Anglo-Scandinavian, 2nd half of the 11th century AD Found
in Pitney, Somerset, England
An entwined animal and snake in combat
This elegant openwork brooch was found in a churchyard. The skill needed to
make it indicates that it was probably worn by a man or woman of some
importance, and the brooch would have been considered a symbol of prestige.
The main ornament is a snake with round eyes biting the underside of a
four-legged animal, which in turn bites itself. A row of beads runs along the
underside of the animal which is stretched into a looped ribbon. Its hips are
marked with spirals and a spindly front and back leg are shown.
The brooch is a rare and fine example of the combination of Scandinavian and
English art styles. The design, with its plant-like tendrils and ribbon animals,
is an English version of the final phase of Viking art, the Urnes Style.
However, the delicate beading which picks out the main animal, and the scalloped
border of the brooch are both Anglo-Saxon features.
The brooch was cast in bronze with a slightly
convex form, then gilded on both side. The reverse is
plain, and still retains some fixings for the missing pin.
E. Roesdahl and D.M. Wilson (eds), From Viking to Crusader: Scand,
Nordic Council of Ministers, 22nd Council of Europe Exhibition (Sweden,
D.M. Wilson, Anglo-Saxon art (London, Thames and Hudson, 1984)
J. Backhouse, D.H. Turner and L. Webster (eds.), The golden age of
Anglo-Saxon, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)
Jenna Burtenshaw’s dark fantasy trilogy The Secrets of Wintercraft comes to a pulse-pounding conclusion with YA dystopian novel Winterveil.
Teen Kate Winters and her powers are unique. She alone can understand Wintercraft, a book of ancient secrets.
In Winterveil, the veil between the living and the dead is crumbling, and only Kate can stop it. The pull of the veil is powerful, and part of Kate wants to let it fall, allowing the dead overrun the living. Her best friend Edgar Rill urges Kate to save the world of the living. But Silas Dane can influence Kate too. Silas, a merciless villain, has the potential to behave honorably—if he chooses.
A great pick for fans of Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Legend.
The dead are restless. The veil between the living and the dead is weakening. The graveyard city of Fume is over-run by ghosts.
And Kate Winters—the one person powerful enough to bring life and death back into balance—has been captured by an ancient and power-hungry enemy.
Kate is returning to home to Albion just as it reaches the brink of utter chaos. But she isn't there to save it. She's there to obliterate it. Caught in a trap laid by the most powerful sorceress in the world, Kate will be the catalyst for the final destruction of the veil. And the dead will swarm the living.
Silas Dane is following her. Though he is half-dead himself—and may be a murderer and a disgraced warrior—he will not let Albion down in its hour of need. Together he and Kate will turn to the dark secrets of her family's legacy: the book of Wintercraft.
Those who wish to see the dark, it's time to pay the price.
The tenth novel in the critically acclaimed Lincoln Rhyme series, from Number One bestselling author Jeffery Deaver.
Robert Moreno, an American citizen living in South America, is shot in the Bahamas by a sniper. The killing was commissioned by the U.S. government, who received a tip-off that Moreno was planning a terrorist attack on a U.S. oil company headquarters. But this intelligence was fatally incorrect: anti-American Moreno ordered a protest at the oil company, not an attack.
Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs are drafted in to investigate. While Sachs traces Moreno's steps in New York, Rhyme travels to the scene of the crime in Nassau, where he finds himself on a dangerous path trailed by the sniper himself. As details of the case start to emerge, the pair discover that not all is what it seemed. Can they achieve justice and escape with their lives intact?
In THE LOST CONTINENT BBC Europe Editor Gavin Hewitt tells the story of a flawed dream, a noble vision that turned dangerous, and which led Europe into its gravest crisis since World War Two - a crisis for which it was totally unprepared.
A pillar of the post-war European dream was a shared currency, and with it came easy money, seducing some countries into a wild spending binge. After the financial crash in the United States, Europe caught the cold and was left with a debt crisis that came to threaten the entire European project.
THE LOST CONTINENT is rich in anecdote, weaving together the stories of ordinary people with the high politics and drama of Europe in crisis to give an unparalleled and vivid portrait of a massive shift in modern history. It includes interviews with top officials and insiders, and dramatic accounts of key meetings.
Gavin Hewitt's THE LOST CONTINENT is a clear-eyed book by a distinguished and well-connected journalist which tells the astonishing story of how we got here and where we might be headed.
A story of heartbreak and survival by the step-sister of Anne Frank.
Eva was arrested by the Nazis on her fifteenth birthday and sent to Auschwitz. Her survival depended on endless strokes of luck, her own determination and the love and protection of her mother Fritzi, who was deported with her.
When Auschwitz was liberated, Eva and Fritzi began the long journey home. They searched desperately for Eva's father and brother, from whom they had been separated. The news came some months later. Tragically, both men had been killed.
Before the war, in Amsterdam, Eva had become friendly with a young girl called Anne Frank. Though their fates were very different, Eva's life was set to be entwined with her friend's for ever more, after her mother Fritzi married Anne's father Otto Frank in 1953.
This is a searingly honest account of how an ordinary person survived the Holocaust. Eva's memories and descriptions are heartbreakingly clear, her account brings the horror as close as it can possibly be.
But this is also an exploration of what happened next, of Eva's struggle to live with herself after the war and to continue the work of her step-father Otto, ensuring that the legacy of Anne Frank is never forgotten.
the 'Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop''which is
hosted by 'I am a Reader, not a Writer' and 'Read Now Sleep Later'. Being based in
the United Kingdom and with International Time Zones, this will be one of the first
posts to go up for this hop.
To gain entry to this draw all
you have to be is a 'GFC Follower' of my blog.Just complete the 'Rafflecopter Entry
Form' that you will find at the end of this post. Extra entries can be obtained
by also following this blog through Networked Blogs, Linky, Google+ or by just
leaving a comment on this post. Once the form has been completed, you
will have been entered into the draw.
there is such a selection of books available these days, I am offering the main
prize winner a $25 (US) / £20 (sterling) Amazon Gift Voucher/Certificate, so the
winner can choose their own books! I will arrange that the prize is e-mailed to
the winner on the completion of the draw!
One first prize
of either a $25 (US) or £20 (sterling) Amazon Gift
There will be one main prize winner from
this draw. The gift Voucher/Certificate will only be offered in either US
dollars or pounds sterling. No other currencies can be catered for. Each entrant
will be allocated a sequential number. After the closing date for this draw
(5th April 2013 at 23.59GMT), the
winning number entered for this draw will be chosen by Random.org.This
is an International Giveaway Draw!
the rest of the blogs that are taking part in this great hop, just click on the
'Click Here' link below, to be taken to a page of participating blog
"In Allison Sekemoto's world, there is one rule left: Blood calls to blood."She
has done the unthinkable: died so that might continue to live. Cast out of Eden
and separated from the boy she dared to love, Allie will follow the call of
blood to save her creator, Kanin, from the psychotic vampire Sarren. But when
the trail leads to Allie's birthplace in New Covington, what Allie finds there
will change the world forever--and possibly end human and vampire
existence.There's a new plague on the rise, a strain of the Red Lung virus that
wiped out most of humanity generations ago--and this strain is deadly to humans
and vampires alike. The only hope for a cure lies in the secrets Kanin carries,
if Allie can get to him in time.Allison thought that immortality was forever.
But now, with eternity itself hanging in the balance, the lines between human
and monster will blur even further, and Allie must face another choice she could
never have imagined having to make.
Step into NEW YORK TIMES bestseller Nalini Singh's explosive and shockingly
passionate Psy-Changeling world . . . A dangerous, volatile rebel, hands stained blood red. A woman whose very existence has been erased. A love story so dark it may shatter the world itself. A deadly price that must be paid. The day of reckoning is here. From 'the alpha author of paranormal romance' (BOOKLIST) comes the most
highly anticipated novel of her career - one that blurs the line between madness
and genius, between subjugation and liberation, between the living and the
AD 69. Aulus Caecina Severus has thrown in his lot with the hedonistic Vitellius and prepares his legions for a gruelling march over the Alps.
Driven by the desire to repay the treachery of his former patron, the Emperor Galba, and to keep his rival Valens in check, Severus leads his army against barbarian rebellions and against the mountains themselves in his race to reach Italy first. With the vast Po valley almost in sight, news reaches the army that Galba has been killed in a coup, and that Otho has been declared Emperor by the Praetorians who he had bribed to murder their own emperor.
But there is no turning back for Severus, even if he wanted to. The Rhine legions want their man on the throne, and they won't stop until they reach Rome itself. Even once Otho is defeated, the battle for supremacy between Severus and Valens is far from over. The politics of the court and the mob is the new battleground, and Severus needs the help of his wife Salonina and his freedman Totavalas in this constant game of thrones. When stories spread of a new power in the east, Severus has to decide where his real loyalty lies: to his Emperor, to his city or to himself?
Eleanor of Aquitaine's story deserves to be legendary. She is an icon who has fascinated readers for over 800 years. But the real Eleanor remains elusive - until now. Based on the most up-to-date research, award-winning novelist Elizabeth Chadwick brings Eleanor's magnificent story to life, as never before, unveiling the real Eleanor.
Young, golden-haired and blue-eyed Eleanor has everything to look forward to as the heiress to wealthy Aquitaine. But when her beloved father dies suddenly in the summer of 1137, her childhood is over. Forced to marry the young prince Louis of France, she barely adjusts before another death catapults them to being crowned King and Queen of France. Leaving everything behind, Eleanor must face the complex and vivacious French court. She is only 13.
Barely out of childhood, and forced to deal with great scandals, fraught relationships and forbidden love at every turn, Eleanor finally sees what her future could hold if she could just seize the moment.
Overflowing with scandal, politics, sex, triumphs and tragedies, The Summer Queen is the first novel in a stunning new trilogy.
A sunken secret. A missing woman. A race against time. Former SAS major Ben Hope
is relaxing at his home in Normandy when he hears the worst news of his life.
His ex-girlfriend Dr Brooke Marcel has been kidnapped. Racing against the clock,
Ben's frantic search for Brooke leads him from Ireland to the Spanish mountains
and the rainforests of Peru. What is the mysterious link between the kidnapping,
the salvage of a sunken 16th-century Spanish warship and the secret activities
of its wealthy discoverer? As the trail of wreckage and mayhem intensifies, Ben
soon uncovers a web of intrigue, corruption and brutal murder. But will he be
too late to find Brooke alive?
China is a country rich in bio-diversity that boasts gorgeous natural landscapes
and wildlife, many unique to its land. Award winning nature photographer Xi
Zhinong spent 30 years taking photos along rivers and across mountains,
capturing the animals and natural wonders of China. Through his lens, a Yunnan
snub-nosed monkey can be seen jumping between trees with her baby in her arms;
thousands of Tibetan antelopes migrate in the wind and snow; and a takin, or gnu
goat, couple is caught sharing a kiss atop a mountain ridge. "Wildlife Wonders of
China" will lead you to the vast territory of China through photos, from the
roof of the world--the Tibetan Plateau--to dry western China and the moist
eastern lands influenced by monsoons. Gain insight into the changing environment
in China, and be enchanted by the unique and beautiful animals living there.
A young woman wakes in a strange bed beneath coarse sheets. The bare walls are a dismal green. A sickly light filters through a metal
grille. Doctor Maynard Straker steps into the room, and speaks. 'Have no fear, Miss Ashton. I am entirely at your service.' But this is not her name. And she should not be here - in the Asylum. She is Miss Georgina Ferrars, of Gresham's Yard, London. And she can prove it. But when Dr Straker sends a telegram to her uncle in
London, the reply is swift: GEORGINA FERRARS HERE STOP YOUR PATIENT MUST BE IMPOSTER STOP So begins a gothic mystery of high suspense and terror, as a lone woman, held
against her will, must delve as deeply as she can into the void of her memory to
uncover the story that will free her. She will in the end discover a web of
greed and crookedness, madness, murder and heartbreak, as rich and compelling as
those in the classics of Wilkie Collins and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The spine-tingling horror of Stephen King meets an eerie mystery worthy of Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars series in Kate Karyus Quinn's haunting debut.
On a cool autumn night, Annaliese Rose Gordon stumbled out of the woods and into a high school party. She was screaming. Drenched in blood. Then she vanished.
A year later, Annaliese is found wandering down a road hundreds of miles away. She doesn't know who she is. She doesn't know how she got there. She only knows one thing: She is not the real Annaliese Rose Gordon.
Now Annaliese is haunted by strange visions and broken memories. Memories of a reckless, desperate wish . . . a bloody razor . . . and the faces of other girls who disappeared. Piece by piece, Annaliese's fractured memories come together to reveal a violent, endless cycle that she will never escape—unless she can unlock the twisted secrets of her past.
Bethany Griffin continues the journey of Araby Worth in Dance of the Red Death—the sequel to her teen novel Masque of the Red Death.
In Dance of the Red Death, Araby’s world is in shambles—betrayal, death, disease, and evil forces surround her. She has no one to trust. But she finds herself and discovers that she will fight for the people she loves, and for her city.
Her revenge will take place at the menacing masked ball, though it could destroy her and everyone she loves…or it could turn her into a hero.
With a nod to Edgar Allan Poe, Bethany Griffin concludes her tragic and mysterious Red Death series with a heroine that young adult readers will never forget.
Everything is on fire.
Araby Worth's city is being torn apart by death, disease, and corrupt forces wanting to claim it for their own. She has lost her home. Her best friend is dying. Her mother has been kidnapped. The boy who made her feel something again has betrayed her. And her father may be a murderer. But Araby has found herself.
Despite the death and destruction all around her, she will fight for herself, for her friends, for her city. Her rebellion will take her, finally, to the mad prince's palace, for the decadent—and sinister—masked ball. It could be a trap. It could be the end of them all. Or it could be the moment that Araby becomes the kind of hero she never dreamed she could be.
Teri Brown’s YA novel Born of Illusion launches a thrilling new series laced with romance and magic. Each book is linked to a real-life secret society founded in 1862 by Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, and others to study paranormal mysteries.
The first book introduces Anna Van Housen, a young woman living in Jazz Age New York, who may be the illegitimate daughter of the greatest magician who ever lived—Harry Houdini. Anna certainly has his talent. She is an expert illusionist. What no one knows is Anna actually has supernatural gifts. Then a young man discovers Anna’s abilities and introduces her to members of a secret society, who are eager to study her powers and help her learn the truth about herself.
Anna Van Housen has a secret. A gifted illusionist, Anna assists her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage show and séances, easily navigating the underground world of magicians and mentalists in 1920s New York. For Anna, the illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini—or so Marguerite claims—handcuffs and sleight-of-hand illusions have never been much of a challenge. The real trick is keeping her own gifts secret from her mother: because while Marguerite's powers may be a sham, Anna possesses a true ability to sense people's feelings and foretell the future.
But as Anna's powers intensify, she experiences frightening visions of her mother in peril, which lead her to explore the abilities she's tried so long to hide. And when a mysterious young man named Cole moves into the flat downstairs, introducing Anna to a society that studies people with gifts like hers, she begins to wonder if there's more to life than keeping secrets.
As her visions become darker and her powers spin out of her control, Anna is forced to rethink all she's ever known. Is her mother truly in danger, or are Anna's visions merely illusions? And could the great Houdini really be her father, or is it just another of Marguerite's tricks?
From Teri Brown comes a world bursting with magic, with romance, with the temptations of Jazz Age New York—and the story of a girl about to become the mistress of her own destiny.
Kate's latest failure on the London dating scene leads her to escape to an idyllic Exmoor, West Country village where she finds her 'Cinderella Project' - a run-down cottage on the edge of the moors. Her attempt to lead a quiet life there is, however, thwarted by a town seething with passion and intrigue. Competition for her affections leads to her entanglement with the Blackmore family, the local landowners consisting of the hostile and brooding Ed; his gorgeous, divorced, playboy brother Jack; and their flighty, shopaholic step-mother Camilla. Kate's new life is threatened to be turned upside-down by something rotten in the Blackmore estate. Will she be forced to scuttle back to London or prevail and find serenity and happiness in renovating her cottage? It seems that, between them, Jack and Ed may hold the key.
It’s January 1995, and Franny Banks has just six months left of the three-year
deadline she set for herself when she came to New York, dreaming of Broadway and
doing “important” work. But all she has to show for her efforts so far is a part
in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters, and a gig waiting tables at a comedy club.
Her roommates―her best friend Jane, and Dan, an aspiring sci-fi writer―are
supportive, yet Franny knows a two-person fan club doesn’t exactly count as
success. Everyone tells her she needs a backup plan, and though she can almost
picture moving back home and settling down with her perfectly nice ex-boyfriend,
she’s not ready to give up on her goal of having a career like her idols Diane
Keaton and Meryl Streep. Not just yet. But while she dreams of filling their
shoes, in the meantime, she’d happily settle for a speaking part in almost
anything—and finding a hair product combination that works.
is riding on the upcoming showcase for her acting class, where she’ll finally
have a chance to perform for people who could actually hire her. And she can’t
let herself be distracted by James Franklin, a notorious flirt and the most
successful actor in her class, even though he’s suddenly started paying
attention. Meanwhile, her bank account is rapidly dwindling, her father wants
her to come home, and her agent doesn’t return her calls. But for some reason,
she keeps believing that she just might get what she came for.
Raging for over four years across the tortured landscapes of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, the First World War changed the face of warfare forever. Characterised by slow, costly advances and fierce attrition, the great battles of the Somme, Verdun and Ypres incurred human loss on a scale never previously imagined. This book, with a foreword by Professor Hew Strachan, covers the fighting on all fronts, from Flanders to Tannenberg and from Italy to Palestine. A series of moving extracts from personal letters, diaries and journals bring to life the experiences of soldiers and civilians caught up in the war.
When Inspector Vera Stanhope finds the body of a woman in the sauna room of her
local gym, she wonders briefly if, for once in her life, she's uncovered a
simple death from natural causes. But a closer inspection reveals bruises around
the victim's throat, and Vera quickly realizes that she has a murder on her
hands. "Silent Voices" will thrill fans of Ann Cleeves's bestselling Shetland
Island mysteries, as well as traditional mystery lovers looking for a new smart
police procedural with emotional heft.
Abbey Andersen is the last person to go looking for change. Yes, it's tough that
she barely sees her mother these days - but in San Francisco she has great
friends, a steady relationship and a job she enjoys. When Abbey is contacted by
Irish lawyer Ryan Gilligan she learns in an instant everything she believed
about her roots is a lie. She must travel to Dublin to find out more - but she's
scarcely off the plane when she's plunged into a new crisis. One that will
change everything not just for Abbey but for the family in Ireland who had no
idea that she even existed. Now Abbey has to make a choice that will affect
everyone she knows. How can she be sure she makes the right one? And can life
ever be quite the same again?
Devon, 1954. The villagers of Burracombe pull together to help each other though the tough times but, this summer, it's time to celebrate love and new life. There are a few surprises to come, however, before anyone can walk up the aisle. It's been a long, hard winter in Burracombe. At Buracombe Barton, Hilary Napier is doing her best to care for her father and keep the estate ticking along, all the while longing for a man she cannot have. She welcomes the young Patsy Shillabeer onto her staff with open arms, but little does she realise that Patsy, flourishing away from her parents' watchful eye, is more headstrong than she first appears, and there's trouble brewing. Alice Tozer sees her youngest daughter off on the adventure of a lifetime, and welcomes her eldest son and his new wife back to the family farm. Brian brings with him new ideas and plans, and Alice watches with dismay as the whole family is thrown into turmoil. And all is not well in the village school, where a strict new teacher appears to be making the lives of the little ones a misery. To send her young son to join his siblings there seems to be Maggie Culliford's only option - she is expecting again, and she's not sure how she'll cope with yet another mouth to feed. And almost everyone is missing their beloved teacher Stella, still in hospital after the accident that nearly killed her. As the first crocuses bring colour and the promise of change back to Burracombe, the villagers find ways to help each other through the hardships, and to look forward to the good times to come. For, while the course of true love never did run smooth, for anyone, in Burracombe, there are two weddings to plan and it won't be long before everyone in this very special village comes together in a joyful celebration of love, life and the things that matter most.
A glorious epic fantasy in the grand tradition of CS Lewis and Philip Pullman, and a major publishing event, The Mirror Chronicles will take you into another world, and on the adventure of your lifetime…
Half of your soul is missing. The lost part is in the mirror. And unless Sylas Tate can unite the two worlds, you will never be whole again.
Sylas Tate leads a lonely existence since his mother died. But then the tolling of a giant bell draws him into another world known as the Other, where he discovers not only that he has an inborn talent for magic, but also that his mother might just have come from this strange parallel place. Meanwhile, evil forces are stirring, and an astounding revelation awaits Sylas: that the Other is a mirror of our world, and every person here has their counterpart there, known as a Glimmer. As violence looms and the stakes get higher, Sylas must seek out his Glimmer, and unite the two halves of his soul – otherwise the entire universe may fall…
1351 BC: Akhenaten the Sun-Pharaoh rules supreme in Egypt...until the day he
casts off his crown and mysteriously disappears into the desert, his legacy
seemingly swallowed up by the remote sands beneath the Great Pyramids of Giza.
AD 1884: A British soldier serving in the Sudan stumbles upon an
incredible discovery - a submerged temple containing evidence of a terrifying
religion whose god was fed by human sacrifice. The soldier is on a mission to
reach General Gordon before Khartoum falls. But he hides a secret of his own.
Present day: Jack Howard and his team are excavating one of the most
amazing underwater sites they have ever encountered, but dark forces are
watching to see what they will find. Diving into the Nile, they enter a world
three thousand years back in history, inhabited by a people who have sworn to
guard the greatest secret of all time...
Merrill Krause longs for a family of her own, but she's bound by a promise to
her dying mother to care for her father and older brothers until they no longer
need her. She enjoys being part of the family business, harvesting ice during
the brutal Minnesota winters. Merrill actively takes part, possessing a keen
ability to work with the horses--despite the advice of her good friend, who
disapproves of her unladylike behaviour. When Rurik Jorgenson arrives in their
small town to join his uncle doing carpentry, he soon crosses paths with
Merrill. But unlike other men, who are often frightened away by her older
brothers, Rurik isn't intimidated by them or by Merrill's strength and lack of
femininity. As he thrives under the mentorship of his uncle, Rurik dreams of
inheriting the business and claiming Merrill as his wife. But while he is
determined to start a new life, the past is determined to follow him when his
former fiancée and her brother show up in town. Soon Rurik is put in the centre
of a major scandal that may damage his relationship with Merrill. Can they learn
to trust God--and each other--and embrace the promise of love?
After the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558, Protestant England was beset by the
hostile Catholic powers of Europe - not least Spain. In October 1585 King Philip
II of Spain declared his intention to destroy Protestant England and began
preparing invasion plans, leading to an intense intelligence war between the two
countries, culminating in the dramatic sea battles of 1588. Robert Hutchinson's
tautly written book is the first to examine this battle for intelligence, and
uses everything from contemporary eye-witness accounts to papers held by the
national archives in Spain and the UK to recount the dramatic battle that raged
up the English Channel. Contrary to popular theory, the Armada was not defeated
by superior English forces - in fact, Elizabeth I's parsimony meant that her
ships had no munitions left by the time the Armada had fought its way up to the
south coast of England. In reality it was a combination of inclement weather and
bad luck that landed the killer blow on the Spanish forces, and of the 125
Spanish ships that set sail against England, only 60 limped home - the rest sunk
or wrecked with barely a shot fired.
I am delighted to be able to welcome back to 'The Secret Writer', the author of four highly acclaimed historical thrillers S.G. Maclean. Long time followers of this blog may just remember that I had the great privilege of interviewing Shona on my Blog back in 2011. For those who are interested, I will provide the link to that interview at the end of this post.
S.G. MacLean has a PhD in history from Aberdeen University, specializing in sixteenth and seventeenth century Scottish history and lives in Scotland with her husband and four children. The Devil's Recruit, Shona's fourth novel, follows three highly acclaimed historical thrillers, 'The Redemption of Alexander Seaton', 'A Game of Sorrows' and 'Crucible'. If you like historical fiction then I can highly recommend all four of these novels as truly amazing reads! A very warm welcome to you Shona,
and can I thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us
again here at ‘The Secret Writer’, especially as the latest novel in your Alexander Seaton Series, ‘The Devil’s Recruit’, is being launched today!
Thanks for asking me – the site seems to have gone
from strength to strength over the last couple of years! Shona, can you briefly bring us
up to date with what you have written since you last visited ‘The Secret
Writer’? Mmm. In
2011 I had just finished Crucible of Secrets and was getting down to the
research for what has become The Devil’s Recruit. It’s a story centred on the
events and characters surrounding a ship filled with recruits for the 30 years’
War in Germany, docked off Aberdeen in the year 1635. The soldiers are not the
only strangers in town, and Alexander Seaton gets caught up in the search for
one of his students who has gone missing, and for the murderer of a young woman
found dead in an artist’s garden. Matters are complicated by the fact that not
all of the strangers are in fact strangers … Can
you explain to us, without giving too much away, how you developed the
story that is contained within ‘The Devil’s Recruit’? I began by looking at the records of
Aberdeen for the 1630s, and my interest was caught by a variety of things going
on in the town in the period – recruiting ships at anchor of the harbour, the
purchase by a famous artist of the town’s former public gardens for his own
use, the existence of a French school in the town. I started to wonder how
these things might inter-relate. There were also one or two real historical
characters, and some locations around the town that I had never used before,
and which I thought had a lot of potential for interest and suspense. When you
are drafting a novel, how do you place yourself into the period of time that you are writing about? The most important thing for me is
trying to think myself in to a character’s head. The best way of doing this is
by reading contemporary accounts – letters, diaries, journals. I try to
understand what really mattered to them, and then approach my plot in terms of
how I think they would have conducted themselves. Location is also very
important to me. I will visit the places I am writing about (although, to be
honest, the visit to a place often prompts the desire to write about it). I
will walk the streets – so many street lay-outs, regardless of the survival or
otherwise of buildings – haven’t changed much since the C17th. For those which
have, I try to find old maps, and think my way back in to the locations. Music,
art, architecture, museum pieces, all have their part to play in creating the
tapestry in to which the plot is woven, but it is the mindset of my characters
and the ‘feel’ of a location that matter most to me.
those who are interested in the art of writing a novel, can you briefly share
with us how you develop the conversations that your characters have with each other within your stories? Uhm,
pass? Quite seriously, I generally find that if I’m having to work too hard on
a conversation, then it’s not working. I know this won’t ring true, but it is,
absolutely, and I’ve heard other writers say the same thing: sometimes I don’t
know what a character’s going to say until it’s on the screen in front of me.
This is particularly true of my own favourite character from the Alexander
Seaton books – his old friend and mentor Dr Jaffray. Jaffray says what he wants
to say, and I take it from there. I really think he is an amalgam of my father
and his friends and customers (he was a hotelier in the Highlands, the public
bar, men only, being his particular fiefdom) and what Jaffray has to say comes
from them. So that is probably key – listening to how people actually talk to
each other. Don’t turn conversations in to straightforward exchanges of
information. Think about what your character’s agenda is: how will he or she couch
what they say to another character? Are they old friends, relaxed in each
other’s company? Is there hostility, tension between them? Think about that
before you decide how to transmit the information you want to
impart. Can you possibly give us a hint
about any other books that you may have in the making? Well, there are still
about 3 Alexander Seaton books I want to write, but I am changing tack for the
next couple of books to start work on a new series and character: Damian
Seeker. Seeker is an enforcer for Oliver Cromwell in the London of the 1650s.
He’s a very different character from Alexander, much less wracked with doubt
about what he does, and definitely does not wear
his heart on his sleeve; nevertheless, there are chinks in that armour … The
first Seeker book will centre round characters and events in a coffee house in
the City of London. I was down there researching last week. Very sore feet! Shona, I
am absolutely delighted that you have been able to visit my blog again. Thank you, it is very
much appreciated! Can I wish you every success with your latest novel ‘The
Devil’s Recruit’ and I do look forward to reading the new books that you have lined up for us in the future. Have a fabulous day! Thank you very much.