My First Journey
Writing Historical Fiction
When my first book, Future Confronted, a memoir about my son, Rob, was published in December 2013, I was stunned by the reviews, which were all positive and five star. I wrote the book, firstly as a memorial to Rob, who died from a brain tumour just a short forty-nine days after diagnosis, at the age of 20. Secondly, I wrote it in the hope that it would help others who had walked the fractured path that our family had done, and know that it is possible to come out on the other side, albeit different people; and to know that the journey continues.
In the spring of 2014 I started to write down ideas for my first journey into writing an historical fiction novel. My intention was to set it in Scotland, including both the Highlands and the Lowlands. Having started to learn Gaelic,
albeit tentatively, I dearly wanted to include this wonderful language in my book. Not great swathes of it, but just the odd comment here and there from my Highland characters.
My ideas came thick and fast, so I thought it would work well as a saga. The first book begins in January, 1286, and leads towards March of that year, and to King Alexander III’s death at Kinghorn, Fife. The first book continues on through to 1292, and the inauguration of John Balliol, at Scone. His reign was short, lasting until 1296, when, through Edward I’s constant undermining, demanded that John Balliol treat Scotland as a vassal state. A council of twelve to rule instead, was appointed, as the Scottish had grown tired of Edward I’s constant interfering with their affairs. The council then signed a treaty with France, which was known as the Auld Alliance. Edward, in retaliation, then invaded Scotland, thereby beginning the Scottish Wars of Independence. More of this in my next blog.
The main protagonists are two stone mason families who get drawn into The First Scottish War of Independence. There are many interesting historical events leading up to that first war, and those will be documented in my novel.
Why stone masons? I hear you ask. Well, I have a keen interest in church architecture, with the columns stretching up to beautifully ornate ceilings; the stained-glass windows, and the ornamentation on some baptismal fonts. By the way, one of the best places to see ornamentation in a church by stone masons, is The Rosslyn Chapel, in Scotland, it’s absolutely stunning, with many, and varied designs of sculpture.
The art of the stone mason has often intrigued me, for example, the revealing of images which the craftsmen see within the stone, the way it can be carved to look like flesh, or cloth. Michelangelo demonstrates this perfectly in his David Statue, and The Pietà, for example. The David Statue has flesh that looks real, the pensive look on David’s face, the hang of the hand, the sling-shot hanging over his shoulder. The Pietà, also; if you have actually seen The Pièta in The Vatican, you will know what I mean. When I first saw it I cried, it is so beautiful. The Madonna’s hand supporting Jesus on her lap, the fall of her robes, the delicacy of her face, the sorrow expressed. It’s all so wonderfully beautiful, and evocative of that moment of a mother’s loss, so-much-so, that I had the urge to include the art of the stone mason in my novel. That is why my main characters happen to be, stone masons. They are, The Family Granger, and, The Family Gregory, and both families have been stone masons for generations. The story follows the eldest, and youngest son from both families. It is their foray into the unknown, which creates the backdrop to the novel, and ultimately onward to The First War of Scottish Independence.
RESEARCHING THE FACTS
Researching is a totally enjoyable and absorbing occupation. It’s also a very time consuming occupation, but a necessary one. I find that I go off at a tangent when I find something unexpected. It’s almost like the twigs that sprout from the branches of a tree. Each new-found nugget of information leads on to something else. Before long, you realise that you have deviated so far from where you first started, but the joy is that you have gained so much information. I research as I write, as I don’t think it is possible to research everything before hand. Apart from that, ideas spring forth, and they have to be researched as well.
I like to write each day, if possible, even if it is only 500 words or so. The joy is seeing the story evolve from a germ of an idea, into a full-blown, detailed novel. Characters who were once just pen-scratchings on notepaper, become living human beings. They have their idiosyncrasies, of course they do, but that is what makes them believable.
So, my hope is to publish The Touching of Stones by June, 2016. It’s a movable feast, of course, but that is my hope, and the deadline that I am aiming for.
Thank you for stopping by.