Today on the blog we have the multifaceted and multitalented Celeste Barclay! If you’ve been watching this space for a while, you’ll recognize that last name. Sabine Barclay, who has interviewed her many Bratva heartthrobs, is the one and the same! And this time, it’s our turn to ask the questions.
Celeste, you have been killing it this year, writing an entire Dark Mafia series as Sabine, and keeping up with The Clan Sinclair Legacy series (and more.) Do you ever find either of your series influencing the other? Does that duality ever help unlock aspects of characters or plot twists that you may not have been inspired to try out otherwise?
All of my writing contains the same fundamental themes of family, honor, duty, and loyalty. That’s just who I am as an author regardless of persona or brand. That’s what I value in real life, and it comes through in my writing. There are a lot more plot twists about who the villain is in my Mafia stories since there are always potentially three groups that are rivals to the main organization. The enemy is more direct with the Highlander series, but you don’t always know the extent of the villain’s schemes.
What do you like the most about writing in each genre?
I love writing Historicals because I love incorporating the facts and the research for each one, finding the real clan conflicts, weaving in actual events, and the shifting multiple POVs throughout the chapters.
I love writing Mafia with the chapter by chapter alternating POV. Writing in first person is mentally easier for me, so I write them faster. I love that I don’t have to be as censored with my explicit words and types of intimacy. I love creating the plot twists that I usually don’t know are coming until I’m writing them.
Highland Rose is the fourth in The Clan Sinclair Legacy series, which itself is a combination of The Clan Sinclair, The Highland Ladies, and Viking Glory. You’ve built yourself quite the intricate historical world within our history. How has that experience been for you? How does it feel when you realize a connection between characters or storylines?
I love creating worlds. I love revisiting characters we already know and weaving them into new stories, showing how they’ve changed over the years or in different circumstances. I like that it creates a sense of familiarity across the series, so you know you’re reading a Celeste Barclay (or Sabine Barclay) book. The connections are becoming more and more purposeful as the world develops, and I’m consciously connecting the series.
And how do you keep track of them all?
Not as well as I should. I wish I’d made series bibles—guides that keep track of characters’ names, ages, traits; settings; and often main events—for my first couple series, so I wouldn’t have to go back and check a few things here and there. I created The Highland Ladies Reader Guide for that exact reason and to give readers insights into the history and my reasons for creating the characters and stories. When you revisit the same characters across series or by doing a second generation, it becomes easier to remember certain things. It’s the obscure secondary characters that I have trouble remembering. Those are the ones that I have to keep track of. I also have family trees for The Clan Sinclair and every family in The Highland Ladies. I have a timeline of when the second-generation characters across both series would have been born to make sure the ages are reasonable. I realized I had to do that when I almost paired a thirty-five-year-old with a fourteen-year-old. That wouldn’t have worked.
Do you ever think you’ll expand the series further? Will we ever see Contemporary remnants of these families?
I don’t intend to do Contemporary remnants of these families because I really like Mafia, and those don’t lend themselves to Highlanders. That said, the heroine’s parents in my Contemporary Bratva Sweetheart are originally from the Highlands, and the father is a big brawny guy. That’s a little nod to my alter ego. As of right now, there will be twenty-four books broken into four series that tell the second-generation stories of the Sinclairs and Sutherlands (their cousins) and their marriages to children from The Highland Ladies, so these favorites aren’t going anywhere soon.
Tell us a little bit about Rose and Blaine? Did you have any inspirations from real life that you drew from as you created them?
I wanted Rose to be confident on the surface and direct, but I wanted her to have some insecurities that she needed to work through as a curvy heroine. I think it makes her realistic and relatable. I wanted Blaine to be able to acknowledge when he made a mistake through an assumption and humble enough to admit it. I also wanted him to be fully accepting of Rose, her strengths and her insecurities, without wanting to change her or “fix” things. I wanted him to be realistic but also have a touch of what people often wished they had in their partner.
And tell us a little bit about why we should root for them.
They’re a down-to-earth couple that has frank conversations to prevent further misunderstanding—Blaine mistakes Rose for a servant the first time he sees her, and she mistakes why he assumed that. They are like all my couples—they have their own challenges to overcome, and life isn’t perfect for them right away, but they’re very quickly us against the world. They partner well and support each other to overcome the villains.
Is there a secondary character that ever threatened to steal the scene?
I’ve had secondary characters that readers have liked enough to ask (politely demand) that they get their own story. Dominic Campbell was introduced in A Hellion at the Highland Court, and readers really wanted him to have his own story since things didn’t end with a HEA for him as the hero’s brother. Madeline MacLeod was a secondary character in A Wallflower at the Highland Court who I shipped off to a nunnery because she was heinous to the heroine. People asked if she would get a redemption story, so I created A Sinner at the Highland Court for her. Sammy the Swearing Parrot definitely steals some scenes in my Mafia book Bratva Treasure. He’s hilarious, if I do say so myself. Picture a parrot telling a Mafiosos to “go ahead. Make my day” like he’s Clint Eastwood with wings.
Just for fun, where do you think you’d fit in, in this world, if you could be anybody?
All of my heroines, across both genres, are self-reliant, independent, and capable in their own right. They realize that life is better with a partner, but they can manage without someone with a savior complex. I think I would fit in anywhere, but I’d particularly fit in with my tomboy heroines and any of the guys.
You’re a huge history buff, is there a fun fact that you’ve always wanted to fit into a story that you just haven’t been able to? Or is there one you finally fit into this one?
I was a teacher for almost 16 years, and I had SO many facts rattling around in my head that apparently were nowhere near as interesting to my students as I thought they were. Now they’ve found their homes. I have plenty more rattling around in my subconscious that’ll come out with time. There’s nothing super pressing, but I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve fit in.
What are you working on next? What can readers look forward to reading from you in the coming months?
Historical readers will get two more books in The Clan Sinclair Legacy. The next installment is Thormud Sinclair and Greer Gunn’s story in Highland Strength. Thormud is Rose’s twin brother. Greer is Rose’s best friend. There’s a lot of secrets from a past no one knows about that will come to light. I hinted at the secrets and gave some foreshadowing in Highland Rose, but there’s still a ton to discover between these two to understand why they’re so antagonistic to one another.
Mafia readers will get the last two books in The Ivankov Brotherhood series. Next up is Aleks, the second oldest Kutsenko brother. He’s the one his family calls Eeyore because he’s so solemn, he’s often considered dour. He falls for a high school history teacher with purple hair. It’s definitely a Grumpy meets Little Miss Sunshine. His family is convinced his funny bone is broken, but he laughs with Heather all the time. They met at the grocery store because their carts almost collided while Heather was teasing her nephew and riding on it as she pushed.
And where can they find you online?
Both personas are in various FB groups, so you’ll find me popping up there.
Thank you so much, Celeste, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer a few of our questions. And thank you, readers, for checking in!
Celeste Barclay, a nom de plume, lives near the Southern California coast with her husband and sons. Growing up in the Midwest, Celeste enjoyed spending as much time in and on the water as she could. Now she lives near the beach. She’s an avid swimmer, a hopeful future surfer, and a former rower. Before becoming a full-time author, Celeste was a Social Studies and English teacher. She holds degrees in International Affairs (BA), Secondary Social Science (MAT), and Political Management (MPS). She channels that knowledge into creating rich historical romances that bring the steam.