Today I have fellow Crooked Cat author Nancy Jardine joining me for an interview.
Firstly (I always ask this!) how long have you been writing fiction and what first inspired you?
I’ve been seriously writing fiction since 2008, the point at which I stopped teaching full-time and slid back to doing only 3 or 4 days a week.
However, my writing career started back in 1999 when I volunteered (read arm proverbially twisted) to write non-fiction historical teaching materials, which became my first published work. Then, in 2005, I was again ‘encouraged’ to write a non- fiction history of Kintore School. Kintore was the school I taught in, and is the village I currently live in. I spent yet another summer holiday writing the school history and loved it. I had to do some really interesting research for it since I’m not from Aberdeenshire, and was amazed to find there had been a ‘properly documented’ school in the village since the early fifteen hundreds- though there may have been some form of schooling even before that.
The reason, for penning the history book, was extremely important for my future as a fiction author. The Victorian school building was being knocked down, with a new purpose-built block replacing the old. The new site which lay directly to the rear was already known to be a site of archaeological importance. As such, a thorough ‘dig’ had to take place before any new building work could occur. The archaeological findings were stupendous. The Roman ‘Marching Camp’ had originally been estimated to house around four thousand soldiers. The ‘dig’ of 2002-2004 unearthed findings which upped the level of Roman involvement to perhaps ten thousand soldiers, deciding that it possibly had three Roman occupations at different times. That site lies around 400 yards from my house! I was inspired by the thought of so many Romans tramping my garden soil and had my current Primary 7 class (11-12year olds) write stories of local Celtic children and Roman invaders. Their stories were so brilliant I just had to write my own novels, and thus moved into the realm of fiction writing- again spending my school summer holidays scribbling away.
I have always enjoyed historical fiction, and am looking forward to reading your novels. How much research do you have to do when you’re writing?
The initial research for my Celtic historical novels was done when I was teaching my classes about Celts and Romans. What I used in class wasn’t really in much depth but being a ‘history junkie’ I’m constantly seeking out more and more about the fascinating era for my own learning. I didn’t have to do very much extra research for the time travel novel –Dabbling With Time (still unpublished)-which I wrote for early teens, and only needed to top up a little for The Beltane Choice (Crooked Cat Publishing). However, I’ve had to do a lot of in depth research for After Whorl: Bran Reborn, due for publishing on the16th December 2013, since I like to use as accurate a fact base as possible.
And what about your next book, what can we expect?
The third book in my Celtic Fervour series – After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks – will be published around March 2014 and this continues the story in book 2. For this, I was desperate to write about the Roman Campaigns of AD 78-84 when the Governor of Britannia -Gnaeus Julius Agricola – marched his troops northwards through what is now Yorkshire, over the borders into Scotland, and all the way up to Aberdeenshire. I think you might see a connection there since the book culminates in a very large battle in Aberdeenshire – The Battle of Mons Graupius. Not quite on my current doorstep but pretty near since the site of my battle is on the foothills of Bennachie, a range of hills only 9 miles away! (Bennachie is one of the official contenders for the battle site- the actual place not named in any ancient Roman documentation) I’m currently planning at least one more in my Celtic Fervour series, perhaps more.
I’ve also started the first of a Family Saga trilogy set mainly in Scotland which begins in 1845. I also loved teaching the Victorian era and equally love searching out more and more information for that, too.
Who’s your favourite author and why?
I don’t really have a favourite, I’m afraid. I love Jane Austen and Morgan Llywelyn but equally love Tolkein, and the Lyndsey Davis’ Falco series, which I found very funny when they were published years ago, and there’s Steven Donaldson, and Charles Dickens- the list is endless. I’m reading a lot of different genres, so the favourite author is sometimes the one I’ve just read- fickle that I am!
When you’re not writing, what else do you like to do in your free time?
I’ve a big garden which takes up a lot of my time and energy. I also have a two year old granddaughter who equally takes up a lot of time and even more of my energy since I officially child mind her a few days a week (unpaid of course – silly me!). If I have any time left in the evening, I read as much as I can. I feel very deprived if I don’t manage a good read. I don’t watch much TV now, only some BBC classic serials and history programmes. Sounds really boring but I’ve never been a soap fan, and can’t abide ‘fly on the wall/reality shows’. The news I don’t count, since that’s just something to catch, if possible.
What have you learnt since becoming a published author?
I’m working as hard as I did when I was teaching full time. I’m learning many new tricks for marketing and using social media (though it’s not my forte and probably never will be). As all writers likely say, the easy bit is creating the novel – the rest is hard slog, and maybe luck. Sadly, I’ve not got the luck down off pat yet, but I have been slogging! I’ve always been a fairly patient person but it was very frustrating while I was awaiting my first book contracts – so patience is another of those learned ‘things’ with regard to marketing progress. Seeing the sales creep up slightly and then drop way down again on the Amazon rankings can be soul destroying, so I’ve tried not to look too often- another salutary learning curve. Another thing to learn has been the trick of writing Tweets. Not got the gist of that yet: mine tend to still be promotional, since I find time is not available for ‘chat’.
Monogamy Twist (The Wild Rose Press), my debut novel, is my version of a ‘Dickensian-style’ bequest of an old English estate. It’s a sensual ‘bosom heaver’, allusions to sex on almost every page (the way a friend described it) It’s an ancestral based mystery but since The Wild Rose Press only publish romance the romantic elements are strong. Take Me Now (also The Wild Rose Press) is a corporate sabotage mystery- highly sensual, but also intended to be funny. The main characters zip about in a floatplane from a Scottish island base and jet on to worldwide locations under some trying circumstances – but to tell you more would spoil the reading of it! I will say, though, that Barcelona and Paris are memorable, as are Tallinn and Muscat in Oman, but for all different reasons. My hero, Nairn, is my almost tongue-in-cheek contemporary version of the quintessentially highland hero- since being Scottish myself, I felt I wanted to write my own ‘take’ on the big brawny Scotsman.
The Beltane Choice (Crooked Cat Publishing) is the first of my Celtic Fervourseries of Celtic/ Roman Britain historical novels. Set in AD 71 Brigantia (modern day Yorkshire) it’s a romantic historical adventure – the Roman Empire encroaching on northern territory has dire effects on the previously warring tribes of the north. As you have read earlier, I absolutely love writing about this era. I’m pleased to say it’s garnering a nice crop of mainly 5 * reviews, though more is always very welcome.
Topaz Eyes (Crooked Cat Publishing) is my second ancestral based mystery, though the family tree created for this was deliberately far more complex than the one designed for Monogamy Twist. It could be termed a ‘sweet’ romance, with a lot of menace and intrigue, as the main protagonists gad about on a dangerous treasure hunt to find a long dispersed family jewellery collection which once belonged to a Mughal Emperor. There’s a lot of distrust before the ‘never-before-clapped-eyes-on-each-other-third generation cousins’ get their co-operative act together before any more people are harmed or murdered. Deadly deeds aside, there are some lovely locations in this one, too – particularly Heidelberg, Vienna, Amsterdam and Edinburgh cities I adore visiting. I’m totally delighted, and not too proud to brag that Topaz Eyes has been nominated for the Fiction section of The People’s Book Prize 2014. Any votes for this from your blog readers would be so welcome- pass on the message please, the more votes the merrier! (See, I’m trying harder with this marketing deal! )
Thanks so much for joining me, Nancy
Sarah – It’s a real pleasure to nip down south to visit you today. Thank you for being part of my launch tour. (I’ve been to Milton Keynes a couple of years ago, so know your locale a little bit too!)
Find out more about Nancy and her books:
After Whorl: Bran Reborn is available for pre-order in paperback from Amazon UK, e-book available on the 16th December 2013.
Facebook Launch Party ** with giveaways**
For a chance to enter the draw for a ‘triquetra’ necklace and other prizes join Nancy’s Facebook Launch party and look for details of how to win the prizes on offer.
Blog launch Tour **Special Prize**
A special Blog Tour ‘friend’ will WIN a mystery gift for the most commented visits to blogs during the launch tour for After Whorl: Bran Reborn. (i.e. most comments between 9th Dec and 18th Dec wins the prize) To be sure you don’t miss any blog posts check Nancy’s Blog regularly between the 9th Dec and the 17th Dec.
Nancy Jardine lives in the fantastic ‘castle country’ of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with her husband. She spends her week making creative excuses for her neglected large garden; doesn’t manage as much writing as she always plans to do since she’s on Facebook too often, but she does have a thoroughly great time playing with her toddler granddaughter when she’s just supposed to be ‘just’ childminding her twice a week.
A lover of all things historical it sneaks into most of her writing along with many of the fantastic world locations she has been fortunate to visit. Her published work to date has been two non fiction history related projects; two contemporary ancestral mysteries; one light-hearted contemporary romance mystery and a historical novel. She has been published by The Wild Rose Press and Crooked Cat Publishing.
Blurb: After Whorl: Bran Reborn
Ravaged by war
…AD 71. After the battle at Whorl, Brennus of Garrigill is irrevocably changed.
Returning to Marske, Ineda finds her grandmother dead, though Brennus is not. Snared by a Roman patrol, they are marched to Witton where he is forced to labour for the Roman IX Legion.
Embracing his new identity as Bran, Brennus vows to avert Roman occupation of northernmost Brigantia. Ineda becomes his doughty spying accomplice, though sometimes she’s too impetuous. Trading with the Romans lends excellent opportunities for information gathering. Over time, Bran’s feelings for Ineda mar with his loyalty to Ineda’s father.
When she disappears, and cannot be found, Bran enters direct service with Venutius,