Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Kate Carlisle

Please welcome Kate Carlisle, author of the New York Times bestselling Bibliophile Mysteries, featuring book expert Brooklyn Wainwright. She's the winner of the Golden Heart and Daphne du Maurier awards, and she spent twenty years in television production as an assistant director in game and variety shows, including The Gong Show and Solid Gold. She also has sung, acted and spent a year in law school. Today she blogs for us today about Scotland and her roots.

Finding Family

From early childhood, I’ve had a deep fascination for Scotland. I think it started in elementary school when I worked on a genealogy project. Like most Americans, my DNA comes from many countries, but I chose my Scottish ancestors as the ones with whom I most identified. My mother’s last name was Campbell, and you can’t turn a corner in Scotland without running into a Campbell or two. (Especially true when you’re not used to driving on the left side of the road!)

What allure did Scotland hold for me? I grew up in California, where “new” was synonymous with “improved,” and the only castle I’d ever seen in real life was at Disneyland. In California, a fifty-year-old building was considered old. But my people live in a place where history has visceral meaning. The past is the present, as they walk the ground where our forebears fought fierce battles, raised children, fell in love, and cursed their enemies. Traditions are clung to fiercely in a land carved out of the rocky countryside with bare and bloodied hands.

I was in my mid-twenties the first time I visited Scotland, and my love for the country was cemented immedi

ately and forever. In my heart, Scotland is my homeland. With its brooding beauty, Scotland spoke to something inside of me right from the start.

The people spoke to me, too…not that I could understand what they said! They are the warmest and friendliest people ever, but I think they’re also a little suspicious. (And who wouldn’t be, after the wars they’ve been through?) I’m convinced they exaggerate their accents when meeting tourists, as a test of our fortitude. Scots are a hearty lot, and they have no patience for namby-pambies who aren’t even resourceful enough to figure out what the hell they’re saying. No, if you ever travel to Scotland, just know that you must face the lingual challenge with determination.

When I began to write the Bibliophile Mysteries series, I knew that at least one of the books would have to be set in Edinburgh, my favorite city in the world. In If Books Could Kill, which was released this month, antique book expert Brooklyn Wainwright is a guest of honor at the Edinburgh Book Fair. A former lover asks her to protect what could well be a never before seen book of poems by Robert Burns. If authentic, the secrets revealed in this book will ignite a scandal of international proportions, a scandal that someone is willing to stop at any cost, even murder.

Edinburgh is the best mix of old and new. (And by “old,” I don’t mean fifty years old!) The modern city is built right on top of the ancient city. I was able to walk down dark and narrow steps and touch the very walls that my ancestors built.

After my travels, I feel even more connected to my Scottish heritage. It’s no wonder, really. My maiden name is Beaver, so you can imagine the teasing I got all through school. My dad (who was a regular laugh riot, let me tell you) always claimed we were Native American, named after Chief Shooting Beaver – hence the appeal of my mother’s side of the family!

Carlisle is a Scottish name. (Some say English, but I’m sticking with Scottish. Carlisle, England is right on the border of Scotland, and I think the town fathers named it such in an effort to be annexed.) You can see my coat of arms at The Carlisle motto is “with humility.” What they don’t tell you is that humility is a necessity for a clan who keeps tripping over our own feet!

What nationality is your last name? What does it mean? What do you wish it meant? (Go ahead, make up some fun alternate meanings for your name.) What do you think your family motto should be? Rather than “with humility,” I sometimes think mine should’ve been "with fries."

Jan: Thanks Kate!! And everyone please come back tomorrow when I take on the heavy topic of euthanasia. Poinsetta-euthanasia, that is.


  1. Thank you for hosting me here today, Jan! Looking forward to a fun day.

  2. I look forward to reading your books, Kate. I also have a Scottish name: Maxwell, with Reviresco on the coat of arms - "grow strong again." Although I haven't yet made my pilgrimage to the old country, it's on my list.


  3. Edith, Oh, it's incredible! I highly recommend going to Scotland. When you read If Books Could Kill, I hope you'll be inspired to book your flight!

    I'm intrigued by your family motto. Not just "Grow strong," but "Grow strong again." Makes me wonder what happened to your family to cause the clan to meet to come up with this motto.

  4. Hi Kate,
    Welcome! Kate and I met at Mysterious Galaxy last year and had a fun event together. Loved Scotland and really hope to go back soon. I read somewhere that Scottish accents were rated in the top five for sexiness (by some women's magazine that rates these things) and I totally agree. Will I be able to get my copy of If Books..signed at Malice this April?

    My family name is Simari - from Calabria in southern Italy. Not sure there is a translation or motto, but family lore claimed it was something like.."run, there's another earthquake coming."

  5. In a prior lifetime I was a professional genealogist, and I had the same reaction you did the first time I went to Ireland. It was like coming home (I even wrote an unpublished book set there, called Home of the Heart).

    Connolly is an Irish name, and it means "valiant warrior". There are at least three separate groups of Connollys in Ireland--which means there must have been a lot of fighting in the old days!

  6. Rosemary, So good to see you! I'd love to sign your copy of If Books Could Kill! Thanks for the warm welcome. :) I agree with the readers of that magazine. The Scottish brogue is so sexy. I think it's because of the "r" roll. Just gives me shivers.

    LOL on the meaning of Simari! Perhaps you should submit it here: The Meaning of Simari

  7. Sheila, A professional genealogist! How fascinating! Digging into all those records. I think you're right about there being a whole lot of fighting all over Ireland, Scotland, and England. Probably a lot of surnames were meant to inspire fear in the family's enemies. Only the warriors' descendants survived. The Pussycat Clan died out long ago.

  8. HI Kate,
    I can tell I'm going to have to start going to more conferences - I'm missing all the fun. My brother went to Scotland with a friend in high school and ever since I've always wanted to go.

    Brogan means "old shoe" in Gaelic, which probably means some cobbler background which would explain my boot-buying addiction, except supposedly it was changed to Brogan from Bourgoyne when my great great grandfather emigrated to Liverpool for work. Supposedly, he wanted to sound more Irish. I never believed that story until I met some friends in southern France this summer who knew a lot about French and Irish emigration. They convinced me it was both very common to have a French-rooted name in County Cork, and common to change it in Liverpool to sound more Irish.

  9. Hey Kate! Wonderful to see you here...and looking forward to Malice!

    My real last name is Sablosky. My famliy has argued for years about whether it's Austrian (my Aunt Portia says so) or Polish (my Dad says so) or Russian (my Gramma Minnie said so).

    As the story goes, the family left Russia/Poland/Austria from a town called Zablodowzka and came to the US, where people at Ellis Island changed the name to Sablosky. (Thanks, guys.)

    My Grandfather told me Zablodowzka meant "We are all lost."

  10. Hi Kate,and welcome to Jungle Red.
    Rhys Bowen is Welsh, of course, and nobody knows how to pronounce Rhys. My married name is hyphenated and no computer knows what to do with a hyphen.
    My ancestry is half Welsh and my father's half comes from Devon. The only scandal of interest is that my great grandfather was supposedly disinherited for running off and marrying a gypsy.
    I do tan nicely in the summer so that must be the gypsy blood!

  11. Hi, Kate, It's great to see you here! I am soooo excited your second book is out! I adored the first one and have this one queued up next in line on my Kindle.

    My mother was Scotch/Irish. My dad was Welsh, English, and Swedish. I matched the ethnic looks so it worked. After their passing, I finally went in search of my "real" roots, as an adoptee. I discovered that I am none of the above. On my biological mother's side, my grandmother was Bohemian. My maternal grandfather was Chickasaw and Cherokee. My biological father was French. Go figure!

    My maiden name is infinitely more interesting when it comes to meanings. It's Old Norse for "thunder", and there was a rather famous highwayman in England who carried the name.

  12. Jan, How interesting! I really never knew that a lot of French people emigrated to England. What was happening in France at that time to cause the migration? These days, living in Europe seems like even more of a dream because EU citizens can cross borders without hassle. There's a scene in If Books Could Kill in which Brooklyn feels a stab of envy when Derek Stone gets to bypass the long tourist line at the airport and breeze through the line for EU citizens. I feel that stab of envy every time I travel overseas. Of course, when I come back home, I feel a slight twinge of smug satisfaction when I get to breeze through the U.S. citizens' line.

    If there is no French connection after all, I love the "old shoe" as the meaning of a last name. Maybe it had nothing to do with a cobbler but instead was a play on "comfortable as an old shoe." So your ancestor was so easygoing that the neighbors called him Old Shoe. What do you think?

  13. Hi, Hank! You know, I have to say, I'm not impressed with the historic laziness of some of the Ellis Island employees. Spelling the immigrants' last names was too difficult, so they just changed them? Imagine, hundreds of years of family pride for the Zablodowzkas, who suddenly had to re-learn what to call themselves.

    Love your grandfather's sense of humor!

  14. Rhys, Thanks for the warm welcome! It's so good to be here. I love hearing about everyone's heritage. You're very lucky to tan nicely in the summer. It's good to be a gypsy!

  15. On the other hand, Kate, being Sablosky in high school meant I got to sit by cute Bill Shaw in biology.

    Who knows who I would have had as a lab partner if my last name had begun with Z!

  16. Hi, Silver! Great to be here! I'm tickled that If Books Could Kill is next in your queue. Hope you love it!

    The search for your biological ancestry must've been fascinating. Did you feel a little thrill of excitement to find out your grandmother was Bohemian? Even the word sounds fun and adventurous. Were you surprised by the Native American connection?

  17. LOL, Hank! You were alphabetically blessed.

  18. Hi, Kate--A fun topic! My last name (Northcott) is English, from Devonshire. My entire life, I've had people say "Uh, how do you spell that?" and then get it wrong anyway. I've been Northrup, Northcroft, Norcutt, Norgist, etc., etc.

    When the dh and I visited Sir Francis Drake's Devonshire home, Buckland Abbey, we naturally visited the shop. (Well, it's natural for me in my quest for history books unavailable here. He goes more in the spirit of being resigned to his fate.) I handed over my credit card to pay.

    The clerk looked at it and smiled. "Oh, you've a good Devon name, haven't you?"

    I could've hugged her. But I didn't. We might want to go back there someday.

    I've started If Books Could Kill and am loving it despite unwelcome interruptions for things like class prep. :-) No sophomore slump here! But we already knew that, Ms. #28 on the NYT!

    Isn't there a Roman fort in Carlisle?

  19. What do you mean you'd rather be Scottish than English?! (insert good old-fashioned English harrumph!)

    Glad to see some other Devonshire lasses among the gang here. I was born in Exeter, so am biased *g*.

    Like Hank (Hi Hank!) my maiden name is of 'mixed and debated' origin. Bharier is, I believe, an acroym for a Polish rabbi's titles Ben something etc etc. Though I have also heard that it is a bastardisation of the French name D'Harier (God forbid!) among other stories.

    Bharier has been bastardised itself and there are Bahariers and Behariers and Barriers and Barries.

    Sugden is an English name *g*, meaning field or field of sparrows, we think. Though we did hear that it may have its origins in northern Germany.

    And just to complicate things further, as well as the Poles on my father's side we have the Russians who settled in Wales (Why?). And my mother's side is Persian.

  20. Nancy, Hi! Oh, I love that story! Doesn't that just give you a thrill, when someone from the homeland recognizes your connection? Way to show English restraint by not hugging her.

    I'm thrilled that you're enjoying If Books could Kill. And I have bruises all over my arms from pinching myself at hitting the NYT list at #28! Isn't that something? What a rush!

    Yes, there are a couple of forts near Carlisle, one of which is the Old Carlisle fort. According to this website, the Roman name was Luguvalium, which translates roughly to "Lots of Valium." LOL!

  21. Anna, Wahh! I want a last name that means "field of sparrows." That's just so feminine and pretty. Your poor husband!

    Your heritage is quite the mixture. English, Polish, Russian, Persian, Welsh, and possibly French? I'm looking at all those letters, trying to make a word out of them, but you need some more vowels. Any chance you've got some Aremanian in you?

  22. OMG, spelling FAIL! That should've been Armenian. Poor spelling totally ruined my joke!

  23. Kate, I have to admit, given the usual definition of "Bohemian" as a lifestyle, I was surprised. I was blond, with blue eyes and freckles. (Now I'm silver with ash blonde highlights, lol), and that silver rather than gray comes from the Chickasaw genes along with the high cheekbones. We're in the process of tracking down the information needed so I can be enrolled in the tribe(s). I have to choose one. :P We knew there was a possibility as my adoptive parents were asked if Indian blood would be a problem. (Way back then, Indians faced as much prejudice as other minorities, even here in Oklahoma.)

    Family heritage is a cool subject, but I sure miss being a Ryan, a Burke, and a West. ;)

  24. Kate, your book sounds fab! I'm looking forward to the read.

    My family name is DeFelice, Italian for felicity. If it sounds familiar, it's thanks to this:

    "Quando paramucho mi amore de felice carathon"

    from "The Sun King" (Abbey Road). It pleases me so much to have my name included in a Beatles song!

  25. Kate - I have no doubt there is some Armenian in there somewhere! I can throw in some Zoroastrian too, if that helps *g*. Oh that's not a vowel. How about a 'Y' - Yorkshire?

  26. Silver, How lovely that your parents were open-minded enough to buck the prejudice of the times! That says a lot about their strength of character and the love in their hearts.

    Ramona, Too cool that the Beatles sang about you. But even if they hadn't, DeFelice is a wonderful last name. I wonder if your ancestors earned the name because they were the happiest people in town.

  27. Anna, I'm going to ignore the Z, but the Y could be helpful. Let's see. The letters we're playing with are:

    A-Armenian (possiby a stretch)

    Right away, I see "Prepay FW." We need another E to get "Prepay Few." Doesn't make a lot of sense, but they are words. What do you want from me?

  28. Interesting post, Kate. I believe I have some Scottish heritage too (my Cash maiden name), along with English, Irish (Shahan) and German (Fritts -- can't get too much more German than that). I wish I had more time to work on genealogy or lots of money to hire a professional genealogist. :) I'd like to know more about all branches of my family.

  29. Kate,
    My info was that French apparently immigrated to southern Ireland, County Cork, which is why some Irish names have French roots.

    But since Bourgoyne is also an English name, I'm guessing some of them ended up in England.

    I'm not going to Malice, but hope I get to meet you at some conference!!


  30. GREAT POST, Kate!

    Gotta say I agree on everything that's been said about Scottish accents. When I was in Edinburgh the only thing I could clearly understand was "Weel now..."

    My ancestors lived just across the way in Northern Ireland, of course. And like our neighbors Mc or Mac means 'son of.' In Irish Gaelic the word garragh means garden so McGary was probably once McGarragh or son of the gardener. Not very accurate in my case I'm afraid, since I do NOT have a green thumb.


  31. Hi, Trish! Thanks for stopping by. I know what you mean about wishing for more time to learn about your heritage. I feel the same way. I can only hope some cousin will do the legwork and then share the bounty of information. :)

    Jan, interesting! I hope to see you at a conference one day, too. Think we'd have fun.

    Cindy, the green thumb gene has been bred out of you, you say? Och, nooooooo!

  32. I was born with a good old fashioned Devon name too. Newcombe Lee. Father's father came from Crediton but moved to London just before my father was born.

  33. Rhys, Newcombe Lee is such a fabulous name, it should be in a book!

  34. Kate wrote: According to this website, the Roman name was Luguvalium, which translates roughly to "Lots of Valium." LOL!

    Love it! I'll bet the residents would've liked the Romans to take lots of Valium. *g*

  35. I think my lineage can be summed up by saying "European Union". That includes Scottish. I remember seeing the Boyd tartan represented on a tie in San Diego. I wish I had bought that tie!

  36. Nancy, LOL! I bet you're right.

    Jacqueline, What were the colors of the Boyd tartan?

  37. Hi Kate, warm welcome to Jungle Red! Now you've got me salivating to visit Scotland--and read your new book!

    My maiden (and always) name, Isleib, is German. My husband likes to claim it means "is stomach"--we are famous for eating and for sniffing out the best place to eat no matter what strange place we're visiting.

  38. Hi, Kate, I can't wait ot read If Books Could Kill. My father was born in Kilmarnock, Scotland, and always talked about his house with the beds built into the walls in the kitchen to keep warm by the fire. When I visisted Robert Burns home, it was exactly what my father remembered. We were able to get tickets to the Military Tatoo at Endiburugh Castle. I'm desended from the McLeods, but my maiden name was Soden. I found out that it's an English name that means Sultun. Great blog today.

  39. Larry and Jenel, I was wondering the same thing, so I looked it up. Boyd Tartan. It would make a pretty tie!

  40. Roberta, Thank you for the warm welcome. I've had a great time here today! I love your husband's definition of your name. Like you, I am a total food-hound wherever I go. Some of my best memories of traveling involve restaurants. LOL

  41. Kate, thanks for a great blog. I enjoy very much your Brooklyn Wainwright and the Bibliophile mysteries. I spring from Scots stock on my mother's side - Campbell.

    Mumm is my maiden name and is German. No relation, unfortunately, to the French champagne makers. However, Mumm does lead to good puns..."Mumm's the Word for Murder"

  42. Bobbi, Thank you so much! It means the world to me that you enjoy the Bibliophile Mysteries. Maybe we're related. We do have the Campbell connection!

  43. I'm Scottish - Graham - ne oublie - never forget! That explains my compulsive list-making. I live near Edinburgh and work as a professional genealogist. I'd love to read your new book, Kate. Is it available in the UK?

  44. Wow, how wonderful to see a professional Scottish genealogist here! Thanks so much for posting. I'd love for you to read If Books Could Kill and let me know how I did with the Edinburgh details. If Books Could Kill is available through Amazon UK, at least. I'm not sure whether it's available on the shelf there yet. The first book in the series should be. It's called Homicide in Hardcover and was released in 2009.