Today I'm delighted to welcome fellow Crooked Cat author Nancy Jardine to my blog, as part of her mini-blog tour in the UK, to go under my 'interview spotlight' and tell us about her new book....
Tell us a bit about your writing – How long have you been writing? How many books have you written and in what genres? I’m an ex –primary teacher. I voluntarily wrote two non- fiction historical related books for educational purposes (1999- a teaching resource pack, and 2005- a full length history of my Aberdeenshire village school) but I didn’t really think of that as ‘proper’ writing since they weren’t novels. It was only after some fabulous writing on Celts and Romans, by my 11-12 year-old pupils in 2004/5, that I had a go at writing a time -travel novel for older children. That’s still not published, but the very first drafts of Book 1 of my Celtic Fervour Series of Historical Romantic Adventures–The Beltane Choice- were also written before 2008. However, I was only scribbling away on novels during school summer holidays till I cut back on teaching days in late 2008. While I was seeking a publisher for The Beltane Choice around 2010, The Wild Rose Press published two fun, sensual, contemporary mystery romances- Monogamy Twist (Aug 2011), and Take Me Now (July 2012). Crooked Cat then published a re-worked version of The Beltane Choice (Aug 2012), followed by Topaz Eyes my ancestral/dynasty based mystery thriller (Dec 2012). Book 2 of my Celtic Fervour Series came next – After Whorl: Bran Reborn (Dec 2013) and Book 3 –After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks was published 2 days ago on the 25th March 2013.
Where is your favourite spot in which to write? I write at my desk which is set near the window in my dining room. This is a great place to write as it overlooks my front garden. The good and bad of that is that I can see what I need to still do outside to maintain a pretty garden, though I sometimes need to shut the curtains when the sun streams in onto my screen and keyboard! It’s a fairly big desk which is always a bit cluttered and houses my laptop, monitor and keyboard and printer/ copier. Behind the monitor, I have an ancient old ghetto blaster that I sometimes use to play favourite CDs and a lamp. There not much room left for my phone, kindle and tablet and the ubiquitous pencil/pen tubs. I like to use a monitor since the screen is bigger and I prefer a mouse- I hate using the touchpad on my laptop.
How long does it take you to write the first rough draft of one of your books? Variable times and so difficult to quantify. The historical ones have taken much longer, but Monogamy Twist only took a couple of months to write - though at that time I was still teaching around 3 to 4 days a week. It’s a take-off of a Dickensian Old House Bequest plot that was inspired by me watching the current BBC Dickens serial and from me doing ancestry research. Take Me Now took around 2 months as well. I took longer to write Topaz Eyes since that took a lot of planning and plotting which was very different since I’m mostly a ‘pantser’ when it comes to writing. I started Topaz Eyes in September 2011 and wrote for about a month but had to abandon it till the following February since I had to ‘market’ my other books that were published around that time. I spent maybe another 6 weeks on it before sending it off to Crooked Cat but by then I was not teaching and was writing full time. My historicals took much longer. The Beltane Choice was over many years and many drafts but Books 2 & 3 of the series combined took about 7 months during 2013 (after at least a month of research) – though by then I was officially grandchild minding two, and sometimes three full days every week.
Do you plan a plot out in great detail before writing or start with the basics and let the book evolve that way? My two Wild Rose Press contemporary romances evolved after I made a very rough outline that looked like a short list of events- though that meant a lot of stops along the way to plan out the next bits. The ‘problem’ with that strategy is that I had to keep going back to check that the ‘mystery’ was working, was logical and was do-able. Topaz Eyes is a very complex mystery that’s centred on a family tree structure that I needed to invent to fourth generation level. It took a lot of pre-planning and some reworking during the writing of Topaz Eyes till all the dates and dastardly deeds and events were properly in place. The Beltane Choice was started so long ago and most of the Celtic research had been done for teaching purposes. That meant my first drafts were very ‘pantser’ driven. The next two books of the Celtic Fervour Series have a lot more information about the Roman armies in northern
England and Scotland, so I did a lot of
research for that before even starting the novels. They were originally one
story but along the way I realised it was far too big (140,000+) for an ebook
and was really 2 stories. After a bit of rewriting they became 2 novels which I
hope can ‘stand- alone’ though will be better read as a follow-on series. I
have a memory like a sieve, though, and constantly fact check and re-read what
I’ve written to ensure it matches new writing!
Do you ever get part way through writing a book and find the characters are leading the story off in a different direction to how you had envisaged? Yes. I decided that Book 2- After Whorl: Bran Reborn wasn’t going to be a traditional romance whereas Book 1 -The Beltane Choice could be classified as that. The HEA wasn’t going to happen in After Whorl: Bran Reborn because I found I was much more focused on the plot being centred on the historical aspects of the story. I was ready, as a writer, to progress from the typical romantic HEA endings and move onto other writing strategies. That’s why my series was renamed to become Historical Romantic Adventures. There are strong romantic elements in all of the books, to different degrees, but the adventure and authentic historical aspects are super important and, of course, since HEA isn’t always present they cannot be classified as simple Historical Romances.
Who is your favourite character from all the books you have written and why? Tough question, Zanna. It’s probably Brennus of Garrigill who appears in both Book2 and Book 3 of my Celtic Fervour Series. I felt really bad after finishing The Beltane Choice. He was such a nice guy and I’d ostensibly bumped him off at the Battle of Whorl! I was at 2nd edit stages for The Beltane Choice when a reader asked me if I was writing a sequel to Monogamy Twist. That made me think for the first time about follow- on novels. I couldn’t at the time see any character in Monogamy Twist that I could use as a main character in a new book but…I saw that I could make it seem that Brennus was dead…but he wasn’t! The title of Book 2 After Whorl: Bran Reborn is quite significant. When I finished Book 3, I was much happier with my treatment of the lovely Brennus of Garrigill. *wink, wink*
Is there such a thing as an average writing day for you and if so what is it? No. Every day depends on my family and their needs. My daughter, her husband and child number 1 currently share our house till they get a new one, which means my 2 ½ year old granddaughter is running around all day. My daughter’s due date for giving birth to number 2 is 12th March which means that by the time this post is aired I expect there to be a new baby in the house as well. I write when I can, in snatches, but sadly I’m not great at burning the seriously midnight oil when I need to get up the next morning and be cheery!
How do you create the characters in your books? I tend to start with an image (for main characters only) that I buy from my favourite image site. Buying the use is minimal cost but I make sure to buy for use on my blog/ facebook /and the net in general. I print out the image and pin it to the pin board behind my monitor- that way I have a record of facial features/ hair colour etc to keep that consistent if needed. After I finish the book, I use the image in my book trailer videos and in marketing posts on my blog/ FB etc. Character traits tend to be vaguely planned next and then it’s a matter of fleshing and rounding them out as I write.
Advice to aspiring novelists? Be prepared to work even harder than your day job; be easy on yourself when it comes to being successful with marketing your books; find those marketing strategies that seem to work best for you. What someone else does may not be for you. Think positively but don’t be deluded that great riches will appear – although you just might be the one that will break the trend! Back up your files! Computer breakdowns do happen…
Thank you so much for inviting me today, Zanna! It’s lovely to visit you during my mini blog tour.
Nancy Jardine’s novels can be found in paperback and ebook formats from:
Plus, Crooked Cat Bookstore; Waterstones; Barnes & Noble; Smashwords; W. H. Smith and other book retailers.
About The Author:
Nancy Jardine lives in
, in an
area that’s steeped in ancient standing stones, tombs, ruined castles and
fantastic Scots Baronial architecture. A lover of all things Scottish, her
homeland creeps into her writing as does her fascination with history- Celtic/
Roman Britain in particular- though keeping herself updated is a constant
battle, since history is being rewritten almost every week as new
archaeological discoveries are made. Writing time is shared with regular
grandchild minding duties, tending her large garden, ancestry research and
leisure reading. Aberdeenshire,
She is currently writing a family saga based mainly in
and Book 4 of her Celtic Fervour
series. Topaz Eyes (Crooked Cat Publishing) an
ancestral-based mystery, is a finalist for THE PEOPLE’S BOOK PRIZE Fiction
2014. After Whorl: Bran Reborn -
Book 2 of her Celtic Fervour Series (Crooked Cat Publishing) has been
accepted for THE WALTER SCOTT PRIZE FOR HISTORICAL FICTION 2014.
After Whorl: Bran Reborn
Pursued by Rome.
AD73 Northern Britannia
After King Venutius’ defeat, Brennus of Garrigill – known as Bran – maintains a spy network monitoring Roman activity in Brigantia. Relative peace reigns till AD 78 when Roman Governor Agricola marches his legions to the far north. Brennus is always one step ahead of the Roman Army as he seeks the Caledon Celt who will lead all tribes in battle against
Ineda of Marske treks northwards with her master, Tribune Valerius, who is responsible for supplying Agricola’s northern campaigns. At Inchtuthil Roman Fort Ineda flees seeking fellow Brigantes congregating on the foothills of Beinn na Ciche.
Will the battle against the Romans bring Ineda and Brennus together again?