Historical Fiction Blog Hop Part 1

Yes, I know It’s out of order (or I am – take your pick) but that’s courtesy of too many things to mention. Suffice to say that the blog I’m visiting today includes a fascinating interview with a character who I’d nor met before and whose name I couldn’t pronounce – until he helped me out. Jen Black who was interviewing him had to ask too, so I didn’t feel so bad. I think he found that question a little rude though.

So back to the 10th century we go – an era that I have to admit I’m a little hazy on, but now I’m definitely intrigued.


Historical Fiction Blog Hop

I’m delighted to introduce you to the Historical Fiction Blog Hop which is taking place throughout June and July. There will be lots of interviews with characters from some great historical fiction. Some you will love and quite possibly some you will love to hate!

First up for me is Eleanor Elder – the heroine of Derek Birks’ series set in the Wars of the Roses. I have mixed feelings about Eleanor – some traits of her character I like and admire, but there is one aspect that disappoints me. Just as in real life I like My friends to like my other friends, in fiction I like to find that characters I have sympathy with share my feelings about real historical characters. Sadly, although I am a Riccardian, Eleanor isn’t. I guess you need to read the books and judge for yourself whether she is justified in disliking him…

Interview my Character: Eleanor Elder

Stats are boring – right?

Not being a mathematical sort of person (and being married to someone whose degree was in Statistics and with three children who have all been inclined to the sciences) I’ve always contended (on principle) that stats, and mathematics topics generally, are boring.

But today, while updating my ‘Events’ page on my website, I was seduced into gathering the statistics for the last four years, since I moved from being traditionally published to first of all Indie and now a hybrid author, with a foot in both the traditional and Indie camps.

And I have to (reluctantly) admit that I found them rather interesting (don’t tell my family).

In the hope that you might too – here they are:

Numbers first –

Author events: talks, presentations – 55

: workshops – 5

:panellist in shared events – 4

: 5 minute reads (open mic events / shared festival events) – 11

Chairing events: involving others – 10

Book Launches: 2 launches for each of 3 novels, 1 x Short story collection

And one (wonderful) month-long writer’s fellowship. For those who might find it interesting –  a link to some reflections on my time  at Hawthorden Castle.   

And if I haven’t totally bored you with the figures, some detail:

Author presentations – (I love making up Powerpoints, but I so wish I really knew what I was doing, as it would be a much more efficient use of time…)

I love talking about writing, about my books and a wide variety of related topics – from the trials, tribulations, and sheer joy of research, to the historical context for Macbeth. Macbeth

From Food Standards Agency 16th century-style                          What's in this meat pie copy

to the influence of place.  From my (long) road to publication to the impact of faith on fiction.

Brother wordprocessor Salt and Light


And many more. Some are very personal, some focused on history and the historical background both to my books and the 16th century in general. And while I feel very at home in the 16th century now, I’m quite glad I don’t have to actually live there!

Workshops  range from the more general He said She saidHe said, she said. Writing Effective Dialogue.’ and ‘Stealing Stories – Where fact and fiction meet.’ to the specific ‘Writing authentic historical fiction.’  Always good fun, and the more attendee participation the better they are.


Chairing events has included the joy of being in conversation with a fantastic writer, Robyn Young (Brethren / Robert the Bruce trilogy) and historian David Crane (Went the Day Well – Waterloo), as well as introducing many writers in the context of Open Mic events.

Highlights as a panellist –  It’s Nae the TudorsGrantown – a new historical fiction festival at Grantown in the Scottish highlands, and taking part in an Amazon Academy Day at Newcastle upon Tyne (yes I am happy to stray over the border from time to time and it was lovely to meet and share a platform with L J Ross – a fantastically successful author who writes crime set in Northumberland). Newcastle Panel One - closer in

The book launches have been exhilerating and daunting in equal measure and I am very grateful to Waterstones, Edinburgh, Blackwells Edinburgh and Mainstreet Trading, St Boswells for hosting me.

I could hardly believe when I counted them up, that I had more than 80 events under my belt, and with some exciting new opportunities already booked ahead, I am looking forward to 2019.

An average of just over 20 events per year doesn’t really seem very many (especially not when compared to Kate Mosse’s 60+ appearances in connection with her newest book) but it’s a start…

Why I write WW2 fiction by Clare Flynn

This week I received a forwarded email from Corazon (my ebook publisher) to inform me that Amazon had decided to offer Turn of the Tide as a monthly deal for October. I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant until I posted a question on FB. Clare Flynn was one of the folk who responded – and when I discovered her book, The Chalky Sea, also the first in a series, was on offer too, I was delighted to welcome Clare onto my blog to explain why she chose to write about WW2. Over to you, Clare.

Clare Flynn Author photo

Why I decided to write about WW2

I used to say I’d never write about war. The idea didn’t appeal, and I doubted I had anything to add to the huge body of existing WW2 fiction.

Then in 2016 I moved to Eastbourne, after twenty years in London. Knowing nothing about the history of Eastbourne, it was a surprise to discover it was the most heavily bombed town in SE England. 199 people were killed in sustained bombing raids on Eastbourne between July 1940, a month before the London Blitz began, until March 1944.

The first raids were probably to ‘soften up’ the town ahead of Hitler’s planned invasion, Operation Sea Lion, on the Sussex coast. When that was called off Eastbourne saw no respite. It was subject to “tip and run” raids, where bombers flew under the radar then, as they reached the coast, soared over Beachy Head, banked and swooped on the town before nipping back across the Channel.

In July 1941 Eastbourne had its first influx of Canadian soldiers. Volunteers, they were eager for action, but had spent the first years of the war in reserve, doing exercises and manoeuvres and seeing nothing of the enemy. Their arrival was not announced officially, but within a week the local newspaper was already referring to “our guests”.

This concentration of Canadian soldiers was another reason for Eastbourne being a target, especially in the run-up to the catastrophic Dieppe raid. Intelligence may have been leaked to the Germans about the forthcoming attack, as the residential area where numerous Canadians were billeted was heavily bombed.

The Canadians must have been frustrated by their lack of combat. Instead they scaled the cliffs, practised on the firing ranges on the Downs, and undertook large scale manoeuvres and tank movements. They made use of the leisure activities including dances at the Winter Garden. The town produced 150 war brides.

My interest was heightened when I discovered many Canadians were billeted in the area where I live, Meads – with an officers’ mess in a house in my road and gatherings around the piano in the local pubs, The Ship and The Pilot.

The idea of setting a book here became irresistible. Within two months of arriving, I began The Chalky Sea. It’s set mostly in Eastbourne, as well as the Aldershot garrison and Ontario, Canada.

Chalky Sea cover image

The Chalky Sea is the story of Gwen an Eastbourne woman, alone and refusing to evacuate the town after the departure of her officer husband to war; and Jim, a young Canadian farmer, who joins up to escape a broken heart. The book follows their individual journeys and examines the impact of war on them and how it changes them profoundly.

My home is above the town with views of the Downs and the sea. Each morning in the kitchen making tea, I imagined Gwen looking out at the ever-changing chalky sea. Instead of tankers and container ships in the Channel, she would have looked out for those low-flying planes. Instead of a lawn, the garden would have been a vegetable patch, along with an Anderson shelter.

Wherever I went in the town, I pictured it in the 1940s. The famous Carpet Gardens on the promenade became vegetable plots, the pier was cut in half and mined to impede German landing-craft, and the beaches were covered in barbed wire and tank-traps.

I wrote The Chalky Sea, as a standalone book – but many questions about what befell Gwen and Jim after the war, so I wrote a sequel, The Alien Corn, set in Canada and on the Italian front. This year The Frozen River followed. Writing about World War 2 has proved fascinating so I’m working on an unrelated novel set in 1938/39. This time the sea and the merchant navy are at the core – and I’ll take the characters on into the war itself in a subsequent book.

The Chalky Sea is available on Amazon (UK, USA and Europe) for 99p (99c) throughout October.

Brief biography

Clare Flynn is the British author of eight historical novels. Her books deal with displacement – both physical and emotional and have a strong sense of time and place. They draw on her extensive travels and experience living in many different places.





Paperback launches…

I’m looking forward to the paperback launches of By Sword and Storm – the first is at Mainstreet Trading Book shop in St Boswells – a shop that has previously won Independent Bookshop of the Year, yet is situated in a wee village near to me. It is chock full of books and runs loads of events. My launch is classed as a private party – but they set it up, in their events space – the upper part of the barn labelled ‘HOME’ on the drawing – provide table / cloths and glasses for the nibbles and drinks, a stage etc with microphone and lots of chairs and also sell the books. My ambition is to get a launch officially up on their blackboard of events one day… Mainstreet Trading MapI’m very grateful for their willingness to host and to display  invites at their till for folk to pick up. Here’s the current invite. Mainstreet Invite Oct 3rd 2018 By S+SAnd I’m also grateful to historian John Wood, who will host the event – this will be the third he has hosted for me and he still remains willing!

On the 4th October I’ll be doing it all again at Blackwells Bookshop in Edinburgh – for those for whom getting to the Borders is a step too far…  Blackwells Edinburgh

They have a lovely event space upstairs and generously allow me into their staff kitchen to prepare the nibbles. I’m sad that this will be the last time that Ann Landmann will be on hand to make sure it all goes right, as she has moved to the publisher Birlinn, but very pleased that she is coming back for this launch.   David Bishop (Head of the Creative Writing MA at Napier University) has kindly agreed to host the launch – he’s reading the book just now – here’s hoping he’s enjoying it!

For anyone reading this who is within shooting distance of Edinburgh, the event is FREE but ticketed via  Eventbrite (for the sake of the bookshop re numbers to expect).

I would love to see anyone who is free to come to either of these events – the more the merrier. (It would be helpful to me for catering to have an idea of numbers also, so do please feel free to message me here or on Fb or text.)

And if you can’t come and / or are an ebook fan please note that the ebook (published by Corazon) has a different cover – a ship instead of a sword – you can find it on  Amazon  

And Monday morning I hope to get my head down on Katharina: Fortitude – the follow-up to  Katharina: Deliverance – which has just finished runner-up in the Historical Novel Society New Novel Award 2018 – I’m very pleased.

Munro meets the Poldarks.

Now here’s a thing – every writer has authors who have inspired them, whose work they admire and whom they would like to be compared to.

For me, one of those authors is Winston Graham, and in particular, the Poldark novels, especially the earlier ones.  (Another is Daphne du Maurier, but that’s another story, for another day.)

In fact, before I began to write my first Scottish novel, I dissected Graham’s first – Ross Poldark, analysing it in terms of, for example, structure, the interweaving of plotlines, the balance between dialogue, narration and description, and the methods used to convey the period.  In Turn of the Tide I didn’t set out to mimic Ross Poldark, but rather to apply the principles that I’d drawn from it.

So, in a sense, I’ve always though of Graham as a mentor. Which is why I was delighted when by chance I looked on Amazon one day and found Turn of the Tide sitting just below Demelza in the Amazon rankings. And thus began a wee contest with myself (some might say obsession!) – to try to collect screenshots with all of the Poldark novels.

And here they are – it took several weeks and countless quick forays into the Amazon lists, on both the UK site and the Australian one, but finally I got them all. They aren’t in the order I collected them, but in the order of the Poldark books.

Turn of the Tide + Ross Poldark 3 UKTurn of the Tide + Demelza Aug 2017 UKTOT and Jeremy Poldark Aug 2107

I wanted to ‘capture’ the books in pairs, but in the case of Warleggan that wasn’t possible and I had to settle in the end for a group of four. (I’m sure someone really technical could have cut out a diagonal, or blanked out the others, but that isn’t me – sadly.)


And as you can see I haven’t mastered the art of equalising the size of images either, but hey – I have them all – and that (ridiculous as it may seem) gives me a wee frisson of pleasure. It was interesting to see the different covers that had been produced over the recent past, my favourites are definitely the ones with some kind of paper in the background and a central image. And the idea of a distinct branding for a series is one I shall remember. I’m not sure about the image of Ross in the bottom corner, though. (Sorry Aidan Turner!)


Turn of the Tide + Four Swans Aug 2017 UKToT (#21) + Angry Tide Aug 20 AUTot + The stranger From the Sea Aug 2017Some of the titles I could have ‘captured’ multiple times, others remained elusive. The final one – which happened to be The Miller’s Dance – was frustratingly tricky – for days, as it went up, Turn of the Tide went down, and vice versa and as the maximum distance between them allowing me to capture a screen shot was one row either way, there couldn’t be more than 4 places between them. However, I got it in the end and as you can see from the numbers, came very close to not getting it at all.

Tot + Miller's Dance AU 11:09:17Each time I look at them it reminds of the way an individual story (or stories) take centre stage in the different books, but there remains a cohesion that runs through them all.Turn of the Tide + The Loving Cup (2) (UK) Aug 2017Interesting, too, for me, to see how the series develops, particularly over the lengthy time span and the move from a focus on Ross and Demelza themselves, to their children. And as a result how it is Demelza who increasingly becomes the more important character in the marriage partnership, through her empathy and greater understanding of their struggles.
Tot and Twisted Sword Aug 2017
Tot + Bella Poldark BB (AU)2017







As an example of how to develop a saga it continues to impress me and I couldn’t help be encouraged when someone likened the Munro saga to a Scottish Poldark – that can’t be bad. Though whether I could sustain their story for 12 books I’m not sure. Time will tell…

By Sword and Storm – Review no 2

Well, I can’t ask for any more, can I? – ‘This is an author whose grasp of the period is absolute.’

Review no 2 for ByS+S –
Just reviewed Margaret Skea’s By Sword and Storm – such a fascinating read.
” In this highly readable finale to her Munro trilogy, Margaret Skea is as sure-footed in the French Court as she is amongst the Scottish nobility. The plot has many strands and, intriguingly, many locations, reminding us that while Europe has never been politically unified, its countries have always had close relations and even given the risks of sea-crossings, Belgium, Ireland or France were always possible havens when things at home were not working out. The trilogy as a whole is highly reminiscent of the Poldark series in introducing new personalities as time goes on, in this case young Robbie Munro,gets into serious trouble in Paris while falling in love with a girl from a Huguenot family. Meanwhile in Scotland the travails of childbirth vie for our attention with the Montgomeries’ old feuds.
This is an author whose grasp of the period is absolute and if you think the storm of the title is metaphorical it is not, since Skea has added late 16th century sea-faring to her remarkable knowledge of history. From first to last page this is indeed a ‘you are there’ experience. A great finale, but I do wonder if there might not be more to come.”

I couldn’t be more thrilled!