Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Member Spotlight on Alyson McLayne!

by | July 30, 2019 | 2 comments

Minerva Spencer: Hello Hearts Through History members, today I’m talking with HTH member Alyson McLayne. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’ve been working on?

Alyson McLayne: Hi everyone! I’m Alyson McLayne. I live in Vancouver, Canada with my prop master husband, my twin seven-year-olds (boy/girl), and my chocolate lab-cross named Jasper, who’ll always be a puppy to me. My amazing eighty-eight-year-old dad also lives with us, and I swear he has a more active social life than I do (all those lunches and dinners with the ladies!). Lastly, in case of late-night writing emergencies, I have several stashes of dark chocolate hidden around my house.

My main series is set in the Highlands of Scotland, and it’s called The Sons Of Gregor MacLeod. It’s published by Sourcebooks:

Five boys destined to become Highland Lairds are fostered together to become brothers. Darach, Lachlan, Callum, Gavin and Kerr fight for their clans, for each other, and for their own true love.

The first three books of the series, HIGHLAND PROMISE, HIGHLAND CONQUEST, and HIGHLAND BETRAYAL, are all out. The fourth book, HIGHLAND CAPTIVE (Gavin’s story), releases today! I’m thrilled to say, it’s getting great reviews, including my first starred review from Kirkus. Woo hoo!!

MS: Do you write full-time or part-time?

AM: I write full-time, although it often feels like part time because my kids are still young and I’m busy with them. When I got “the call” in 2016 they were only four years old. I’d been lucky enough to be a stay-at-home-mom until then, which allowed me to write when I wasn’t constantly feeding the little monsters. Seriously, we joke that my son is actually a Hobbit because he’s always asking for second breakfast and third lunch.

MS: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

AM: I’ve always loved to read, and stories have been tumbling around in my head for as long as I can remember. When I was nine, I wrote the first chapter of a book about an adventure I took with my talking dog and cat. Wish fulfillment at its finest! And I still have a book of poetry I wrote at that age, too.

MS: Are there specific books or authors who have influenced you as a writer?

AM: My love of Romance started because my mom read the Harlequin Presents line. I remember being fascinated by the couples on the covers of the books, and when I wasn’t pretending to be Sabrina from Charlie’s Angels or a horse named Lightning, I would pretend to be one of the girls on the Presents’ covers. At around thirteen, I started sneak-reading them. At one point I found a huge bag of Harlequin Presents in the basement, and I spent hours down there binge-reading. Shortly after, I tried to write my first romance about a dance teacher, who was mistakenly given incriminating evidence about a mob boss. When the mob boss comes after her, she runs to her ex-husband—a prosecutor—for help. Hmmmmm… that’s not a bad story idea at all!

My love of Highlander historical romances started with Julie Garwood. I’d already written several short contemporaries (targeting the Presents line) as well as several screen and teleplays. One day I was getting my teeth cleaned, and when the dentist saw the book I’d been reading, she started gushing about how I should read Julie Garwood’s books. I couldn’t reply much as her fingers and sharp, whiny tools were in my mouth, but I stopped at the library on the way home and picked up THE PRIZE and loved it. The rest is history

MS: Give us a brief rundown of your process. Are you a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in the middle?

AM: I am definitely a plotter! I studied drama at university and part of that work involved analysing and dissecting plays. I also took acting and directing classes, which required me to delve deeply into character and individual scenes. Building a character’s backstory, figuring out their world view and motivations, and deciding what they liked and didn’t like was something I did in drama class long before I did it for my novels

Then, when I started writing screenplays, I learned about story structure and turning points, which are so important for screenwriting—for all good writing in my opinion (not that you have to be a plotter to do this!). Once I went back to writing romance, I applied everything I’d learned as a screenwriter to my novels. By the time I start writing, I have a detailed outline that keeps me moving forward but doesn’t stop me from changing things as the story progresses. But I ALWAYS write with story structure in mind, and I know the key, pivotal scenes that I’m writing toward.

MS: Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication? 

AM: Ha! My journey was a long one—27 years—so buckle up! 

After my first year of University, my mom bought me a book that she found at the grocery store called How To Write A Romance And Get It Published (thank you Mom!). I read it immediately, and instead of getting a summer job that year, I decided to write a book for Harlequin Presents. That was in 1989—pre-internet, pre-email, and before it was easy to access information on publishing. I followed the directions in the book and mailed the printed manuscript to Harlequin.

And then I waited. And waited. Aaaaaaaaand waited! It felt like my manuscript had been lost in some kind of publishing black hole. Finally, I heard back…and I was told that they weren’t accepting manuscripts at this time. What a let-down! I didn’t write another book for over a decade. 

Fast forward through my university and screenwriting years (don’t get me started on trying to get a foot in the door with film and TV!), and I decided to return to my roots and focus on romance. I wrote and submitted numerous manuscripts in different subgenres. For a while I was even working with an editor at Presents—the team there liked my writing but the manuscripts were never quite right. At one point they told me I had a single-title voice. 

Um… thanks?

And then I got pregnant. By my third trimester, I felt too crappy to write, and all my momentum came to an abrupt halt. 

It took a while, but I slowly got back into writing, and in 2015/16 several wonderful things happened—HIGHLAND PROMISE was a quarter-finalist in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest, Harlequin Historical contacted me afterward, asking to read the full manuscript, and then to top it off, I was nominated for the 2016 Golden Heart contest with my paranormal manuscript! 

Harlequin Historical eventually rejected HIGHLAND PROMISE, but they were interested in seeing HIGHLAND CAPTIVE (book 4 of The Sons Of Gregor MacLeod). I loved the entire series too much to break it up and didn’t pursue the opportunity, but maybe that signalled something to the universe, because not long afterward I submitted to Sourcebooks, and within a few months, I had a 5-book deal for the entire series! 


If you’re interested in my “Call Story” you can read it here on my website: http://alysonmclayne.com/the-call/.

MS: Tell us about your latest release and what’s coming next for you. 

AM: HIGHLAND CAPTIVE releases TODAY! This is book four in The Sons Of Gregor MacLeod and features Gavin MacKinnon and Deirdre MacIntyre. Here’s the blurb:

She’d saved his son. 
Could she save him as well?

Laird Gavin MacKinnon is a changed man—and not for the better. Ever since his young son, Ewan, disappeared two years ago, Gavin has grown callous and bitter. Scouring the countryside, his search leads him to a mysterious woman who maintains the boy is hers. He decides to take them both and ask questions later. 

Deirdre MacIntyre will go with the brooding laird if it will keep her son safe. Gavin has to admit that the beautiful lass has a bond with Ewan, and things aren’t adding up. When Deirdre’s clan comes to claim her under threat of war, Gavin has a choice to make: fight for her or let her go.

I’m currently writing book 5, HIGHLAND THIEF. In addition, I’m taking a really great self-publishing course because I have seven full and partial contemporary romances that, with a little (or a lot!) of rewriting, could make a fun, sexy series. And waiting in the wings is my paranormal romance series that I would someday love to work on again.

MS: What’s the hardest part of writing? 

AM: I don’t know that there’s just one thing, lol. Lots of things about writing and publishing are hard. Off the top of my head, and in no particular order:

-Deadlines are hard because we have all the other things to do on top of writing our books. 

-Self-doubt and uncertainty are hard…and more so now with all the extra choices and opportunities self-publishing brings.

-Working our butts off for not nearly enough financial gain is hard—whether you’re published or pre-published, Indy or Trad.

-Staying focused is hard. Squirrel! Or in my case…Internet!

-Being flayed alive on Goodreads is hard. 

-Writing day after day when the words aren’t flowing is hard.

But one thing is easy…the choice (or maybe not a choice?) to do this hard thing we love. 

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

MS: Thanks so much for joining us, Alyson! You can find Alyson online at the following sites:

Website address: http://alysonmclayne.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlysonMcLayne/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alysonmclayne/?hl=en



  1. Anastasia Abboud

    What a wonderful interview!
    Alyson, it seems your journey has been a determined, successful one on more than one level. Love the picture of the lab with the books as well.

    Julie Garwood’s books are what drew me towards Scottish romance as well. I believe there are a lot of us.

    Minerva, these interviews are so great. It’s nice to k is more about our fellow writers and chapter members. I see I have lots of reading to catch up on.

    For now, I’m going straight to Amazon to add Gavin’s story to my Kindle.

  2. Mary Gillgannnon

    Lovely to learn about you, Alyson. The journey can be hard but it sounds like you’re finding your way. Cheers!



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