Harriet Schultz has worked as a journalist for decades — for national magazines, a university news service and a local weekly, as well as freelancing.

A few years ago, she tried a novel. The result is “Legacy of the Highlands,” a suspense novel with quite a bit of romance and a few fairly steamy scenes. It involves a murder and some international intrigue about Scottish independence, and is a good read.

After the novel was finished, Schultz discovered that getting the book out was still a full-time job. After trying to get an agent for a couple of years, she self-published, which involved a lot of marketing work.

The print version of the book is available at a number of local bookstores, including Longfellow Books in Portland, Nonesuch Books in South Portland, The Book Review in Falmouth and Sherman’s Books, with four Maine locations.

It’s also sold online as an e-book.

 

Q: You have been a reporter for decades. Why fiction now?

A: I had been a journalist pretty much steadily, except for when raising our kids when they were really young.

I started at Harper’s and Time and then the Stanford University News Bureau, and then The Forecaster. I just wanted a new channel. I never tried to write fiction. I’m not one of those people who has been writing stories since I was a kid. I didn’t know whether I had a story in me, so it was almost a lark — just something I wanted to try.

 

Q: How did you pick the Scottish independence theme?

A: We had visited Scotland for the first time many years ago and were struck by the country and its beauty, but I didn’t know much about its history. But I read Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series, a fairly well-known series, and that contains a lot of history, so I learned about such things as the Battle of Culloden. And then I picked up this postcard which had a part of the Declaration of Arbroath (for Scottish independence) saying, “for as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule.”

That quote started resonating with me, and that is where the group of 100 and the whole Scottish independence theme kind of invaded my mind.

It is kind of timely now with the coming referendum on Scottish separation from England, but I didn’t know that at the time.

 

Q: This is a combination of adventure and romance. Why the mix, and what do you call it?

A: That’s a good question. Part of the reason I couldn’t get an agent is that I couldn’t put a label on it. “Contemporary romantic suspense” is the closest label that I can find for it.

I am very pleased that a surprising number of men have told me that they love this book. I thought this would have some appeal for men, but it is more of a book for women.

 

Q: Is there a sequel or something else?

A: I just finished writing a short story that is a prequel of the book, and which I am doing mostly for promotional purposes. With e-books, you almost have to offer something free, which I use to direct them to the book.

And I’m about 30,000 words into the sequel for this, which I didn’t plan, but readers and reviewers say they want one. So it is probably a good idea to deliver it.

I think the characters still have something more to say, but I don’t think I can do more than the second one.

 

Q: I know self-publishing is easy now — but is it profitable? What is the process, and how much work is it?

A: You have a million hats on, because there are so many books out there, and the competition is fierce. Unless you find a way to make readers aware of your work, it can be the best book in the world and no one will know about it.

You have to be on various reader websites online and Facebook and Twitter, and join the professional groups. It is a full-time job selling the book after you have written it.

It is very great that local bookstores have stocked it, because there are still a lot of people who want to hold a book in their hands and don’t want an e-book.

I have had some success and had more than 20 reviews done on it, and out of five stars, it gets a 4.7 rating. True, some of them are from people I know. But there are a lot of new reviewers and book bloggers who are making e-books by independent authors known to readers.

I feel fortunate that a USA Today blog reviewed my book and gave it a favorable review.

A lot of newspapers won’t even look at self-published books. But more established writers are self-publishing, because you have more control if you self-publish.

 

Q: Did you have an editor or other hired help?

A: I had someone who was a copy editor go over it, but a lot of the editing was done by me over the two-year period while I tried to get an agent.

I had two or three people — writers — go over it, and they caught a lot of stuff.

I did hire a cover artist and paid someone to format the book, because that is beyond my technical abilities.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer who lives in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

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