Guest Post for Chicks, Rogues and Scandals on Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour
To really discuss who the Border reivers were, we first need to go back to the fifth century. England had not yet become one nation, and the Kingdom of Northumbria extended from the northern lands well into the southern part of what was to become Scotland. It’s no wonder familial ties between the border inhabitants began to develop and tighten, even after England and Scotland had emerged as separate countries.
Alas, when they did, the line went right through the old Northumbrian kingdom, and the border lands became a sort of buffer zone for the seemingly endless wars between the two nations. The borderers themselves became excellent fighting men, valued for their skill and aptitude — at least during times of war. But when the dust settle, and peace reigned, these brave soldiers were left to their own devices in a land that had been ravaged by war. Not knowing
anything else, they continued their warlike ways, turning to cattle rustling and blackmail as a means of existence.
Remembering the familial ties of the past, they swore their allegiance, not to any king, but to those of the own surname on either side of the border. They were English or Scot, but only after they were Armstrong or Foster. Alliances would be made with other families when needed, but it was the surname that determined who they would join forces with, not some distant king. In this way, they survived the only way they knew how — by fire and sword.
And so, from the fourteenth century to the seventeenth, these rugged men played havoc along the border, contributing such terms as blackmail and red-handed to the English language. Whether they were of common stock or born to the gentry mattered little, for they were first and foremost Borderers, more like each other than those in other parts of their own countries. They rode for their surnames and left a rich legacy behind them. Though they may no longer thunder across the moor, their tales survive in song and story, even if time and distance has lent an air of the romantic to their exploits.
Guest Post for Novels Alive on Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour
To the Border reiver, surname took precedence over all else, including king and country. Oddly enough, it was my surname that introduced me to their tales. I should first note that Matthews is my pen name, not my actual last name – that would be Foster. In fact, I was in the midst of doing some genealogical research when a friend brought the connection to my attention. Foster, it seemed, was a right riding name, the most notable of all being Sir John Forster, warden of the English Middle March in the last half of the sixteenth century. Now, Sir John was a gentleman, but he was no angel, for he was a Forster above all else.
The story intrigued me. Visions of my husband’s ancestors riding across the moors sparked my imagination. I had to know more about these rugged rogues who placed such value on a sense of honor and loyalty to their families, in spite of their nefarious preoccupation with cattle rustling and blackmail, I started formulating a story in my head, a tale of thunder across the moors and forbidden love, for although family came first, national pride was still a consideration, even if it was somewhere down the pecking order after their surname and allegiances they may have formed with other families. The blood feud, however, was a deadly affair, and an affront to any member of your surname or allied family would be an affront to the whole surname.
And so my plot was taking form. These feuds could go on for years and be sparked by anything from a small slight to a full-blown disagreement. I turned back to my research. And as I learned more riding names, I realized how many famous and infamous people carried border names. Men like Lyndon Johnson and Neil Armstrong and Walter Scott. Which of course led me to the latter’s poetry. I admit, he may have romanticized the period a bit, but then I suppose I did as well. Time and distance gives us that luxury. And there was the final piece to my novel —Time.
Alas, I still haven’t traced the family back far enough to make a direct connection to a specific person, but they were from the North of England, and still today have that strong sense of honor and familial loyalty, so I know it’s there. And so, my quest continues. Who knows there may even be a Will Foster back there somewhere?
Guest Post for Silver Dagger Book Tours
Since, I’ve always loved research, a fact which led me to a degree in history and ultimately a career as a librarian, it was only natural that it became a big part of my writing process. Once I come up with an idea for a novel and the backbone of the story, the next thing I do is dig into the research I’ll need to bring a bit of authenticity to the book. For the Cross of Ciarán series, I’ve created an imaginary priesthood, but that didn’t mean there was no need to do any research. I read up on Celtic mythology, as well as how people in 5th century Ireland lived, etc. I tried to incorporate the appropriate worldview and research the type of housing Ciarán might have lived in, the clothing he might have worn, and the food he might have eaten. What I discover during my research has a great impact on what happens to my characters and how they react in a given situation.
Since the present-day part is set in the 1960s, I also had to research that period. Even though I lived through it, the memory is a funny thing, so I needed to make sure I got it right. Caitlin is an archaeologist, so I had to do some research into that as well, keeping in mind the decade I was dealing with. It doesn’t end there, however. Even as I’m writing, my research continues as new questions appear. At one point, I paused the story to check out what berries the characters might have been picking. A small detail, I know, but I think these little bits of information help enhance the story. I won’t say I never stretch the truth a bit. There are some things that are open for interpretation or fit the story so well that a little nudge doesn’t hurt. For example, Ciarán occasionally speaks Irish, though I chose to use modern Irish instead of the earlier dialect he would have been using It is fiction, after all, and my intent was to add a little flavor, not confuse the reader.
For the most part, however, I try to be as accurate as possible, hoping to give the reader a real sense of the period and maybe even encourage them to read a non-fiction book on the subject.
Guest Post on My Fiction Nook for Silver Dagger Book Tours
Initially, I have a basic cast of characters around which the story revolves, but as I write, new characters appear from time to time. Generally, they are minor at first, but sometimes they grow in importance as the novel and series continues. In fact, I just might have hinted at one or two in Cross of Ciarán.
As most of my books are part of a series, it’s only natural for other characters and storylines to develop. I look at it as if I were meeting new friends — and sometimes enemies — along the way. Characters enter and exit the worlds I’ve created. Some play minor roles, never reaching more than acquaintance status, and they might keep their stories to themselves. But others will grow in importance and maybe even encounter adventures of their own as the series progresses, many times interwoven with the lives of the central characters. Even for the main characters themselves, new stories develop as their lives play out on the pages of a novel.
Hopefully, there will at least always be a happy for now ending, but new trials and tribulations are waiting only a book away. What they are and who they will involve only time can tell.
Guest Post on My Fiction Nook for Silver Dagger Book Tours
Jennifer Quinlan, better known as Jenny Q, designed all my book covers. She’s easy to work with, always keeping your vision in mind while designing the covers, and provides a number of mockups for you to choose from. The only problem I’ve ever encountered was trying to decide which cover to choose, but even there, she’s more than willing to provide some guidance when asked. Her work is always professional and polished, and I’ve never been disappointed in the results. I’m sure her covers have encouraged many a reader to take a look inside. If you’d like to check out samples of her work, the website is www.historicalfictionbookcovers.com