When I decided to set my latest book, Lady Macbeth’s Daughter, in eleventh-century Scotland—when the historical Macbeth actually lived—it was a bit of a challenge to get the setting right. Hardly anyone was literate, and there was constant warfare, so we have no written records. I decided I could either make everything up or fly to Scotland and try to find clues in the ruins that do remain from those “dark ages.” Needing a vacation, I chose the latter option.
In Scotland, I saw stone cirlces even more marvelous than the Stonehenge in southern England. They are everywhere. Some stand in pastures in Argyll, where cows graze around them. The most amazing and untouched circle of stones, however, is on the Isle of Lewis—Calanais, which has been standing for as long as four thousand years. There are fifty stones: a center circle of 13 stones from which a double row of stones extends north, and shorter, single rows to the east, west, and south. It is shaped like a cross, but was erected two thousand years before that Christian symbol came into use.
No one knows the purpose of these stones: to follow the lunar cycle, perhaps, or to be a ritual gathering place for the community. They must have been important, though, because people went to an awful lot of trouble to move 5-ton stones and stand them upright. And without engines or cranes! How did they do it? And why? These stones so captured my imagination that I invented Stravenock Henge and made it an important setting in Lady Macbeth’s Daughter, a place where the supernatural breaks into my heroine’s life.