Happy Saturday my lovelies! I hope you have something lovely planned for today? Today – as usual, we have a Meet the Author post, and we’re talking to the lovely Nancy Jardine. We talk about history and the Romans (my favourite!), illegally entering Norway (!), how she kind of had her arm twisted into writing and about her wonderful novels….
Historical Fiction; Time Travel Historical; Contemporary Thriller/Mystery
Tell us a bit about yourself:
An ex-primary teacher, I’ve always lived in Scotland, with the exception of three years in Holland. As well as writing when I can, I’m a regular grandchild minder; the domestic laundry goddess; and the fair-weather gardener – which doesn’t leave me much time for other hobbies except reading and keeping up with some news. I’m glad to say my hubby does the bulk of the (often delicious) cooking and food shopping. I sign and sell my novels regularly at local Craft Fair venues, and also do frequent author presentations around Aberdeenshire.
What inspired you to start writing?
Being serious about writing fiction only developed relatively recently. While teaching, I was encouraged to volunteer (imagine some arm twisting here) to write two different non- fiction books about local historical topics (1999 and 2005). The techniques learned then made me confident enough about trying fiction when I stopped teaching in 2011.
How many books have you written and published?
I’ve written eight full-length novels. Seven have had previous publisher contracts but are now currently published with Ocelot Press, a co-operative of independent self-published authors. The eighth is my first self-published novel The Taexali Game (2015).
Which book, out of all the books you have written, is your favourite and why?
Fabulous question but for different reasons I love them all. I had immense fun writing my Time Travel Historical The Taexali Game because I combined techniques and skills for writing historical and contemporary fiction. It was also a joy because the concept for the novel had been lurking around for a decade. In 2005, I did a history topic with my 11-12 year old pupils about the Ancient Roman invasion of Scotland. Though I searched, I couldn’t find a suitable novel to share with the class, since nothing had been written about Romans in our home area of Aberdeenshire. Their ‘end of topic’ short stories were amazing, so I joked that I’d write a suitable novel myself, someday. It wasn’t written till 2015, but I dedicated it to that year group of pupils. I’m also delighted to say that it was awarded Second Place in the Scottish Association of Writers Competition for Best Self-Published Book in 2017.
How do you choose the names of your characters?
I choose names that fit the character profiles. The main male character in #1 of my Celtic Fervour Series, The Beltane Choice, is Lorcan. Lorcan means ‘fierce one’ in Scottish Gaelic. Another example would be a minor Ancient Roman soldier character in #3 of my Celtic Fervour Series, After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks. Zosimus is a hapless recruit, not the sharpest tack in the box – the Latin name meaning ‘one unlikely to survive’. A contemporary mystery example would be Keira Drummond in Topaz Eyes. I wanted a Scottish name since she comes from Edinburgh. Keira, spelled as such is easier to read than the actual Gaelic form, but the Clan Drummond traditionally had a large presence around the Edinburgh area.
Which of your characters would you want to be stranded on an island with, and why?
Nairn Malcolm – from my contemporary ‘corporate sabotage’ romantic comedy mysteryTake Me Now – is a grumpy highland hero but an enterprising guy who’d be able to keep us alive from virtually nothing. As the owner of adventure sports businesses, he’s done his fair share of dare-devil activities and doesn’t give in to pressure easily. I had a lot of fun creating such a different concept of the ‘handsome highland laddie’ – he’s big, brawny, but ‘battered about’ to begin with!
Who is your favourite author and which of their books is your favourite, and why?
Too hard a question! Every new book I read that really grabs my attention tends to become the favourite. Had I been asked this a bunch of decades ago, the answer would be a firm Enid Blyton. I devoured hundreds of her books between the ages of 6 – 10 and was transported to a different world. The ‘big fat’ tomes that were ‘The Castle of Adventure, Island of Adventure…’ etc were my absolute favourites since they were a few days worth of escapism. I was a fast reader and regularly borrowed a bag of books from the local public library.
What is the first thing you can remember writing?
I’ve no idea. I was writing school ‘composition’ (story writing) from around 6 or 7 years old but at home I was too busy reading to write anything more than my first diaries, Christmas gifts from about 8. I wasn’t a consistent diarist, though, and the diaries were chucked out in my early teens.
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
While a student, I worked during the holidays in Collins Publishers distribution centre in Glasgow. I compiled the ‘Book Orders’ that were sent out to bookshops. The warehouse was stacked high with paperback books and I’d go from pallet to pallet to collect ‘X amounts’ of each title, according to the request sheets, before the total order was parcelled up into big cardboard cartons for delivery. I adored handling the books. The smell of the new paperback novels was unforgettable. I’ve still got a bundle of paperbacks and leather-bound classics that I bought at discount prices from the ‘seconds shop’. We were allowed to visit it at the end of our shifts on a Thursday evening, though only after our pay packets were distributed – a small brown envelope enclosing actual cash.
If you could get in a time machine and had one chance to travel, where would you go? (Backwards or forwards!)
I’d definitely go backwards, since I love history. I’d be brave like my trio of teens in The Taexali Game. They time travel via a virtual reality game, at the outset having no idea of where they are travelling to, or when. Their task is to find out…and survive what is perilous real reality!
If you could have one conversation with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
It would be the genuine historical figure – General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola. (He’s a character in Agricola’s Bane, #4 of my Celtic Fervour Series, and in my #5 WIP) In approximately A.D. 84, the historical Ancient Roman General Agricola led around twenty thousand Roman soldiers all the way from what is now Yorkshire and Cumbria to the Moray Coast of Scotland. One of his temporary campaign camps was sited right across the road from my current house, an archaeological team in 2004 having proved his occupation of the area. However, after only a short time, the Agricolan forces retreated back down to the central belt of Scotland and then even further south. There’s no historical documentation to answer why Caledonia (Scotland) was never properly conquered and settled on. Emperor Domitian recalled Agricola to Rome in A.D. 85, so I’d love to ask the general exactly what went on during those Caledonia campaigns.
What are your favourite things to do?
Short answers: Read. Drink quality red wine. Eat lovely meals in beautiful surroundings. Have fun with my extended family. Watch historical movies and TV adaptations. Write…
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
I’ve had some humdingers while travelling. In 1985, I ended up last leaving the aeroplane after a flight from Aberdeen to Stavanger (Norway), with my kids aged 4 & 5 and lots of bags full of clobber. By the time we trudged across the tarmac to the Stavanger Airport building (it was very small back then) everyone in front had disappeared, including the airline staff who had also vamoosed. I had a choice of 2 doors, only one of which could be opened from the outside. When I dragged the kids inside the room, I realised that a couple of ‘Hertz’ type Rent-a-Car desks meant it wasn’t the passport control area. The desk clerk pointed out the only interior door I could exit from which took us into the main, very small concourse area – NOT passport control either!
My husband was working in Norway at that time and had insisted I MUST get an entry stamp on my passport. The tiny kiosk shop in the middle of the concourse waiting area was closed. The only person around was one uniformed man, complete with rifle in hand, on duty at one particular door. (Security guard? Norwegian policeman? Army? I’m not sure which.) With knocking knees and I’ll not say what else, I approached him with passport in one hand, dragging the kids along with the other. I explained my problem trusting he could understand English. Face expressionless, he explained that it was an exit-only door and even he couldn’t open it.
After a super-tense wait, me shushing the kids’ anxieties, the door opened from the inside and the guard explained my problem. NO – My passport couldn’t be stamped since the passport control staff had gone off duty for the day. I was escorted inside to collect my cases, escorted back outside to the concourse and then had to wait for another 20 minutes, opposite the armed officer, till my husband turned up to collect us. I left Norway after that 6 week holiday with an exit stamp, seemingly never having entered legally at all. I’m not really sure that could ever happen nowadays.
If you could give your younger writing self any advice what would it be?
Think beyond the possibility of getting that first book published. It was only when an Amazon reviewer of The Beltane Choice, #1 of my historical saga, asked when a follow-up book would be out that I even considered making it into a saga series!
Name one book you think everyone should read?!
That’s too difficult, because it’s impossible to not be biased towards a particular genre. If generous I’d maybe say ‘I, Claudius by Robert Graves’ or ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy by Tolkien but… there’s also #1 of my historical saga, The Beltane Choice which appeals to men and women alike.
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
My latest published is Agricola’s Bane #4 of my Celtic Fervour Series saga. It’s late A.D. 84 and the location is north-east Caledonia. The story continues after a huge battle that General Agricola and his Ancient Roman forces triumphed in which occurs at the end of #3 of the series. In # 4, teenager Enya – one of my ‘second generation’ Celtic characters from the Garrigill Clan – sets off after the battle into hazardous Roman occupied territory to find her missing brother and cousin who have not been seen since the battle. Not thought dead, it’s possible they may have been captured by the Romans. Meanwhile, General Agricola is working out how to find and subdue the survivors from the recent battle at Beinn na Ciche who have fled into the ‘Grampian’ mountains and he’s deciding what local resources will best benefit the Roman Empire. However, one of his favourite goddesses, Fortuna, is not favouring him!
It’s available in ebook and paperback formats from Amazon. mybook.to/ABsherenow . I can also send on signed copies: requests and charges via my email, please.
Thank you so much Nancy for this brilliant and insightful interview! I love all the historical info in here and I’m delighted that I’m on the blog tours for the Celtic Fervour Saga and I can’t wait! Your problems in Norway made me chuckle but I can imagine how NOT funny it would have been at the time!
Any questions for Nancy, or if you’d like a signed book then get in touch using the links below.
Have a wonderful Saturday!