On Inspiration, My Mom, and How Drest Entered the World

If you’ve read my blog or follow me on social media or heard me speak, you probably know how much I am obsessed with Scotland. It wasn’t always that way, though. But I met Scotland at a pivotal time in my life.

I first visited Scotland when I was 13 years old. I was with my parents and my two brothers on a long trip to the U.K. and we drove up from London, through the Lake District, to Edinburgh. I remember stone everywhere, Edinburgh Castle’s cannons, eating chocolate, and being wet! I had fun, but I didn’t return for many years. (The affordability of it was part of the reason.)

Fast forward to 2015. My mother, one of the best friends I ever had, died of ALS. In her final days, I couldn’t be with her in person, but I called 4 or five times each day. I kept a list of stories and told her about memories we shared over the phone. She couldn’t talk but I hoped she could hear me. Among other things, I described the many wonderful trips we’d taken.

Mom and me

After she died, my older brother and I had a conversation about one of the things we learned from Mom during her illness: the importance of appreciating what was beautiful and doing things for yourself—a bit of the classic carpe diem philosophy, though appreciating beauty was a big part of it. My brother, who is a professional rafting guide in northern California, went river rafting in Costa Rica. My husband, son, and I planned a trip to the U.K.

When we planned our trip, it was late fall 2015. I’d just finished a near-final draft of The Mad Wolf’s Daughter and I wanted to take a research trip to a place filled with castles. I asked friends on Twitter where I could find the best castles. A few people recommended the Scottish Borders. I saw what was there (many castles! tons of history!) and was hooked.

Castles like this! (Craigmillar)

In early 2016, I signed with my literary agent for Drest’s story. And just as we were leaving for our trip, literally at the airport in New York en route to Edinburgh, I had my first chat with my editor, who wasn’t my editor then but who was interested in my novel.

Scotland and the Borders were a dream. We kept to Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders and dipped down to England to visit Corbridge and Hadrian’s Wall.

Hadrian’s Wall, outside of Corbridge, England

I drove everywhere in a little car, on the left side of the road, and loved it. I was where I belonged surrounded by the things I loved: castles and history. I kept thinking of my mom, who would have also loved the history. (She was big on learning.) I was in a state of near-constant beaming.

Constant beaming like this.

One of my favorite castles to visit was Craigmillar Castle in Edinburgh (on the outskirts of the city). As soon as I saw it, I knew this was a place that would matter. I took so many pictures. At that time I was thinking of another Drest book, one that would feature a strong noblewoman* with her own castle with a secret passage. This, Craigmillar, was going to be its façade. (*That strong noblewoman became Lady de Moys and the book became The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter.)

Craigmillar Castle (or, in Lady de Moys’s world, Harkniss)

I was inspired, in my element, and very happy. We drove down to Jedburgh to stay in a cottage on a sheep farm (parts of this feature in a coming book, by the way), where I checked my email… …and learned that my editor was making an offer for Drest and her world! Suddenly, the story of my wee lass was going to be a book.

I wrote The Mad Wolf’s Daughter a few months after my mother died. I wanted to write something that would help me escape my grief. So I wrote a story about what I loved most and what I’d always wished I could have read as a child. I learned it would become a book in a place I visited because of Mom.

I wish Mom could have seen Drest outside Edinburgh Castle’s Portcullis Gate. I can just imagine her smile.

Thank you, Mom, for teaching me so much about how to live. I miss you.

5 Responses to “On Inspiration, My Mom, and How Drest Entered the World”

  1. :Donna

    Diana, this is such a beautiful post. My emotions oscillated with your words, feeling the heartache over your mom’s passing, and the joy of everything related to her and Scotland. I love that you share all this, and I, who can’t travel, get to experience it with you 😀 <3

  2. Shelley Wurst

    I just finished reading both of your books about Drest and her companions and looked up your website hoping to see info as to whether or not you are working on the next in the series? Drest is so important for the wee warrior lasses of the world, who will use her tales to help inspire their own legends. I sincerely hope you are planning more, and I look forward to buying and sharing them with my own cliff-climbing, sword-weilding legend-in-the-making. <3

    • Diane

      Thank you, Shelley, for your kind words! I hope that Drest inspires many young warrior lasses to be themselves and stand up for others. At this time, there aren’t any further plans for more Drest books, though perhaps in the future. But I hope that my next book (pub date currently not available, what with this pandemic shaking up everything, but hopefully available soon) will engage and delight readers as well.

  3. Reilly

    you are an amazing author and cant wait to meet you later today! I kinda want to be an author so if you have any tips? Thank you! 8)

    • Diane

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply! My biggest tips are: write what you love and what you’re most interested in (what you know and who you are will waft into your story no matter what), spend time daydreaming to think of your story, and be patience with yourself when you write (always remember that each draft is a draft and you’re allowed to fix it, so just write whatever you can to start, and go back as often as you need to). It’s also good to pay attention to other people’s stories: through books, movies, video game lore, comics, real life…you name it! Good luck in your writing journey!


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