The Scottish Thistle

Born and raised in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Cindy Vallar spent her formative yearsreading books and writing poetry. Her mother fondly referred to Cindy and her three younger sisters as her "Little Women." Cindy received her undergraduate degree from Towson University and her master's from the University of Maryland. Her twenty-year career as a librarian included working at several private schools including one for seriously emotionally challenged teenagers, as a reference librarian with the Baltimore County Public Library System, and as a special librarian for a company that wrote income tax software.

A friend of Cindy's mother introduced Cindy to a young man who had attended the same high school Cindy had seven years before she had. Not only did they live on the same street as children, but he delivered her parents' newspapers, his mother taught Cindy's Sunday school class, and she went to school with his youngest brother. Tom and Cindy married the year after Cindy graduated from college. They celebrated their twentieth wedding anniversary by moving from Maryland to Kansas.

Cindy is the Contributing Editor of Pirates and Privateers, a maritime history column, at She reviews books for Historical Novels Review, Ivy Quill Reviews, Appraisal, and The Book Report. She is also an editor and copyeditor for Wings Press, Ltd. She is a member of EPIC, The Historical Novel Society, Dalriada Celtic Heritage Trust, and the Kansas Authors Club. When she's not reading or writing, you're most likely to find her watching professional bull riding, listening to jazz, country and Celtic music, collecting Teddy bears, or visiting Scotland.

Welcome to our spotlight of Cindy Vallar and her work.

Below is an interview I had with   Cindy Vallar via email.

You will be able to read about Cindy and get to know a little about her through this interview. At the bottom of the page is a book cover of one of her books and a list of her books published and soon to be published.  Click the title to find a review of that book If one is available at Sime~Gen.


CarolCastellanos: What genres do you write?

Cindy Vallar: I write historical fiction intertwined with a love story. My books contain more history than historical romance and it's not unusual for the hero and heroine to be separated for several chapters.

CarolCastellanos: What genres would you like to write?

Cindy Vallar: I have several ideas for contemporary romances. Possibly I'll try writing suspense or action adventure, the type of stories that keep you sitting on the edge of your seat.

CarolCastellanos: Where do you get your ideas?

Cindy Vallar: Different places. The idea for The Scottish Thistle stems from a descriptive paragraph I wrote while at a boring staff meeting. A Walt Disney episode of The Swiss Family Robinson introduced me to the gentleman pirate, Jean Laffite, who provided arms, ammunition, and manpower to Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans. The idea of a patriot pirate led me to my current work-in-progress Rebel's Heart. A documentary on the Dust Bowl, moving to Kansas, and a dumb law still on the books about kissing a man ten times in public gave me the idea for another book I'm working on, Two Hearts Against the Wind.

CarolCastellanos: Do you pattern your characters after any real people?

Cindy Vallar: My characters may have traits similar to people I know or myself, but basically they are individuals who I create and who then fill in the details for me while I write. Often, they develop differently than I first picture them.

CarolCastellanos: What authors do you admire?

Cindy Vallar: Leon Uris, LaVryle Spencer, Jennifer Blake, Clive Cussler, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Rafael Sabatini, Stuart Woods, Nigel Tranter, and Louis L'Amour. CarolCastellanos: What authors do you read?

Cindy Vallar: Too many to name. I usually read books by the authors I admire, but as a book reviewer, I read books that I wouldn't necessarily pick up while browsing the library or bookstore shelves. I discover a lot of gems through reviewing. When I read for pleasure, it's more likely that the chosen book interested me because of the plot or story line rather than who wrote it.

CarolCastellanos: What genres do you read?

Cindy Vallar: Prior to becoming a writer, I was a librarian so I read a lot of different genres. My favorites are historical fiction, romance, thrillers, mystery, suspense, and non-fiction.

CarolCastellanos: What other genres do you see yourself writing?

Cindy Vallar: I think I answered this in your second question.

CarolCastellanos: What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?

Cindy Vallar: What I do now, writing. This is my second career and I love what I do. I hope that my books are popular with readers.

CarolCastellanos: Do you see yourself ever not writing?

Cindy Vallar: No.

CarolCastellanos: What books do you have planned in the near future?

Cindy Vallar: I already mentioned Rebel's Heart and Two Hearts Against the Wind. I also have several stories waiting to be developed: one that takes place in Viking Scotland, a possible sequel or spin-off of The Scottish Thistle, a story based on a lifeguard who once signed my autograph book when I was in elementary school, and a professional bull rider.

CarolCastellanos: How did you get started writing?

Cindy Vallar: I started as a book reviewer, but when I decided to pursue a writing career full-time, I applied for a contributing editor position at Since March 2000, I've been writing Pirates and Privateers, a monthly history column on maritime piracy that's proven quite popular with writers needing research, re-enactors, students, and others who share an interest in piracy on the high seas.

CarolCastellanos: What age were you when you started to write?

Cindy Vallar: My first attempt at creative writing occurred in elementary school. A teacher asked us to write a descriptive paragraph based on a picture. I don't remember what I wrote, but I described a scene of Girl Scouts canoeing on a lake in the fall. My first published pieces came when I was in high school: poems, an essay, and a letter to the editor of the local newspaper after they published a map showing where my sister's friend died in a fire. The gawkers who drove past the property were not to be believed.

CarolCastellanos: When is your next book due?

Cindy Vallar: The Scottish Thistle, which is my first novel, will be published in April 2002 by NovelBooks, Inc. Rebel's Heart is in the final revisions before I submit it to a publisher.

CarolCastellanos: Was there any author or authors that helped you get your in start writing, or helped you break into the field?

Cindy Vallar: No.

CarolCastellanos: What do you feel makes your books unique or stand out from others in your genre?

Cindy Vallar: I immerse myself in research on the history, culture, society, etc. for a given place and time period, and I think that comes across in my books. When I visit the location where I set my story, I see it as it was rather than as it is. The Scottish Thistle takes place during Scotland's Rising of 1745. The final battle took place on Culloden Moor. In walking the battlefield today, I see the slaughter of the Jacobite Army, smell the blood and gunpowder, hear the moaning and weeping, and feel the chill of the freezing rain. When you read that passage, I want you to be transported back to April 1745 and feel the senseless death and destruction rather than just read about it.

CarolCastellanos: What made you choose the genres you write?

Cindy Vallar: In elementary school I read a book my mom suggested called Snow Treasure. It's a fictional account of Norwegian children smuggling gold on their sleds during the Nazi occupation. I also gravitated toward history and biography as a child, preferring feisty heroines like Harriet Tubman. In junior and senior high school Mom introduced me to historical romance. Whenever I came across a historical event that wasn't discussed in school, I researched it on my own. History is interesting and enlightening, but too often the way it's presented bores people. In writing historical fiction intertwined with a love story, I hope readers will learn interesting information they didn't know and possibly be intrigued enough to find out more on their own.

CarolCastellanos: Do you have a special subgenre?

Cindy Vallar: Since I think of my writing as historical fiction, the subgenre would be romance.

CarolCastellanos: Do you have a favorite place you like to write?

Cindy Vallar: I have an office in my home. I can look out the window while I work, but I actually face three seven-foot bookcases that I finished myself. Being a retired librarian, the books are arranged in general categories with most being either about Scotland, Vikings, or pirates. One shelf contains special gifts I've received: a wooden puzzle of colorful dragons my sister made, a special birthday card from my niece, a carousel music box from a dear friend who always pestered me for information and is one of my biggest fans, a wooden horse from Sweden, and the figurines my mom gave me when I graduated from high school and college. Atop the bookcases are some of my Teddy bears and other stuffed animals while my puppets are in one corner. The walls are decorated with special pictures, my diplomas, and a rifle my ancestor used during the Civil War. I also have photographs of my husband and me on our wedding day and our seventeenth wedding anniversary because he's my biggest supporter and fan.

CarolCastellanos: In what order do you write? For example starting beginning to end, combining parts, in random order or in development cycle?

Cindy Vallar: Beginning to end, I think, although I will work on random scenes when they come to me. When I get an idea for a story, I work the initial scene through in my head before I write it down. I do my research, then start writing. I usually read over what I've written the next day to get a feel for the next scene prior to writing a new scene.

CarolCastellanos: Do you feel that the e-books afford authors a bit more freedom of expression in their books?

Cindy Vallar: Definitely. Print publishers tend to follow formulas that have proven successful in the past. They're not keen to go against the flow because of the risk. E-publishers allow authors to cross genre lines or write in genres the print publishers keep saying don't sell.

CarolCastellanos: What do you feel is, or isn't being done to promote authors?

Cindy Vallar: I wish more review publications were open to e-authors. Those writers who do articles about e-publishing tend to slight the independent publishers who've been e-publishing for several years in favor of the traditional publishers who are just now entering this area of publishing. That gives the readers a narrow view of e-publishing and does a disservice to them as well because new readers may not know about all the wonderful e-books available from independent e-publishers.

CarolCastellanos: Do you feel that the marketing departments have their finger on the pulse of readers?

Cindy Vallar: Yes. CarolCastellanos: How do you feel about review rating systems?

Cindy Vallar: They can be good for promotional purposes, but I'd rather read a review that just gives me an honest opinion of the book without rating it. My reviews of other authors' book rarely include a rating unless required by the editor. When I look for books I want to read for pleasure, I usually ignore the ratings. In high school, I often didn't read bestsellers because I felt other books were usually more deserving of my time.

CarolCastellanos: Through what venues do you feel most of your books are being sold?

Cindy Vallar: Since my book isn't published yet, I can't say.

CarolCastellanos: What do you feel is the best part of the publishing industry?

Cindy Vallar: They sell books in many formats. In a time when our world relies heavily on visuals, it's so relaxing and rewarding to read or listen to a book.

CarolCastellanos: What do you feel needs to be changed about the industry?

Cindy Vallar: I think traditional publishers need to be more open to new authors, to take a chance, and to respond to queries and submissions in a timely manner.

CarolCastellanos: Do you think small press and e-books will be the wave of the future?

Cindy Vallar: I'm not sure what “wave of the future” means. Small presses have been around for years. In fact most publishers began as small presses way back when. I think there's room for all formats and, as the younger generation who is already computer savvy ages, they will prefer to read e-books rather than other formats. Small presses may gain bigger markets as the giant conglomerates find their costs bring in fewer profits as the cost of publishing increases.

CarolCastellanos: Do you have anything further you would like to add?

Cindy Vallar: I'd like to invite you to visit my award-winning web site, Thistles & Pirates . You'll find excerpts of my new book, pictures of Scotland – the places and items I write about in The Scottish Thistle as well as the recent gathering of Clan Cameron – my articles on pirates and privateers, other writings, the best books I've reviewed, and lots more. When my book is released in April 2002, I'll be giving away a special memento I picked up in Scotland and my publisher, NovelBooks, Inc., will be offering a free short story set on the Isle of Skye in the late Middle Ages. I enjoy hearing from readers: You can write to me at or

Current Or Upcoming Cindy Vallar titles:

Odins Stone

Books, Poems, essays, short stories, and articles written by Cindy Vallar

The Scottish Thistle - NovelBooks, Inc. April 8, 2002

Odin's Stone - NovelBooks, Inc., April 8, 2002

A Journey of Writing - Reststop Writers' Newsletter, November 2001

Why I Write - January 8, 2001, Author of the Day Calendar project linking students and writers

Chasing a Dream - Bright Ink News, "First Success Stories," October 19, 2000

Achieving the Dream - Simahoyo's World, advice from published writers, November 2000

Contest Entries

Midnight Dreaming - Inscriptions Sensations - Writer's Digest The Thing from Kansas City - Kansas City Star

The Traveller - Soliloquy, Winter 1974 (Manheim Township HS Literary Magazine)

Sunset - American Collegiate Poets, Fall Concours 1976 (Special Award)

Feelings of Loneliness - American Collegiate Poets, Spring Concours 1977 (Special Award)

Morning Tide

Spotlight hosted by Carol Castellanos

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