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I’ve been tagged for The Next Best Thing blog hop, by Australian photographer, artist and author  Keira McKenzie (thanks for that, Keira!).  For those of you who don’t know, The Next Best Thing is a meme which allows authors to showcase their latest work, so I’m taking the opportunity to highlight my forthcoming debut novel which will be published by Hadley Rille Books later this year.  For several years I've enjoyed a secret identity as endlessrarities on LJ, but in the publishing sphere, my pen name will be exactly the same as my professional name: Louise Turner

What is the working title of your book?
Fire And Sword

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Having worked in Scottish archaeology for twenty years now, I’m passionate about the country’s history and built heritage.  As someone who’d been writing fiction since my teens, it seemed natural to try and explore the past in a different way.  When I started reading historical fiction, I found myself increasingly disappointed by the way in which Scotland’s past was presented in a fictional setting, so I thought I’d try and write the kind of historical fiction set in Scotland that I actually wanted to read. 

What genre does your book fall under?
Fire and Sword is a historical novel, but of course the term ‘historical novel’ is a very broad one. I suppose it might best be described as a coming of age tale set against a background of political intrigue.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I started putting names to faces from a very early stage in the writing of this novel – I soon realized that this was the only way I could remember individuals amongst such a vast array of ‘characters’!  Though unfortunately most of the cast have aged in the intervening period since I first started writing it...

Marcus Gilbert would have been my first choice for the hero, John Sempill, with Richard E. Grant as Hugh Montgomerie.  The Earl of Lennox would have been Sean Connery, Ieuan Griffiths as James IV, and Kelly MacDonald as Margaret Colville.  And so on…

Unfortunately, I haven’t as yet found roles for veteran Scots actors Jimmy Cosmo, Bill Paterson or Denis Lawson, but it’s early days yet!!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When his father dies defending the murdered James III at the Battle of Sauchieburn in August 1488, John Sempill finds his inheritance threatened by a coalition of lords who covet his property and titles; to survive, John must win favour with the new king, but this means placing his trust in Hugh, Lord Montgomerie, a local magnate who has earned a reputation for treachery and deceit and who is himself a close kinsman of the men who want John ruined, or even dead...

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Fire and Sword will be published by Hadley Rille Books in late August or early September of this year.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The writing of Fire and Sword was a long, long process, which started back in the late 1990s.  The background research alone took years, and though I was already an experienced writer when I took this project on, it took several drafts before I found my ‘voice’.  Once that task was accomplished, the writing became much quicker, and much easier.  So the final version probably only took a couple of years to complete.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Oh, I really don’t know the answer to that one!  I’ve had two different beta-readers compare it to the works of Dorothy Dunnet, which I take to be something as an honour...  I’m inclined to think it’s in the same vein as Reay Tannahill’s work, i.e. historical fiction, set in Scotland, which is character-led rather than event-led and which comes across as more than a tableau or diorama where the characters are puppets driven by the course of Historical Events (with a capital ‘H’ and a capital ‘E’!) . 

As a writer, my main sources of inspiration in recent years have been C J Cherryh’s Union-Alliance Universe (which is, of course, science fiction), and Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety.  I’m inclined to think, though, that my prose style is more Ken Follett than Hilary Mantel, which again is probably something I shouldn’t really complain about!

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The inspiration lay in real historical events.  In 1489, letters of fire and sword were issued by King James IV of Scotland to Sir John Sempill, justifying an assault he made in ‘times bygone’ on the Place of Duchal.  Sempill’s aggressive stance was itself provoked by ‘burnings, hardships and destruction’ carried out against Sempill himself, his family and tenants, by the Earl of Lennox and certain others, including Robert, Lord Lyle, whose principle seat was Duchal.

Writing this novel was fun for me as both a writer, and as an archaeologist. During its creation, I was given an excellent opportunity to explore the background to these events, in a level of detail that ‘normal’ historical research could not possibly allow.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It often strikes me that the standard fare for historical novels set in medieval and early modern Scotland is either the Scots Wars of Independence (and the adventures of Wallace and Bruce in particular) or the trials and tribulations of Mary Queen of Scots. I like to think that Fire and Sword represents a rare departure from this norm, shedding light upon a piece of Scotland’s past which really doesn’t get much attention, namely the turbulent period which opened the reign of James IV, who achieved a lot before his premature death at Flodden and who could arguably be called Scotland’s first Renaissance King. Things were really quite exciting in the west of Scotland at this time. We had our fair share of movers and shakers who really haven’t been granted the publicity (or notoriety!) they deserved.

Oh, and for those of you out there who are familiar with the characters who played key roles in the reign of Mary Queen of Scots and are keen to get a bit more background to this period… Well, Fire and Sword gives you an unusual insight into the ancestors of Mary Queen of Scot’s consorts Darnley and Bothwell, as the two families were vying for supremacy even then, way back in the late 1480s…

Now, I tag these authors to answer these same questions next Wednesday:

  • The excellent Carol Lovekin, whose first novel The Gift of Weaving represents a contemporary novel of magic realism set in rural West Wales, and which has been described as 'Beautiful, wonderful, full of magic and life, scary, funny and truthful’, and whose LJ blog can be accessed at [livejournal.com profile] readthisandweep.
  • Up-and-coming writer of istorical fiction [livejournal.com profile] jandersoncoats  whose debut novel, The Wicked And the Just - a YA novel set in thirteenth century Wales and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - has received widespread acclaim since its publication in 2013.
  • Fellow archaeologist and Hadley Rille author [livejournal.com profile] kimberlywade,  whose 2010 novel Thrall, set in the early prehistoric period, has been positively reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly.


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