I’m pleased to host author Cara McKinnon today for a discussion on alternate history. And it’s a special occasion! Today marks the release date of the second novel in her Fay of Skye series, A Theft of Magic.

I’m a huge fan of the alternate history version of Victorian England McKinnon has created, as evidenced by my 5-star review of book 1, Essential Magic. I can’t wait to read this next installment of the series to see where McKinnon takes her world next!

Alternate History: One Alteration Changes Everything. Or Does It?

When writing any sort of speculative fiction, the accepted wisdom is that you get a single “buy in” for your world-building. Maybe time travel works, or FTL travel is a thing. You don’t need to explain it (unless you want to). Your audience will accept that change from the world as they know it. The more you add to your world after that, the more you will need to elucidate.

Alternate history works on the same premise. Make one change to the past, and follow the ripples out. For my Fay of Skye series, I chose to make magic real and acknowledged. A tangential change is the existence of corporeal deities, who are manifestations of magical energy. But because of this corporeal existence, faith doesn’t work in quite the same way, and religions have evolved differently. There is no such thing as monotheism in a world where other gods can actually speak to you. Instead, there is at minimum henotheism, where you worship one god but accept the existence of others. And at best, there is pantheism or panentheism, which is my authorial view of how this world works. (Pantheism says all things are divine; panentheism maintains that the divine is separate, and we are all emanations from it. They are very similar views.)

The main character of my next book is half-Indian, and I have been researching Hinduism in order to prepare to write his story. In the course of my research, I realized that the system I set up for my world is actually very similar to Hinduism. There are many gods, but all are really manifestations of one single, universal force, just as humanity (and everything else) is.

The more things I think I’m changing in order to create this world, the more I realize that I don’t have to alter much at all!

Of course, humans are still humans, and so disagreements arise in my world just as they do in reality. For my people, the arguments are about how best to use magic, and which gods are stronger/smarter/more wholly indicative of the world spirit. Conflict still exists, and in order to map history to my world, I sometimes have to tweak the cause of clashes to match with my story reality.

But in the end, it brings me right back to where the world really was in the 1890s. Tensions boiling under the surface in Europe, Britain at the height of its Empire and about to topple and fall. World War looming in the not-too-distant future. It’s just that magic is real, and will play a very important part in what is about to happen.

And on the outskirts of that conflict is an Irish Republican and a Scottish witch. Together, they will make their own ripple into the history of my world.

Check out their story and the rest of my alternate history in the Fay of Skye series.


A woman sworn to truth. A man who deals in lies. A passion lighting the way to love…or loss.

Sorcha Fay, known to the world as the reclusive Seeress of Skye, lives alone on the Fay clan properties in Scotland. Beneath the veneer of mystery is a lonely woman who has learned to live for duty.

Ronan McCarrick is a thief, smuggler, spy, and Irish republican. The new Duchess of Fay hires him to secretly retrieve some relics from the vault in Fay House on the Isle of Skye.

When Ronan arrives on the island, he stumbles into one of Sorcha’s wards and tries to free himself with magic. A defensive spell triggers, incinerating his clothing and everything he’s carrying—including the letter that would have told Sorcha why he’s come to Skye.

Despite an instant attraction to the naked and furious Irishman, Sorcha believes that Ronan is an interloper who has been attacking her wards for months. She binds his magic and puts him under a spell until she can find out the truth. But while she has him in custody, someone else steals the most powerful and dangerous artifacts in Clan Fay’s possession.

Now Sorcha needs Ronan’s help to steal them back. But the longer they’re together, the more she fears that what he’s stealing is her heart.

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And don’t miss the rest of the Fay of Skye series!

Book 1: Essential Magic

Prequel: A Merge of Magic (serial novel)



Cara McKinnon wrote her first fantasy romance at the age of six, about a unicorn couple that falls in love and has adventures (there is also pie). Now she writes about humans falling in love and having adventures, but she can’t quite stop including magic.

She loves history and historical romance, so she decided to set her books in an alternate Victorian era where magic is not only real, but a part of everyday life.

Cara attended the best writing school in the world, Seton Hill University, where she received an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction and found her writing tribe. She lives on the East Coast of the US with her husband, two kids, and an oversized lapdog named Jake.

Visit her on her website, where you can find more information about the Fay of Skye series, writing and romance, and ways to get in touch!

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