet Marsh and her three business partners bought Yon Bonnie Books in Inversgail, a thriving tourist town, on the west coast. They see the move as a great retirement/change of career scheme. Sounds good to me.

So now Janet and her friends are enjoying their new lives, despite the age-old problem of characters in mystery novels—stumbling over dead bodies—and I’m enjoying spending time in a place I love. You won’t find Inversgail on a real map, but you’ll find it in the Highland Bookshop Mysteries, and you’ll find it in my head and in my heart. Writing is a great way to travel.

Eilean Castle