A new cover & a giveaway!

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I’ve very excited today to share a brand new shiny cover for The Road to Newgate. I so love these characters and their story, so it’s great to see the book get this awesome new look.

As with The Girl Puzzle, each ‘slice’ has been chosen with care. Here’s the low-down on each one, and how they relate to the novel.

Titus_OatesI first came across Titus Oates in a newspaper article about the ten worst Britons ever – one for each of the last 10 centuries. Titus, quite rightly, ‘won’ the 17th century and totally deserves to be known as one of the greatest liars in history. In our current times of fake news, wild claims and counter-claims, the story of The Popish Plot is alarmingly relevant.

Politics isn’t at the heart of The Road to Newgate though. It’s far more a story about how larger events effect everyday people, and in particular, my lovely married couple Anne and Nat Thompson and their excellent friends William Smith and Henry Broome.

369px-ObservatorAs with The Girl Puzzle – and with all good historical fiction where real events and people come out to play! – the written word is an important factor in the story and in the lives of my characters. Nat Thompson is a writer, based on a composite of two real political writers of the late 17th Century, Nat Thompson and Roger L’Estrange.

L’Estrange was a real thorn in the side of Titus Oates, particularly with his newspaper, The Observator.

In the edition pictured here, and used on the cover of The Road to Newgate, you can see how L’Estrange used a Q&A format to create mock interviews to test out – and undercut – the claims of his opponents. Printing and the written word are important to many characters in the novel, not least Nat’s wife Anne.

Frances_BrookeSpeaking of Anne…

Although Anne Thompson is not a real historical figure, she’s very important to all aspects of The Road to Newgate and I was very keen to signal that on our new cover.

This is in fact Frances Brooke (1640 – c1690). She’s slightly older than Anne, who in my head was born around 1658, but she fits my image of Anne perfectly and is pictured here in a portrait painted by Peter Lely, as part of his Windsor Beauties series.

And last but not least, there is a slice of this wonderful map:

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Not only do I have this map hanging on my dining room wall, but it was an incredible resource as I sat thousands of miles and more than two centuries away from Restoration London, writing The Road to Newgate. This map is interactive, made available by Briish History Online here, and can be zoomed in and out with amazing clarity. All the key central London locations in the novel are on that map… Nat and Anne’s home, Henry’s print shop, Smithfield, Sam’s Coffee House by the Royal Exchange and, of course, Newgate Prison. I’m delighted to keep the map in this new cover and can’t wait for paperback purchasers to see the wonderful back cover. I love it almost as much as the front!!

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE GIVEAWAY?

Almost forgot! The other great news is that The Road to Newgate ebook is free for this weekend only. I hope you’ll take a look!

Thank you!

Kate xx

 

If walls had words… a brief history of the Blackwell’s Island Lunatic Asylum


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Alexander Jackson Davis via Wikicommons

Blackwell’s Island Lunatic Asylum – a pivotal location in The Girl Puzzle – was designed in 1834 by famous American architect Alexander Jackson Davis. His plan was for a U-shaped building near the tip of Blackwell’s (now Roosevelt) Island looking across toward Manhattan, roughly level with Seventy-Ninth and Eightieth Street, but only a portion of the building was ever erected, with two wings stretching out at right angles from a central octagonal tower.

There was already a prison on the island, opened in 1832, and the addition of the asylum was part of a policy decision to locate institutions on ‘quiet islands’, including Blackwell’s, Ward, Hart, Randalls and Long Island. With more construction on Blackwell’s Island – including a Penitentiary Hospital, a Charity Hospital, an almshouse, a Smallpox Hospital and more – by 1872 there were eleven institutions operating on the Island. It’s not hard to imagine that these islands were a convenient place to confine undesirable elements of society, notwithstanding the grand and costly architecture.

View_of_the_lunatic_asylum_and_mad_house,_on_Blackwell's_Island,_New_York_(NYPL_Hades-1792045-1659187)
From the New York Public Library

This 1853 illustration appears tranquil at first glance. The scene is pastoral with a dog frolicking and a couple sitting under a tree. The asylum looks like a museum more than anything else. But what about that building on the left of the picture? What is that?? Is that the Lodge? Or the Retreat?  – gentle, caring names for buildings that were anything but those things. As Stacy Horn writes in “Damnation Island – poor, sick, mad and criminal in 19th Century New York”, things at the lunatic asylum “went south almost immediately.” On the day that it opened, June 10th 1839, 116 men and 81 women were transferred there from Bellevue. That’s 197 patients from day 1. The place was only supposed to house 200. Additional structures were added. Horn describes the Lodge, built in 1848, and the Retreat:

“The Retreat was built to house chronic cases, those who were suicidal and generally too “noisy” and unhinged for the main Asylum, but not as violent as the people sent to the Lodge.”

By 1868, 190 women were housed in the Lodge (and there would still have been male inmates too). The building’s capacity was 66. (2)

Nellie Bly’s Ten Days in the Madhouse

MadhousecvrWhen a new asylum for the insane was built on Ward Island in 1872, Blackwell’s Asylum became an all-female establishment. Nellie Bly carried out her undercover work there in September and October of 1887 and brave though she was, Nellie was not fool enough to get herself sent to either the Lodge or the Retreat. Here’s one of her descriptions:

“The insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island is a human rat-trap. It is easy to get in, but once there it is impossible to get out. I had intended to have myself committed to the violent wards, the Lodge and Retreat, but when I got the testimony of two sane women and could give it, I decided not to risk my health – and hair – so I did not get violent.”

Nellie’s expose, detailing cold baths, dreadful food and the violent conduct of some staff had immediate effects. Doctors and nurses in the asylum read her articles and improvements were made, even before a Grand Jury was summoned to visit the Island and inspect the premises.

Entertainments in the Blackwell’s Island Lunatic Asylum

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Photo by Jacob Riis, likely of the women at Blackwell’s Island Lunatic Asylum

In her 1887 expose, Nellie Bly described hours of tedium with women confined to hard benches with little to occupy them. Mild patients, according to her report, could work in a scrub-brush factory, a mat factory, and the laundry. Patients were expected to do housework, including keeping the wards and nurses bedrooms tidy. An important component of the daily routine was a walk in the asylum grounds but this was wholly weather dependent and strictly monitored by staff. Unruly patients walked roped together to keep them under control.

Other entertainments included dancing and a carousel. Nellie Bly reports that staffed danced with patients and both Halls she was placed in during her stay had a piano. This excellent post by Ephemeral New York, describes an annual Lunatic’s Ball reported by Harper’s Weekly:

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Harper’s Weekly, Dec 2, 1865

The one entertainment that Nellie Bly reports she heard much about, although never experienced due to poor weather, was a carousel. The following image is of the Central Park Carousel, built in 1871, so perhaps the Blackwell’s Island one looked something like this:

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1871 carousel, from carouselhistory.com

It’s hard to imagine a group of grown women in their ill-fitting striped asylum dresses, shawls and battered hats riding round and round, but that’s what they did.

Closing Blackwell’s Island Lunatic Asylum

Following Nellie Bly’s expose, changes were made in the asylum. Improvements were made to food and bathing arrangements as funding increases were approved. But in 1894, the Blackwell’s Island Lunatic Asylum was closed and its patients dispersed into other facilities, particularly the on Ward Island where space became available after the opening of immigration facilities on Ellis Island.

The building, after significant renovation, became the Metropolitan Hospital, specializing in the treatment of tuberculosis. The hospital operated until 1955 but afterwards the building fell into disrepair. Today, only the original Octagon remains, but it has been restored. The building is an apartment complex and can be toured. More information here. If only the walls had words… imagine what stories they could tell.

Roosevelt Island today – The Octagon

I visited the Octagon in October 2018, and although the inside was closed so I didn’t get to see the spiral staircase, just being on Roosevelt Island and seeing the building in person was wonderful. There are scenes in The Girl Puzzle that definitely benefited from that research trip. Here’s my then & now photos of the asylum:

Sources & further reading:

“Images of America – Roosevelt Island”, Judith Berdy and the Roosevelt Island Historical Society.

“Damnation Island – poor, sick, mad and criminal in 19th Century New York”, Stacy Horn

www.asylumprojects.org

Ephemeral New York


2d girl puzzle coverThe Girl Puzzle – a story of Nellie Bly

Her published story is well known. But did she tell the whole truth about her ten days in the madhouse?

“…a well-researched and engrossing tale that focuses on female empowerment” Kirkus Reviews

“Here is Nellie Bly in all her fascinating complexity: outspoken, courageous, kind, clever, sometimes headstrong, other times self-doubting” Matthew Goodman.

“Everything a historical novel should be – illuminating, intriguing and intelligent.” Olga Wojtas

Another 5 lesser known facts about the amazing Nellie Bly

2d girl puzzle coverIt’s Nellie Bly’s birthday this weekend and in her honor, not only is The Girl Puzzle – a story of Nellie Bly being unleashed on the reading world, but I’m also gathering all my Nellie Bly knowledge and sharing it on my blog. In March I wrote my first 5 lesser known facts about Nellie post but I could have easily kept going. Here are 5 more facts about the amazing Miss Bly that I’m excited to share…

1. Nellie Bly was hoping for a female president of the United States as long ago as 1913

nellie bly on the jobMarch 4th 1913 was inauguration day for a new president – Woodrow Wilson. Nellie Bly, in D.C. for the Women’s Suffrage Parade the day before (she rode in horseback in the parade AND reported on the event for the New York Journal) slipped up onto the inauguration platform just minutes before the new president was sworn in. In her newspaper report the following day she described her thoughts. “Will you and I,” she wondered, “ever see a woman stand there and take the oath of office?”

 

2. She organized a day trip/picnic to Coney Island Luna Park for 750 New York orphans on June 1st, 1920.

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Coney Island’s Luna Park in the 1920s. Photo: Archive Holdings Inc.

“Bly said the day was perfect.” That’s biographer Brooke Kroeger’s account of Bly’s characteristically confident self-appraisal of this feat of organization and planning. A feat it certainly was – involving the donated transport services of The Twentieth Century Brown and White Taxicab Association and the Manhattan Tourist Company to transport 750 children, and presumably some supervising staff, from Manhattan to Coney Island. Food was supplied by The Nedick Company and Mayor Hylan waved the 750 orphans off on their day trip from City Hall.

3. She was an early fan of motoring and even got caught speeding

Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 9.37.26 AMHere’s clipping from The Brooklyn Daily Eagle on October 5th 1909. The report details how Nellie and her chauffeur Albert were pulled over for speeding on their way to a stock-holders’ meeting. Although arrested for traveling at 40 miles an hour, it later seemed that the arresting officer had ‘bungled’ the job, and the car was in reality only going at 21 miles an hour. This change in the story may well have had something to do with the status of Albert’s passenger. In the article, Nellie is described as “a business woman clear through… she can give spade and clubs to many men of financial astuteness and beat them at their game.” It is also noted that “she is extremely comely and was the center of considerable attention in court today.”

4. Nellie Bly admired her fellow feminists most – when they were well-dressed

_Dress is a great weapon in the hands of a woman if rightly applied. It is a weapon men lack, so women should make the most of it._

In January 1896, Bly reported on the National Women’s Suffrage Convention and did not pull her punches when describing how poorly she felt the women were dressed. As well as the quote above, she wrote: “I never could see any reason for a woman to neglect her appearance merely because she is intellectually inclined. It certainly does not show any strength of mind. I take it rather as a weakness.”

Still, she was happier some twenty-four years later when reporting on the Republican Convention in Chicago of 1920. She greatly enthused at the involvement of women in politics, but was as keen as ever to stress the importance of keeping up appearances. Of the women she saw there she wrote: “They are the cleverest and brainiest of their kind. That is why they have not neglected their appearance. For while they have fought and won the battle for equal rights with men, they did not forget that man is a creature of his eyes.”

5. Her love life remains something of a mystery

Nellie Bly’s private life is much less easy to follow than her professional one. She did marry, but her choice was surprising to some, and she was also romantically linked to several other men, including one of the doctors she encountered during her daring stay in the Blackwell’s Island Lunatic Asylum in 1887. Here are a few of the key men in her life:

From left to right – Arthur Brisbane, James Stetson Metcalf, Dr Frank Ingram and Robert Seaman.

To learn more about Nellie Bly, check out the Nellie Bly Resource list on my blog and/or grab a copy of my novel, The Girl Puzzle – a story of Nellie Bly (Crooked Cat, 2019)

 

One month to go…

So The Girl Puzzle is due to be foisted upon an unsuspecting world one month from today. It’s a date chosen carefully – May 5th was Nellie Bly’s birthday, 155 years ago.

Screen Shot 2019-04-05 at 11.30.25 AMIf Nellie were in my shoes, she’d be a lot more upbeat. She was a go-getter – as I’m sure the book will show – although her life, like everyone else’s, wasn’t all success and accolades. Even as she achieved her ambition and got a much coveted job at Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World newspaper, she faced stiff competition to keep her column in the Sunday edition. And although she changed the face of women’s journalism by feigning madness and reporting from inside the Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum, her stunt reporting wasn’t always serious or hard-hitting. Only a few months after her breakthrough articles about the madhouse took the newspaper industry by storm, Nellie was making her own dance costume and taking ballet lessons. On December 18th, 1887, The World published Learning Ballet Dancing – Nellie Bly in Short Gauze Skirts Kicks at the Mark. Here’s my favourite section from that article:

Dressed at last in a ballet costume I looked at myself and marvelled at the change. There is everything in dress after all. I had entered a quiet, staid-looking spinster, and presto! I now looked like a sixteen-year-old girl and quite flippant and pert. I did not feel as I looked, however. All at once I grew painfully modest. It is not so bad to wear a bathing suit when everybody else around has one on, but when everybody is in full dress one would feel awfully short in a bathing costume. That was my position. I felt as if I had forgotten and gone to a full-dress reception in a bathing suit.

For an instant I was inclined to put on my street dress, and pleading sudden indisposition, take my leave, but I looked so healthy and there was no powder-puff around, so I was afraid the statement would not bear out. Several times I got up and started and my heart failed. I went back and sat down. I pulled at my skirts, but they would not lengthen. I began to fear the Professor would soon think I had fainted or committed suicide. “It’s a go,” I said mentally, and I opened the door and closed it rather quickly behind me, lest I should grow faint-hearted and go back in.”

The illustrations demonstrate that Nellie did get out of the changing room and take her best shot at learning to ballet dance. Of course she did! “I never in my life turned back from a course I had started upon,” she wrote in Among the Mad, in 1889. She went on: “I always say energy rightly applied and directed will accomplish anything.”

2d gp coverI guess where I’m going with this, is that with 30 days to go until The Girl Puzzle is out, I think I need to channel some of my own character’s confidence and determination.

I need to re-write that opening sentence to this post and not think that the story is being ‘foisted’ on the world, but that its ready to be shared. And if the world is unsuspecting, then it’s on me to get the word out about the book, to believe in it, and in Nellie Bly, and do the right thing by her and by The Girl Puzzle.

It’s available to pre-order now, on Amazon. You could have Nellie Bly arrive in all her glory on your kindle on May 5th. She’s just a click or two away… The Girl Puzzle is “a go”.

5 lesser known facts about Nellie Bly for #InternationalWomensDay

I’m on a mission to let the world know that there was so much more to Nellie Bly than her asylum expose and her round the world adventure – amazing as those things were!

So in honour of International Women’s Day, here are 5 facts/stories about the wonderful Nellie that you may not know already. If you knew them all, or knew none of them, I’d love to hear from you.

1. She famously interviewed Susan B. Anthony

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Susan B. Anthony

In February 1896, as the women’s suffrage movement blossomed in America, Nellie Bly interviewed Susan B. Anthony, eliciting some of the most personal answers to questions ever given by Anthony, then in her seventies. Here’s an exchange from Nellie’s report in The World:

“Were you ever in love?”

“In love?” she laughed merrily. “Bless you, Nellie, I’ve been in love a thousand times!”

“Really?” I gasped, taken aback by this startling confession.

“Yes, really!…. When I was young, if a girl married poor she became a housekeeper and a drudge. If she married wealth, she became a pet and a doll. Just think, had I married at 20, I would have been either a drudge or a doll for 55 years. Think of it!”

2. She was the first woman to witness an execution in 21 years

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Sing Sing 1915

In January 1920, Nellie Bly reported on the execution by electrocution of Gordon Fawcett Hamby at Sing Sing prison.

Hamby, who had confessed to killing two bank officials during a robbery in Brooklyn, communicated with Nellie Bly in the run up to his death, and even sent her his Ouija board as, “a slight remembrance (all I have at this time) for your infinite kindness and friendship”.

Nellie was vehemently anti-capital punishment, writing, “I shall never cease to work to abolish this premeditated killing.”

3. She fundraised for Austrian widows and orphans during WWI

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The Wehrmann in Eisen

During World War I, Nellie Bly travelled to Austria to report for the New York Journal, but she became very engaged in supporting the Austrian cause and in particular widows and orphans. Throwing herself into war relief efforts in Vienna, she asked her readers back home in America to send quarters to her fund. Contributors would be rewarded by having their name inscribed in a gold book and a nail driven into a wooden statue in their honour. The Wehrmann in Eisen, (Iron Man for Austria) was one of many popular fundraising symbols in Austria made in this way, and in May 1916, Bly reported to her readers in the Journal that she had personally hammered one nail into the Wehrmann statue, for every person who had sent her a donation.

4. She always faced stiff competition from other aspiring women journalists

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Elizabeth Bisland

Famous as she undoubtedly was in her hey-day, Nellie Bly always had competition to deal with. Although one of the first female journalists, she wasn’t the first by any means. Even at The Pittsburg Dispatch, where her career began, there was already a well respected female journalist, Elizabeth Wilkinson Wade, who wrote under the pseudonym Bessie Brambles. At The World in 1887, no sooner had Bly had her hard-won success with her asylum expose, than another female journalist, Fannie Merrill, was vying for a slot in the Sunday edition with a similar style of reports to Nellie’s. Merrill’s article, Skilful Cigarette Girls came out on November 20th 1887, only a month after Nellie’s reports from the asylum. When she set of around the world in 1889, Nellie Bly had no idea that another woman journalist was running against her. Elizabeth Bisland set off heading west on a train from New York on the same day that Nellie sailed east from the city on a steamship and the two women circumnavigated the globe in the opposite direction. And at one point in the 1890’s, Nellie even faced competition from a conglomerate of female journalists, all publishing under the shared pseudonym, Meg Merillies.

5. She ran an informal adoption agency from a New York Hotel

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The Sun, Dec 19th, 1919

When she returned to New York journalism after World War I, Nellie Bly wrote an opinion column in The Journal and publicly offered to help find homes for orphaned children.

In December 1919, a baby was found at Grand Central Station with a note that read – “To Somebody – for the love of Mike, take this kid… give him to Nellie Bly… he is seven months old and as healthy as they make them.”

The baby was taken to Bellevue Hospital where Nellie Bly rushed to visit him. But this was a story with several twists and turns. The baby, dubbed Love o’ Mike by the newspapers, was first claimed by the wrong family, the Wenzes, whose son had been kidnapped a few months earlier. When that story was publicized by Nellie Bly, the real mother came forward to reclaim her son, saying she’d hoped Nellie Bly would find him a better home than his family could offer, but that the Wentzes were barely any better off than she was.


For more about Love o’ Mike and Nellie Bly’s story,  take a look at The Girl Puzzle, available to pre-order now from Crooked Cat books. (publication May 5th, 2019)

3d girl puzzle coverHer published story is well known. But did she tell the whole truth about her ten days in the madhouse?

Down to her last dime and offered the chance of a job of a lifetime at The New York World, twenty-three-year old Elizabeth Cochrane agrees to get herself admitted to Blackwell’s Island Lunatic Asylum and report on conditions from the inside. But what happened to her poor friend, Tilly Mayard? Was there more to her high praise of Dr Frank Ingram than everyone knew?

Thirty years later, Elizabeth, known as Nellie Bly, is no longer a celebrated trailblazer and the toast of Newspaper Row. Instead, she lives in a suite in the Hotel McAlpin, writes a column for The New York Journal and runs an informal adoption agency for the city’s orphans.

Beatrice Alexander is her secretary, fascinated by Miss Bly and her causes and crusades. Asked to type up a manuscript revisiting her employer’s experiences in the asylum in 1887, Beatrice believes she’s been given the key to understanding one of the most innovative and daring figures of the age.

#otd The Nellie Bly story begins…

screen shot 2019-01-14 at 10.41.45 amOn January 14th, 1885, The Pittsburg Dispatch (yes, Pittsburgh was Pittsburg back then) published a column replying to a letter from an “Anxious Father.” The columnist was Erasmus Wilson, a kindly, avuncular gentleman, who wrote under the pseudonym of Q.O. (The Quiet Observer). Wilson’s “Quiet Observations”, in early 1885, were focused on the role of women and his views were strictly traditional. Women’s place was in the home.

In mid January, he received a letter from an ‘Anxious Father’, seeking advice on what to do with his unmarried daughters, aged between eighteen and twenty-six.  “I have five of them on hand,” wrote their father, “and am at a loss how to get them off or what use to make of them.”

Wilson did not hold back.

screen-shot-2017-08-28-at-3.53.10-pmIn his column, published alongside the letter, Wilson said he could not help the father. It was the parents’ responsibility to prepare their daughters to run households, he said. Women should be able to spin, sew, cook and clean. If women were not fit to run a home, then who knew, in the future, America might need to adopt the Chinese policy of killing baby girls or selling them as slaves! In the following week or two, as the ‘Anxious Father’ wrote to the paper again, Wilson went even further. Any woman ‘outside her sphere’ was a ‘monstrosity’, he declared, adding that ‘There is no greater abnormality than a woman in breeches, unless it is a man in petticoats.’

Wilson was being deliberately provocative. And the women of Pittsburgh were certainly provoked into responding.

photo posted on post-gazette.comBessie Bramble was one. The sole female columnist at the Dispatch, Bramble was a passionate writer and one of the few women journalists working at the time. She hit back at Wilson, defending women and rejecting his argument that ‘girls were only good for’ domestic drudgery.

Wilson’s column brought in letters too, including one from a twenty year-old girl called Elizabeth Cochrane. She lived in an Allegheny row house with her mother, siblings and some boarders the family took in, in order to make ends meet. After reading Wilson’s column on January 24th, Cochrane wrote a passionate letter to the paper. She did not include her address or her real name, but signed it “Lonely Orphan Girl.”

Wilson and the Dispatch’s editor George Madden, were intrigued, impressed even, by her response.

But how could they find the letter writer when they didn’t know her address, far less her real name?

 

History wishes – a non-fiction advent calendar for 2018

Parmesan Chese

So tomorrow is the 1st of December and Christmas is officially open for business in our house. Child 3 has been trying to change that, embarking on a list for Santa designed on Canva (I kid you not) some weeks ago, but we have held resolute. On the side, however, I have been building up quite a list of books I’d love to get my hands on this year. All non-fiction and chosen for wildly different reasons, but all lined up and ready to share.

I’ll be posting one book a day. I’m excited to share my #historywishes and if you have read them already or are interested in any of the books I’m featuring, I’d love to hear from you.

Happy December!

Kate xx

Read for Free!

Free Kindle readthis weekend only

Just a quick post to share the exciting news that The Road to Newgate is free on Kindle for the next few days. Why free? Because the success of writing a novel and finding a publisher prepared to back it and send it out into the world properly edited and with a strong cover – wonderful though that is – means nothing without readers.

Here’s the link:

mybook.to/theroadtonewgate

Hoping for new readers and maybe some more reviews. Fingers crossed.

Nancy Jardine – new historical novel alert!

Today I’m happy to share news of a new historical novel from author Nancy Jardine. She’s visiting my blog to talk about her new release and other bookish things.

Introducing Agricola’s Bane by Nancy Jardine

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Nancy, why did you write this particular story?

Essentially, the next part of my clan adventures needed told!

Agricola’s Bane is Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series which charts the adventures of my Celtic Brigantes clan who originate in the hillfort of Garrigill (modern day Yorkshire/ England). Book 1 begins in AD 71 when the legions of Ancient Rome descend on Brigante territory, bent on subduing them to the will of Rome. By Book 4, we have moved on to AD 84 and the action is in Caledonia (modern day Aberdeenshire/ Scotland).

In Agricola’s Bane, Enya of Garrigill sets out from her Caledon ‘safe place’ to search for her brother and cousin who have not been seen since the Battle at Beinn na Ciche (end of Book 3). Ancient Roman historians would call this the Battle of Mons Graupius as was named by the Roman writer Cornelius Tacitus. It’s a dangerous choice for Enya to make since the tribal territories are seething with the legions of the Ancient Roman General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola as they make more and more temporary camps all the way to what is now the ‘Moray Coast’.

In my series, one family member may be a main character in one book, yet play a minor role in another book – though unless they have been killed off by a Roman gladius, the characters all hover in the background of Book4. It’s not quite a historical saga, but sort of…

CFS covers Lrg

Do you have a favourite scene or character in Agricola’s Bane?

When young Enya (14 summers old) sets out to find her brother, she’s accompanied by two other warriors. Feargus of Monymusk is of similar age but Nith of Tarras is older (20) and a surrogate foster-brother. Having found a trail that looks like it will lead to her brother Ruoridh, they need to cross a fast flowing river. Feargus can’t swim and has to be dragged across as he also fears the river goddess Caela’s retribution. It’s thought by historians that the ancient Celts were deeply superstitious, as were the ancient Romans, and their religious adherence permeated every aspect of their day. They have only just revived poor Feargus when they have to flee from an attack by Roman auxiliaries. Though the Romans are on the far bank, one of their javelins spears Feargus thigh. Enya and Nith have to remove the spear tip before Feargus can hobble off with them to safety. This is just one of the more highly charged scenes in the story when there’s interaction with the Roman enemies.

What was your process in writing your latest novel? Did you outline? Did you write multiple drafts?

Very good questions! I originally made a brief outline plan but since the book development came in fits and starts, over many months, new outlines were made along the way. As the series progressed, I increased the amount of main characters so Agricola’s Bane has 5 povs. There’s Enya and Nith who have the lion’s share. Then there’s General Agricola who gives the Roman perspective, though he occupies a lesser role. And lastly there are short sections in Ruoridh and Beathan’s povs. Beathan and Agricola will be main characters in Book 5, so I wanted to introduce them in Book 4.

It’s taken me a few years to complete Agricola’s Bane for all sorts of reasons which include; less time to write than for previous books; writing and publishing another novel in between; doing lots of courses and heavy research on Roman Scotland. The list should also contain that after I started it, I had a period of writer’s block when I didn’t like how it was going and set it aside many times.

There have been chunks removed so it’s very hard to say how many drafts but certainly a lot more than one!

What novels would you recommend to readers – old and/or new reads qualify?

I’m relatively easily pleased as a reader and often love best the last book I’ve read (unless it’s been an awful one but that rarely happens). I sometimes dip back to my classics favourites like Pride and Prejudice, Lord of the Rings, and various Charles Dickens. Newer books sometimes make an impact depending on my mood when reading. I mostly enjoy historical fiction and mysteries but do read other genres. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed heaps of Crooked Cat Books like Nicola Slade’s The House at Ladywell and The Ghostly Father by Sue Barnard. Katharine Johnson’s The Silence was also a fabulous read of 2018.

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-15 at 2.53.32 PMAnd any non-fiction recommendations?

I’m pretty one track minded at present and steeped in the history of Roman Britain/ Roman Scotland since I do author presentations/talks on the subject in my home area of Aberdeenshire. If anyone is interested in Scottish history in general, I recommend the books of Alistair Moffat. The Sea Kingdoms was engrossing for the ‘Dark Ages’ and made me want to zoom forward and write about Pictish ‘Scotland’.

(Oh! Great. I’m putting this on my xmas list right now)

 

And finally (and really my favourite question…) What’s the best piece of advice you have for other writers?

Get comfortable with the amount of time you can find for your writing and don’t stress if things don’t come naturally. When I wasn’t managing to add more to my manuscript – mainly for domestic reasons and because life intrudes – I consoled myself by writing blog articles and doing interviews. It is still writing, though different. Marketing is a necessity but not the easiest of tasks and I’d again say don’t get stressed because the more books you have published the harder it is to market them all.

About Nancy and where to find her…

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Nancy Jardine writes contemporary mysteries; historical fiction and time-travel historical adventure. Her current historical focus is Roman Scotland, an engrossing pre-history era because her research depends highly on keeping abreast of recent archaeological findings.

A member of the Romantic Novelists Association, the Scottish Association of Writers, the Federation of Writers Scotland and the Historical Novel Society, her work has achieved finalist status in UK competitions.

She lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with her husband but life is never quiet or boring since her young grandchildren are her next-door neighbours. She regularly child minds them, those days being cherished and laughter filled.

Blog: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk

Website: www.nancyjardineauthor.com/

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG & http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G

email: nan_jar@btinternet.com

Twitter https://twitter.com/nansjar

Amazon Author page http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5139590.Nancy_Jardine

 

Who doesn’t love a bargain?

For the first time since it came out in September 2016, Charlatan is on sale as an ebook for only $0.99 or 99p or equivalent across all platforms and countries! You can grab it now by clicking here: mybook.to/charlatan

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“A dark, tale of mystery, sorcery, and a woman’s desperate pursuit to charm the most powerful man in seventeenth-century France. A poisoning scandal at the court of King Louis XIV threatens even Athénaïs, his glamorous mistress. She seems unaware of the accusations made against her, but how far has she really gone to keep the love of the King?”

 

Having spent so much of the past year thinking about The Road to Newgate, (especially my characters Anne, Nat, William, Henry and, of course, Titus Oates) it feels weird to put Charlatan front and centre again and read through the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads to make some social media adverts like this one:

charlatan by kate braithwaite-1

It’s my first book. The product of a long and steep learning curve and one I’m still on. I do love the cover, although I’m not sure I’ll ever read the insides again!! But it’s a pleasure to sit here with a cup of tea and look at some pictures of the characters I spent so much time with – only to abandon them when the book was complete.

Here are a few pictures I don’t think I’ve shared before. They are from my copy of The Affair of the Poisons by Frances Mossiker – a book which fell apart during the making of Charlatan!

I’m hoping a few new readers of The Road to Newgate will grab this chance to take a trip to 17th century Paris this week. I’ll be watching Amazon like a hawk, that’s for sure!