As I write this, it’s been exactly 525 years since a battle was fought near Stirling. A battle fought by Scots, against Scots, in which the rightful King – James the Third – died in extremely suspicious circumstances.
Unlike more celebrated battles like Culloden and Bannockburn, the Battle of Sauchieburn hasn’t captured the public imagination. Arguably, it lacks their importance: although a king died that night, the moment of his death didn’t really mark a turning point in the country’s history. Before and after Sauchieburn, Scotland was still a medieval country, and James the Fourth a medieval king, albeit a highly cultured one.
But for the individuals who fought on the losing side that night, the world had fractured, perhaps irredeemably so, and it was the story of one of these individuals that I was keen to explore in the writing of Fire and Sword.
It took eight years to write the story. I had to get to know my characters, to create convincing personalities from the sparse information left behind in the historical records. This initial stage took a lot of work, but once the names had faces, a complex web of political alliances and friendships suddenly fell into place. Finding the right voice was the next challenge, but eventually, I’d created a story I was proud of.
And then the quest for a publisher began. That, of course, is another story. Some bizarre events got in the way – I thought, for a long while, that my book was yet another casualty of the appalling Hurricane Katrina – but eventually, I found the perfect home for my manuscript with Hadley Rille Books.
That’s the way of writing. It’s a tremendous struggle for years, and then all at once, everything kicks off. The edits are done, the cover art is done, and after years in the wilderness, you can see an end in sight. A book with your name on it. You’ve invested so much time and so much effort, and at last, there’s something to show for it.
I’ve had lots of help along the way. From the archaeological community, from some worthy Scottish historians, and from writers. I am extremely grateful to the Paisley Writers Group: to Writers-in-Residence Ajay Close and Paul Houghton, who provided many insights into the craft of writing, and to my fellow writers, with Karen McKellar meriting a special mention. And, of course, I owe a special ‘thank you’ to my editor at Hadley Rille Books, Eric Reynolds.
As for the blog… I already have a blog at LiveJournal where I talk about life, archaeology and the numerous ancient monuments and historic buildings that I visit in my travels (see http://endlessrarities.livejournal.com/). The focus here will be much narrower. I’ll talk about my writing, about future projects and events. I’ll also talk about the worlds which I explore in my work. At the moment, this means I’ll be concentrating on late medieval Scotland, its people, its places, and its material culture. Though in future, I’ll hopefully be moving further afield. Much further afield…
But that’s another story!