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2 September 2012

The Story Behind The Story - Nancy Jardine tells us about her latest release 'Beltane Choice'

I am thrilled to welcome a fellow Brit, Nancy Jardine, who lives in beautiful Scotland, to my blog today, to tell us all about her latest release, 'Beltane Choice', so I won't witter on, but let Nancy have centre stage:

Hi Hywela Lyn! I’m so delighted to be with you today, only two days after the launch of my historical novel, The Beltane Choice. It’s my first historical novel, born of a love of all things Celtic. I’d like you, and your readers, to imagine this scene which led to the idea for the novel. What follows might seem a little odd at first, but please bear with me. Let your eyes dwell upon this…

Alongside a mobile/temporary classroom there’s a bunch of 9/10 year old school children organising a pile of willow wands and twigs, mosses, grasses and sundry plant materials into messy bundles. A couple of kids nearby are fanatically stirring a delicious concoction of mud and fibrous plant material in large buckets. Another four pairs of kids are holding steady curved arches of willow twigs, bound together with plaited marram-type grasses. The arch spans just above their head height. When the willow saplings are sorted they’re used to weave the arches together, making a short tunnel. Over the day the wattled walls of the arch are filled with the mosses and plant materials and given a sloshy, fabulously messy coating…daubed with the mud ‘cement’. The kids doing the daubing are well covered with aprons and love their job!

Behind that group on a vacant patch of grassy playing field there are two rows of other kids facing up to each other. One row of kids – the Roman Army - are wearing papier-mâché helmets, covered in silver foil, and are brandishing a foil covered cardboard gladius (sword), and a shiny rectangular foil covered cardboard shield. The pilus (spear) is a cane with a pointed cardboard end. Each shield is decorated with the imprint of an eagle, faintly painted in red. Alongside is another Roman soldier holding aloft a rigid rectangular standard depicting a red eagle painted on a piece of white sheeting.  The other kids are the Celts. They, too, have shields but are facsimile wood and mostly round. Their swords are a different shape and their spears (look) sharp tipped. Blue war paint adorns their faces. The Celts stamp their feet to the war cry of their leader, Calgacus, while the standard bearer of The Roman Army calls his troops to order marching them along the field with the cries of “sin, dex, sin, dex…left, right…” Sinister, Dexter. This group are also having a whale of a time, especially when they engage in ‘Mock -Strictly No Contact’ battle!

Not far off there’s a couple of children who are using a quern stone for grinding flaked oats (actually it’s a large marble mortar and pestle but it does the same job as a quern). Two more kids are weaving yarn on a small handloom, of the drop spindle type. Their group mates are either carding rough sheep wool, or are being adult-supervised in boiling a jelly pan of water over a camping gas stove, (bit of licence here since the fire department might not have been too happy if I’d made a bonfire on the playing field) Grasses and lichens have been added to the water to dye the carded and spun wool. This group are also practising singing the Celtic/ Gaelic songs taught to them by the visiting music specialist.
Welsh Celtic Roundhouse (Photo courtesy of  Wikipedia)

Inside the classroom others are supervised as they create a papier-mâché Celtic roundhouse village with wooden staked palisading, (imagine wooden lollipop sticks); another group constructs a crannog roundhouse dwelling perched on stilts over a lake ( an old baby bath). For a while the area is messy but tidy up time…means tidy up!

What has all that-and more activities-got to do with the release of my novel The Beltane Choice?

From a spark of an idea comes a story. My novel of Celts and Romans battling together came from many sparks set off by my class of primary kids working on that Celts and Romans history project. After that main activity day, near the end of our term project, my children had to write about the parts they played during that day, and had to  demonstrate what they’d achieved to their classmates. They also wrote imaginative stories about Celtic children who were invaded by a cohort of Roman Soldiers. Developing their writing made me desperate to write about that historical period myself. A while after that historical project the first draft of The Beltane Choice was written. I’d learned a lot to teach the children and used that knowledge in my own writing. That first draft was nothing like the version of the novel published by Crooked Cat Publishing, but the basic premise was conceived. For reasons covered in other blog posts, that first draft was abandoned, resurrected many years later, and reworked.

I loved researching about the period in order to give the kids the background, and still love writing about it…so much that I’ve started a sequel to The Beltane Choice.

From those classroom activities also came the ideas which led to my time travel adventure novel for children aged 9-12 years. No prizes for guessing the time period that the contemporary children travel to…Of course it was when the Roman army invaded the Aberdeenshire village where I live! Now to find that publisher!

Lyn! Thank you for giving me the opportunity today to share my experiences. I wonder if any other author who has popped in, today, has a story about something which led them to write about a particular topic. Please share with us if you do…

Thank you so much, Nancy, that was such a fascinating post, and I have to agree with you about research. The more one delves into ancient history and legends, the more intriguing the subject becomes. One never stops learning. It's been a real treat having you here today and I can't wait to read your book.

Can the Celtic Tribes repel the Roman army?
Banished from the nemeton, becoming a priestess is no longer the future for Nara, a princess of the Selgovae tribe. Now charged with choosing a suitable mate before Beltane, her plan is thwarted by Lorcan, an enemy Brigante prince, who captures her and takes her to his hill fort. Despite their tribes fighting each other, Nara feels drawn to her captor, but time runs out for her secret quest.

As armies of the Roman Empire march relentlessly northwards, Lorcan intends to use Nara as a marriage bargain, knowing all Celtic tribes must unite to be strong enough to repel imminent Roman attack. Nara’s father, Callan, agrees to a marriage alliance between Selgovae and Brigante, but has impossible stipulations. Lorcan is torn between loyalty to his tribe and growing love for Nara. 

When danger and death arrive in the form of the mighty Roman forces, will Nara be able to choose her Beltane lover?


 Nancy Jardine lives in the picturesque castle country of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with her husband who feeds her well or she’d starve! Ancestry research is one of her hobbies, as is participating in exciting events with her family which drag her away from the keyboard. In her large garden she now grows spectacular weeds, which she’s becoming very fond of! She cherishes the couple of days a week when she child-minds her gorgeous granddaughter.

Author Links: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.com   
Website   http://facebook.com/nancy.jardine.56   
Twitter: @nansjar  and Goodreads/Nancy Jardine 

Other books by Nancy Jardine