Thursday, September 13, 2012
Thank you for inviting me to your blog today, Autumn. I’m always delighted to pop in to new places. I’d like to pose a question for you, and your readers, to explain my reasoning for writing my first historical novel, The Beltane Choice.
What fascinates me about Celtic Britain?
I’m honoured to have lived virtually all my life in Scotland, a country that’s steeped in history. A few hundred yards from my house there will be something still visible on the landscape that’s been there for a very long time. Perhaps it’s the nearby ruins of Hallforest Castle, built in 1296, a square keep which had six floors and is now the most fantastic crumbling shape. Or it could be one of the many Bronze Age standing stone circles.
I moved to Aberdeenshire, Scotland, more than twenty years ago and set about visiting as many of the local ancient monuments as I could. I became particularly fascinated by the scattered-stone ruins of an Iron Age hillfort fortification that sits just below the summit of Mither Tap, the most prominent peak of the range of hills called Bennachie (pronounced Ben-Ah-Hee) which lies about nine miles away from my home village. Mither Tap pokes up, a proud conical peak, though it is only 518 metres (1699ft) high, the range dominating the skyline because of the flatness of the surrounding terrain. The name Mither Tap is said to be very ancient, and possibly has an ancient religious significance it being a mammary shape, and the various stone circles surrounding the hills having particular alignments to it. I was delighted to also find out at the time that Bennachie was a prime contender for the Battle of Mons Graupius – a fierce battle waged between the Roman Army and the Celtic tribes of the north led by a Celtic chief named Calgacus.
Before then I knew a bit about the Bronze Age in Scotland, though little about the Iron Age. As a history graduate, that was a shocking admission. I set out to learn what I could. I absorbed information about Celtic hill forts, comprising of varying numbers of roundhouses. I tried to envisage what the one at the top of Mither Tap might have looked like, though failed at first. Imagining the surrounding stone wall of the hillfort was easy but what lay behind the wall? I couldn’t comprehend how, perhaps as many as ten, wooden roundhouses could have sat so high up, bared to the elements.
The construction of a typical Celtic roundhouse was intriguing. I learned which materials might have been used for the central pole and roof timbers. What might have been a typical central height was determined by the local cropping of a timber slender, sturdy and tall enough. It was also determined by man power and tools available to set and maintain it in place. Wattled walls, and inner partitions, were made from hurdles of woven wood-strong and suitably pliable for the bending necessary in the weaving process - the daubing of clay, dung and straw an effective draught proofing.
Sadly, my knowledge was gained from books as there is no reconstructed Celtic roundhouse anywhere near my home.
1994 brought some excitement. An Iron Age crannog building over Loch Tay was being undertaken, with expertise from underwater archaeologists! It took a while to open to the public but it was 2001 before I stopped in at The Scottish Crannog Centre. It was wonderful to experience the sensations of living in a Celtic roundhouse perched over the waters of the loch.
The visit topped up knowledge of Celtic Scotland and tied in well with my teaching since I was fortunate to teach about the Celtic/ Roman period in my primary classes. We tried as many Celtic building and craft task as was possible and had a heap of fun!
My historical novel, The Beltane Choice, set in Celtic Britain was conceived, though I chose to set the story in the border areas between Scotland and England. Naturally I had to include a Celtic hillfort, and I also felt a pressing need to include a stop at a crannog dwelling for the main protagonists in the story. You might guess why!
The Beltane Choice ends a few years before A.D. 83 when Agricolan surges to the north east of Scotland took place, the Battle of Mons Graupius documented as happening during this time of Agricolan campaigning.
I find it fascinating that Mons Graupius has been translated as a place of a conical hill. Sadly, there are other contenders for the site of Mons Graupius and Bennachie is not necessarily the current firm favourite, yet, as a novelist I prefer to think it is an excellent site for the battle. A sequel to The Beltane Choice has been started, and the action just might culminate in, or be centred on, Mons Graupius. And…it might just happen in Aberdeenshire, at Bennachie.
My novel…my choice!
My thanks to you, Autumn, for allowing me to visit today and to witter on about my passion for Celtic Britain.
Blurb for The Beltane Choice:
Can the Celtic Tribes repel the Roman army? AD 71
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?
A former Primary teacher, 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!
Author Links: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.com http://nancyjardineauthor.weebly.com http://facebook.com/nancy.jardine.56 Twitter @nansjar
The 5 star rated - The Beltane Choice - is available from: http://bit.ly/SViLCQ ; http://amzn.to/Rqg7yY ; http://amzn.to/UdT8v0
Book Trailer for The Beltane Choice: http://youtu.be/igJmfBoXRhQ
Other books by Nancy Jardine:
Monogamy Twist – a history mystery contemporary romance http://amzn.to/wwaGCv
Book Trailer for Monogamy Twist: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJVzbrkJQzA
Take Me Now- a contemporary fun read: http://bit.ly/MQJXvw amazon.com: http://amzn.to/R3ysrU
Book Trailer for Take Me Now: http://youtu.be/stDC4Yhm2r0