Sue-Ellen Welfonder on The Writer’s Thumbprint

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HW JJ Cover Final - JPG Amazon

Hello everyone, Sue-Ellen/Allie here…

Can you believe February is nearly over? The days are lengthening, and before long we’ll be back on Daylight Savings Time. I’ll refrain from sharing my opinion on that particular beast and just say, where does the time go?

Indeed, I was thinking just that when I realized my blog day was fast approaching. And I had no ideas for a topic. As I often do when inspiration doesn’t strike, I decided to surrender, leaving it to my muse to deliver an engaging idea. That decided, I tackled a seemingly mindless task: cleaning up my overcrowded email files. And – lo! – while going through several years of saved emails, deleting most of them, one jumped out at me because it had HAUNTED WARRIOR in the header.

HAUNTED WARRIOR is one of my favorite Allie Mackay Scottish paranormal-light titles. It’s a special book for me for many reasons, including my attachment to the North Sea fishing village where the story is set. But what caught my eye in the above-mentioned email from a friend were these words:

“Oh, Sue-Ellen, I have to tell you – Kendra is so you!”

And there was my topic: The Writer’s Thumbprint.

We all have one. Sometimes these telltale author marks are smeared all over the page, other times they’re harder to spot. But they’re always there. Readers who know a writer well can see them everywhere. That’s because ideas and the words that craft a story come from the writer’s psyche.

All our life experiences, world views, and likes and dislikes, blend to create the story. Sure, fiction is fiction. But it’s equally true that every drop of ink on the page holds a reflection of the author.

That’s the writer’s thumbprint.

Also a promise to readers, it signals what they’ll find in a book. For example, my books, under both names, will always have an atmospheric (usually) Scottish setting, a sexy (usually) Highlander hero, and strong heroines. In my Allie Mackay titles, readers will meet American heroines who are usually down on their luck. Longtime readers probably know there will be dogs in my books and that those dogs never die. They’ll know my tongue-in-cheek humor will be present. And perhaps they’re also aware that I’ll weave magic and whimsy into the tale.

The above could also be termed as voice.

The writer’s thumbprint is more. It’s detail that is individual and defining.

My friend was right when she recognized me in Kendra Chase, the heroine of Haunted Warrior. I’m always in my Allie Mackay heroines, but Kendra stands out because of her interest in ghosts and her attitude toward them. I was never a ‘spirit negotiator’ like Kendra who uses her ability to soothe disgruntled souls. But I am fascinated by the paranormal and spent years ghost hunting in the UK with two like-minded friends. That background helped me write Kendra.

My thumbprint is stamped on her in other ways, too.

She inherited my love of wild places and raw weather…

A - SE at End of the World

Also like me, she appreciates quietude, craving peace and tranquility. She dislikes the hectic of the modern world and is charmed by the quaintness of the North Sea fishing village where Haunted Warrior is set.

She has a love-hate relationship with UK driving. She isn’t fond of braggarts. History, legend, and lore are her passions. Given the choice, she’d spend the day at a remote cliff-top castle ruin rather than a ‘tourist castle’ that might be intact, but also overrun with tour bus crowds.

She believes in preserving untouched places. She’s allergic to construction noise and chaos, especially bucket trucks. And she considers leaf blowers the scourge of the earth. An animal lover, she is easily charmed by a very clever border collie and even a full-of-himself seal.

SEW Seal S

Those are the details of a writer’s thumbprint.

The little bits of me that went into making Kendra who she is on the page. Those were the things my friend recognized as ‘me’ in the book.

Kendra’s first meeting with MacGrath, the hero, was also taken from an experience of my own. It happened on a deserted Scottish beach. I saw a kilted man on the dunes. He was just standing there, his gaze on the sea. He was impressive, as all kilties are. As I watched him, he disappeared right before my eyes.

To this day, I think he was a ghost.

Perhaps a guardian of that stretch of rugged North Sea coast? I’ll never know. But I do know I saw him. He was my inspiration for HAUNTED WARRIOR.

Like me, Kendra also sees a kilted man on the dunes as she walks that same remote Scottish beach. Unlike me, she meets him on the beach a short while later.

A - SE - HW - BM Beach II


Here’s a mini-excerpt showing their meeting…

Set-up: A short while after seeing the kilted man on the dunes, she sees him again. But now he’s on the beach. No longer kilted but wearing jeans and a black leather jacket…

Excerpt: Kendra and MacGrath’s Meeting on the Beach…

He was the man from the dunes.
And he was coming right up to her, his strides long and easy, his dark gaze locked on hers.
“This is no’ place for a woman to walk alone.” His voice held all the deep, richness of Scotland. “The seas here are aye heavy, the surf rough-”
“Who are you?” Kendra didn’t miss that his dark, good looks were even more stunning up close. “Didn’t I just see you on the dunes?”
“You’re an American.” A corner of his mouth lifted as he avoided her question. His sexy Scottish burr deepened, as if he knew the rich, buttery tones would make her pulse leap. “A tourist come to visit bonnie Scotland, what?”
“Yes.” Kendra’s chin came up. “Weren’t you in a kilt a while ago?”
“A kilt?” His smile spread, a dimple flashing in his cheek. He held out his arms, glanced down at his jeans. “I do have one, aye. But as you see, I’m no’ wearing it now.”
“You did have one on. A kilt, I mean.”
“You’re mistaken, lass.” He lowered his arms, fixing her with the same intent gaze as he’d done from the dunes.
“I saw you.”
“You could’ve seen anyone. That’s why I’ll tell you again, this is no’ place for a bonnie lassie-”
“I’m not a lassie.”
“Nae?” He gave her a look that made her entire body heat.
“I’m an American.” The excuse sounded ridiculous. “We don’t have lassies.”
“Then beautiful women.” He touched her face, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.
Kendra’s pulse beat harder. “There are lots of gorgeous women in the States. Smart women who-”
“Those other women aren’t here and dinnae matter.” He stepped back, studying her appreciatively. “I meant you.”


How well do you know the authors you love? Can you spot their thumbprint in their books? Oh, and if you haven’t read HAUNTED WARRIOR and would enjoy doing so, here are the deets…


If you want to be transported to Scotland and love hot Highland heroes, this one’s for you…

Bound by a centuries-old legacy to guard Scotland’s rugged north coast, Graeme MacGrath doesn’t have time to dally with fetching American tourists. But when Kendra Chase arrives, desire flares between them. On a secret ghost hunting mission, she soon learns that the seaside village of Pennard is more than North Sea nostalgia, peat smoke, and plaid. Renovation work threatens the veil that shields this world from the ancient, half-mythic past. MacGrath and Kendra join forces to save Pennard, but can they stop themselves from the one thing they can’t risk – falling in love?

“For those who believe in magic and love!”
~ Amazon

FREE with KU or Purchase on AMAZON

Follow Sue-Ellen Welfonder:

USA Today bestselling author Sue-Ellen Welfonder is known for her strong heroines, Alpha heroes, and weaving Highland magic and humor into her tales. Her passions are Scotland, medieval history, Celtic legend and lore, the paranormal, and animals. All can be found in her medieval romances and the contemporary paranormals she writes as Allie Mackay. She lives on Florida’s southwest coast with her husband and her muse, Snuggles the writer cat.

18 Responses

  1. Barbara Monajem

    Lovely post, Sue-Ellen. I’ve been thinking along the same lines about an author’s thumbprint, because in the book I’m writing at the moment, the heroine is a writer, and there’s a great deal of her in every book she writes. And of course there’s something of me in that heroine. Fun stuff!

    • Sue-Ellen Welfonder

      Thanks so much, Barbara. I think it’s a safe bet that there’s bit of all of us in our characters and even the story itself as a ‘character.’ I have seen an author or two state otherwise, and even firmly, yet those particular writers, indeed, were ones I knew well and I can swear they were/are everywhere in their books. I think it is natural – where else can story come from then from the tapestry of our own lives?

      I will look forward to reading your book with the writer heroine. I love such stories. I wrote one, too. My short story FALLING IN TIME, a Scottish time travel romance. And as with HAUNTED WARRIOR, friends commented how they saw me in the heroine, Lindy.

    • Sue-Ellen Welfonder

      Thanks so much, Collette. And I’m so glad you enjoyed the excerpt. Haunted Warrior is a special book for me. It’s one of those ‘of the heart’ stories because of how it was inspired and because I have many happy memories from the setting. Also, this book was under a dark star for years and I loved being able to redo it and put it back out there as I’d originally envisioned it to read. I had a new editor at Penguin for this one and she hated my Allie Mackay voice which is ‘Highland magic-y and light and humorous.’ She was into dark, dark, dark stuff. Really edgy and rough urban fantasy which is the exact opposite of what I write. So she forced a really (unnatural to me) dark tone on the story and made me completely rewrite the book 5 – 6 times until she was satisfied that it was ‘dark’ enough to suit her taste. Then she went through it yet again before publication and edited out every jot of lingering lightness and humor that managed to cling to the pages. The book released like that and did terribly. It wasn’t ‘dark enough’ for readers who enjoy dark books. Then, of course, for my Allie Mackay readers who loved my light humorous Scottish paranormals, it was way too dark, lacking all the humor and spark that they expected in my stories. It was my poorest selling book ever thanks to that editor messing with it as she did.

      So when I got it back, I completely rewrote it, removing her influence and putting back all the lightness and humor it had originally had. I loved being to reclaim my story again. Love how it reads now. So it’s a very special title to me. And yet another example of why I am so anti-NY publishers now.

    • Sue-Ellen Welfonder

      Yes, you do! 🙂 Knowing you as a dear friend and also knowing your stories as a dedicated and huge fan, I can say that I see you in there, yes. Peeking out from behind the inked lines. xx

  2. Maggi Andersen

    I can identify with Kendra too.Love the sea and the mist. Not sure about ghosts though.

    • Sue-Ellen Welfonder

      Sea and mist is wonderfully atmospheric. Hard to resist, indeed. So much more inspiring than glaring sun and a stark, cloudless sky. Ha ha ha re the ghosts. You surely aren’t alone in not being too keen on them. I love the supernatural in all forms. My above-mentioned friends and I had some really amazing experiences in our years of exploring haunted sites in the UK. We did so stateside as well, though not as much as we did in the UK. I’ve also lived in a badly haunted house so understand the dark and scary side of ghosts, too. Have seen a few as well, so I’m an absolute believer. Seen and heard and experienced too much to ever doubt.

  3. rwmckinnis

    Loved this book, especially Jock. He’s one cool dude!! Wendy

    • Sue-Ellen Welfonder

      Awwww, bless you, Wendy, for mentioning dear Jock. (to anyone reading this, Jock is the dog in HAUNTED WARRIOR) He is really special, I agree. I love him so much, too. I wish so much that every dog could be as he is. Don’t want to say out loud what his special ability is should anyone see this and want to read the story. But, man, would it be wonderful if all dogs could be like him. Sigh…

  4. Barbi Davis

    Loved this Sue-Ellen. is always fascinating to discover pieces of my favorite authors lives, and about themselves. Really enjoyed this. Thanks for sharing. ..hugs♡♡♡♡

    • Sue-Ellen Welfonder

      Thanks so much, Barbi! I’m so glad you enjoyed my piece. It’s always fun to get to talk a bit about the books, especially ones like this one that are extra special to us. Be sure to scroll up and read my response in comment to Collette to see yet another ‘layer’ to this particular story. Why the book stands out to me as a really special one. It has been through a lot, this story. You’ll see. (((HUGS))) back to you. xx

    • Sue-Ellen Welfonder

      Bingo! You are right. I haven’t ever posted that one anywhere. He was a huge gray seal just like Bart in the book. I would’ve loved to have walked over and sat with him for a while, but I didn’t want to disturb him. He looked very comfy there.