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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Paulson

Author J.G. MacLeod's novels travel through time and passions

How did an extremely shy, socially awkward introvert who had two concussions before the age of 10 decide to become a published author?

Read on to learn all about Canadian author J.G. MacLeod.

Well, perhaps the answers are interconnected. As a child, I enjoyed spending time outside, often in pursuit of adventures like climbing trees, sledding off the side of train trestles, hiking, building snow forts, and watching the stars until my parents forced me to come inside because they thought I might freeze.

I continued to observe things (and people) while also partaking in a variety of athletics (baseball, gymnastics, track-and-field). I daydreamed a lot, creating stories in my mind whenever I wasn’t reading voraciously.

I even gave up watching TV for a whole year (a bet I made with my father) to earn $200 in fourth grade. That intensity and determination helped me earn two university degrees and succeed as a teacher (22 years and counting).

My three daughters are my greatest joy, and my favourite time of year is summer. In my spare time, I garden and pamper our pet rabbit, Buddha.

You’re a prolific author of historical fiction, time travel and romance. How did you choose these genres? And how on earth do you fit in so much writing with your busy real-life schedule?

Honestly, I feel as if the genres chose me, to be honest. All of my historical fiction work came about serendipitously.

For example, my first historical romance trilogy was inspired by a trip I took to Ireland. While walking through Kylemore Abbey (formally ‘castle’), I read about a family who used to own the estate, as well as what became of them. It instantly made me wonder what it would feel like to be one of the children living in such a tumultuous situation. As I travelled further around Ireland, a story began to take shape in my head to answer the first question and connect it with other notable figures in Irish history. That is why I believe the genre found me.

Working two jobs and caring for children and an aging parent leaves little time for me, but I try to dedicate an hour every evening to the craft of writing.

Let’s talk about the books. First of all, because I love them, tell us about The Future Bride and The Past Love, as well as the third book coming in that series. What was your inspiration?

These books were so much fun to write and began when a friend of mine suggested we both join one of those DNA-analysis companies that provides insight into one’s lineage and helps compile genealogical information. I have an uncle who spent the greater part of his life involved in this type of research, but when I had my DNA analyzed, the results were instant. I was able to fill in ancestors on my family tree back to the medieval era! One branch showed the MacLeods and the MacDonalds intermarrying. It led to a great deal of research on my part and, four history books later, I had begun to dream about these people I’d never met and would never know in real life.

At the same time, my eldest daughter was becoming more involved in karate – specifically Shotokan – and I began taking notes at all of her practices and competitions. (Whenever I write ‘fight’ scenes, she actually demonstrates the moves for me in real life so I can describe the scenes in greater detail.)

The closer was the trip I took up north. We started with Sudbury and North Bay, but went further. I cannot explain what happened, other than to say it was inspiring on a spiritual or emotional level beyond anything I’d ever experienced before.

As I moved through the forests, I started to feel as if there was a presence in the trees. That feeling became almost a frenzy of adrenaline that came out onto the page when I returned home. I wrote 11,000 words the first day, barely eating or drinking. This continued every day for several days. I had never experienced anything like it. An entire story was formed in my head. The first book introduces readers to the nature of the time travel (seemingly random, nonlinear, and involving a desperate desire on the part of the MacDonalds to secure Brigid into their clan). Ferghus finds Brigid and has other plans. Book Two was necessary to show readers that the time travel has occurred many times, but Brigid does not retain a memory of that travel; thus, there has been many versions of Brigid meeting all of the characters in the world, as well as multiple versions of them (because her actions alter the future every time she travels).

Book Three is set for release this year and will conclude the story in an epic way. The mystery of the time travel will finally be revealed when Ferghus is transported to our time period, and they must choose between survival and love.

Also, you decided to write parts of these books in Gaelic with translations. I loved this. Was that difficult to do?

The language is labour intensive. Some of the language is in Scottish Gaelic, while colloquialisms are also integrated – some learned from research, and some from growing up with a Scottish grandparent. I knew when I set out to write the book in this way that the effort to capture the language barrier that Brigid and Ferghus (and others) experience would be challenging, but I felt it was necessary to create a realistic tone for the trilogy. If readers become frustrated that they cannot understand Ferghus, imagine how Brigid must feel! (Well, they no longer have to!) And when Ferghus grows equally frustrated with Brigid’s speech, we can begin to understand why. The barrier was also included for comedic effect because sometimes Ferghus lies about what he has said to Brigid, which creates dramatic irony.

You’ve also written The Adventures of Lady Ellen Montagu. This series has found considerable success in Canada, as I understand it.

Yes, this series was an enormous undertaking but seemed to resonate with Canadian readers as I moved through the story arc. As I mentioned before, it began while I was in Ireland, but I set the third book in Canada where Lady Ellen journeys with her growing family to be safer during the famine. It was enjoyable to do archival research from the 1840s so I could capture the setting accurately. A few members of the infamous Donnellys make a cameo in one part of the book, too. In many ways, New London is my best written book in my opinion.

Tell us also about your two standalones, Abalone and A Moment In Time.

Abalone took over 15 years to finish. I wrote about 50 pages initially and returned to it when I was free to work on it consistently. The subject matter is painful, involving domestic violence (not romanticized) and mental health crises, but like all my books, there is a silver lining with hope for healing at the end.

A Moment in Time was my first foray into weaving some of my experiences from adult education into my writing. It was also a challenge I gave myself (to write from two POVs instead of just one, as well as a male POV). I also wanted to try to write a unique sci-fi tale with strong romance vibes. In addition, this story emphasizes the habit of prejudging other human beings without knowing them first. Ironically, I have had people judge the book before they have read it, because they assume the ex-con character is evil, and the teacher character is angelic. This was the entire purpose of writing the story: to show how we are all imperfect, struggling with inner trauma from past hurts, and that empathy can allow us to see the true person beneath the guise.

Why do you write both standalones and in series?

It’s really a matter of the scope of the story for me. I always know how my stories begin and end. Usually, it’s clear from the beginning whether this story arc will fit into one standalone, but every once in a while, I have no idea how many words the final book will be.

With The Adventures of Lady Ellen Montagu, I knew the arc, but had no idea it would take me three books to tell it. With The Future Bride series, I knew it would be a trilogy because I had a better grasp of the pages needed to complete one book when I started it. Abalone was my debut and because it was such a painful process (both the writing and editing), I never wanted to have to revisit that in a sequel or series. A Moment in Time is a standalone that involves two specific characters (and supporting characters) who meet in an adult education school. I have contemplated writing spin-off books that tell the stories of some of these side characters, but I have so many other projects that I want to complete first.

What is your process? Do you start with a plot, a concept, a character, a message, or something else?

The story concepts often come about accidentally, through travel, through dreams, and other life events. It is unpredictable. Once that inspiration occurs (A Moment in Time came to me in the middle of a movie theatre about a completely unrelated film), I usually dream about the plot and characters for ages before I start writing. Once I begin writing, I know where the characters need to go (the setting, the large conflicts, the crisis, the conclusion), but never exactly how they will choose to get there (they can be rather stubborn!).

What is next for you?

I have 3 WIPS currently. The Once and Future Love will be released first, but I have a Hallmark-style standalone and spicy romance story that I write periodically, too. I try to have different projects to turn to when the mood shifts.

Thank you so much, Jenn, for sharing your story.

Please find J.G. MacLeod at the links below.


73 views3 comments


Naomi Lane
Naomi Lane
Sep 08, 2023

Wow JG and I have a lot in common. We are both teachers with two degrees, a family background in the British Isles, and we were both mothers and caregivers to aged parents. I admire all the detailed research she has undertaken for her books, especially the language piece. I am also fascinated by languages and have studied four. It would be challenging to incorporate an ancient language like Gaelic into dialogue. Just wow!

Joanne Paulson
Joanne Paulson
Sep 08, 2023
Replying to

How interesting, Naomi! Yes, the Gaelic bits in the Future Bride series are fantastic.. Just love them. And good point about the challenge of it.


Kathleen Kalb
Kathleen Kalb
Sep 07, 2023

Wonderful interview!

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