A fascinating post today from Scottish author, Nancy Jardine. I’m looking forward to reading your answers to her question. Now over to Nancy:
I’m very pleased to visit you, Kimm, on my mini-launch tour for my historical adventure novel, The Beltane Choice, published by Crooked Cat Publishing. I thought I’d explain what spurred me to write an adventure novel about Celtic tribes being attacked by the Roman Army.
Strange though it may seem, the soil in my garden had quite a lot to do with it since my plot is approximately 500 yards from a site of Roman occupation. If I lived in southern England someone might be quite justified in saying…what of it? The Romans left plenty of evidence there. The fact I live in rural Aberdeenshire, Scotland, means I’m very fortunate to have had Romans right on my doorstep. The Romans invaded the north, though didn’t colonise as in southern areas. In Aberdeenshire, I know of no Roman hypocausts or villas having been uncovered. What Aberdeenshire has plenty of are standing stones, Neolithic tools, and…evidence of Roman marching camps. The camps were used for varying periods of time – some of them for only a night or two, and others for longer durations.
My husband isn’t interested in history. He couldn’t understand me imagining eight thousand leather-clad feet marching over the soil of my garden, fleeing Celts running over towards the river and up to the higher ground where evidence has been found of Celtic roundhouse occupation. Thousands of Roman soldiers tramping across my grass was an awe inspiring image. I’ve got deep loamy soil, in some areas the bedrock being ten feet and more below surface level. Over the years I’ve dug up many different items. Canine jaw bones, sheep bones…and other bones I’m too scared to look into in too much detail. Lots of rusty nails, and bits of iron, which I had originally thought to be Victorian. Since 2002 I’m now not so sure. The bits of metal could be much older. I might even have something left by the Roman Army. That idea was so exciting, since I love all things historical! My imagination took flight – though it took a bit longer for me to put pencil to paper.
Why 2002? A bit of explanation should clarify. My house was built in the 1820s on what had been open ground owned by the Earl of Kintore. The house was inhabited by a succession of village doctors, and remained the only building at my end of the village for decades. Lots of things could lie buried under my garden soil. (Maybe fodder for another novel here.)
In 1875, a granite school building was constructed opposite my house, again on what had been the Earl of Kintore’s land. The philanthropic Earl of the time sold the land for the school but gifted an adjacent plot, Deer’s Den, for public use- a recreation area for the villagers. The site of a Roman marching camp had been noted at Deer’s Den nearly a century before, and evidence of earlier civilisations had also been uncovered. That knowledge didn’t stop the creation of a couple of turf pitches somewhere around 1890.
Aerial surveys in the 1970s corroborated a Roman marching camp had been on the site, but it remained a recreational facility till 2002 when the council decided to build a brand new school. Construction work was unable to commence till a thorough archaeological dig was done.
The results were incredible. The Romans had occupied the site more than once. Probably during the Agricolan surges around AD 83, but it was also likely to have been used during the Severan campaign of AD 210. More than 250 Roman bread ovens had been uncovered, meaning many more soldiers had been encamped than originally estimated. The outside boundaries indicated the area had housed maybe even ten thousand soldiers. Ten thousand was an unbelievable number. Right across from my garden!
I taught across at the school. We viewed the excavations. The curriculum was altered to suit the current situation, and enthusiasm over the dig was high. My class learned about the Celtic people who had lived on the land, and about the marauding Roman Army who most likely scared them off. My class wrote fabulous stories. Their work inspired me to write more than my tiny introduction to the creative writing lessons.
I envisaged Roman scouts surveying the land in advance of the main cohort. Imagined them deciding their first spade would be dug just a little way away from my garden soil, perhaps because the burn near my house was just too close. A source of fresh water was always sought before a camp was made but maybe the water always needed to be a short distance from the perimeter of the camp? I could, and still can, imagine all sorts of scenarios.
I wrote the first draft of a time-travel adventure novel for 9-12year old kids, set in my home village in Aberdeenshire, where a trio of kids go back to a Celtic/ Roman occupation of the same geographical area. That has eventually become my novel for kids, called Dabbling With Time.
I enjoyed writing about the Celtic era so much I used the basic Celt/ Roman conflict to create an historical adventure, which eventually became The Beltane Choice. I set my adult story in the border areas between Scotland and England, and used an earlier time of AD 71. I enjoyed writing that so much, too, that the sequel to The Beltane Choice has already been started. Though that story is already moving geographically north, it hasn’t got to Aberdeenshire…yet.
Kimm, I wonder where your readers think I should mainly base the sequel to The Beltane Choice? Should I stop at what we now term the central belt of Scotland, or should I take the action further north…to Angus, or even Aberdeenshire? Drop me a comment in the box to let me know, I’d love to read your ideas.
Thank you for hosting me today!
Blurb: 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?
Buy links for The Beltane Choice: http://www.crookedcatbooks.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=63
Book Trailer for the Beltane Choice: http://youtu.be/igJmfBoXRhQ
Tags: historical, romantic, Celtic, adventure
Other books by Nancy Jardine:
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! She cherishes the couple of days a week when she child-minds her gorgeous granddaughter.
- Pair of metal detector friends discover three quarters of a TON of Iron Age coins worth £10m buried in a field in Jersey after searching for 30 years (dailymail.co.uk)