More than wilting violets

Local author K.L. Huntley tells the story of Scottish heroine Flora MacDonald in historical fiction novel Misneach

By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
Reader Staff

It was genealogical research that led local author Kathleen Huntley to the story of Flora MacDonald.

A first-generation American by way of Scotland on her mother’s side, Huntley could not substantiate any evidence that she was directly related to the highly revered heroine, but she did discover something else: the opportunity to tell a never-before-told story.

The cover of Misneach by K.L. Huntley.

While MacDonald is a well-known figure in Scottish history, with a prominent statue dedicated to her memory outside Inverness Castle, most people only know the broad strokes of her story. Most notably, MacDonald is credited with helping Prince Charles Edward Stuart escape Scotland following the Battle of Culloden and the fall of the Jacobite army to British troops in April 1746.

“The thing that really piqued my interest was that this family, or clan, fought against King George II,” Huntley said. “But then, when they immigrated to the colonies, they became loyalists for King George III. To make that complete turnaround, I thought, ‘OK, why did you do this?’”

That question of “why” was the impetus for Huntley’s latest work, titled Misneach: The story of Flora MacDonald. The novel fills in the gaps left by history by adding color and credibility to MacDonald’s life using historical records, journals and Huntley’s own creative license to give voice to the characters. “Misneach,” pronounced “mish-nock,” is Gaelic for “courage.”

“I just fleshed her out into a three-dimensional person,” Huntley said. “I feel like I know her, and I really get excited because I feel her story needs to be told.”

Of particular interest to Huntley — who published the book under her pen name, K.L. Huntley — was the chance to create more space for a prominent female figure.

“We tend — when we look back at history — to think of women as little wilting violets wearing their little girdles,” she said. “I just know this isn’t true, being a woman.”

This is Huntley’s third book, but first work of historical fiction. She credits her late-husband, “who changed the dry names and dates on paper into real people and places,” with stoking her love for studying the past. That, combined with her natural curiosity, gave her the confidence to tackle the novel.

“I’ve always wondered, what were they eating? What were they using for diapers? Why did she do this, and how did they feel having all these kids?” she said. “That part comes natural. I’m just very curious. Why were they locking up their sugar? What were they reading?”

With those questions in mind, Huntley was able to share a story that goes beyond the surface of what history knows about Flora MacDonald and attempts to pull a living, breathing human being from the dusty, often male-dominated records.

“That’s what I intended: to make her a real person — your neighbor,” Huntley said.

Find copies of Misneach at the Corner Bookstore, Sandpoint Library, through Kindle or on Amazon. Huntley’s other books, Sociopaths I’ve Known and Loved and A Chick Named Charlie, are also available online.

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