Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Interview - Nancy Jardine - Celtic/Roman Series.

Today I have the lovely Nancy Jardine in the interview chair, talking about her wonderful Celtic Fervour Series:
 Bk1 The Beltane Choice; Bk2 After Whorl: Bran Reborn; Bk3 After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks.
At the foot of the Interview you will encounter my reviews of these wonderful Celtic/Roman themed novels.

Nancy Jardine lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, in an area that’s steeped in antiquity- just as well since loves to write about ancient peoples. She regularly grandchild-minds; tends a messy garden; does ancestry research and leisure reading when she can squeeze them in. Her published work comprises two non fiction historical projects and six novels. Three novels are Contemporary Mysteries set in spectacular world locations; the others are Books 1 to 3 of her Celtic Fervour Series of Historical Romantic Adventures. Writing in progress is Book 4 of her Celtic Fervour series, a Scottish family saga, and a time-travel novel for early teens which has been languishing for too long unpublished. 
Topaz Eyes (Crooked Cat Publishing) an ancestral-based contemporary mystery/thriller, is a finalist for THE PEOPLE’S BOOK PRIZE Fiction 2014. The winner is announced at the Awards Dinner on 28th May, at the Guildhall of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers in London.
The Interview:

(1) What actually inspired the writing of your novel(s)?
The Beltane Choice, the first book of the series, developed as a result of my teaching the Celtic/Roman Britain period to my upper primary classes. I loved teaching all historical eras but particularly enjoyed early Roman Britain. Researching the period isn’t easy when there is scant evidence to go by, but the era holds great fascination for me.  I chose to write about a fictional Celtic warrior family, from the hillfort of Garrigill, rather than focus on well-documented historical figures. Historically eminent Romans or Celtic nobility are mentioned in name only as part of the plots.
(2) Alpha or beta hero – profession/title/rank?– brief description!
Book One has an alpha hero in Lorcan of Garrigill, in the sense that he is in a powerful position and to many extents controlling, yet he does not hold the supreme power. Lorcan also has flaws, one of which is serious loyalty to his own Brigante tribe which doesn’t sit well with plans for a marriage with Nara of the Selgovae.  Lorcan is the second-born brother; the mediator between the local, warring Celtic tribes. He becomes the spokesperson of the northern Brigante tribes in negotiations with the Roman Empire and is the best candidate to lead his tribe after the Battle of Whorl - a bloody event against the Romans. Books Two and Three are about Brennus, a younger brother of Lorcan, who is a more of a beta hero in that his former status is somewhat compromised by the injuries he receives at the Battle of Whorl. From being the tribal champion at single combat (a high accolade in Celtic tribal structure but not one with ultimate rule), he has to come to terms with disabilities and learns to use new skills which enable him to still be a prime figure in his tribe. His new life involves assuming a second identity as a spy for his King Venutius, gathering information about Roman expansion in the northern areas. It’s a dangerous business to be involved in and not for the faint hearted. Both, I think, are lovely men!
(3) Can you describe your heroine’s personality- title/rank?– description!
In Book One, Nara is the daughter of a Selgovae chief. She’s a feisty lass, a warrior princess with battle ready skills, but is also a healer. Her destiny abruptly changes and instead of becoming a priestess, she’s expunged from the priestess nemeton and charged with finding a man to marry, in order to father a child at Beltane. Her choice of mate cannot be made without much care and attention; a challenge she must rise to since the man must be supremely worthy. Captivity by a rival Brigante tribe makes her situation occasionally just a bit worrying, yet Nara is very adaptable, spunky and resourceful.

Books Two and Three feature Ineda of Marske. She is of lowly stature in her Brigante tribe but is a quick witted young female who has deep hatred for the Roman usurpers. She embraces the life of a spy with relish and aids Brennus of Garrigill in his guise as Bran of Witton till she is captured by a Roman tribune and kept as his slave for many years. Ineda’s enforced slavery means spying is extremely hazardous but she does not give up. She also has healing skills passed down from her grandmother which she uses to her advantage when incarcerated behind Roman fortress walls. She is a young woman of great intellect and ingenuity; full of curiosity; and loves to learn.
(4) Are there secondary lead characters with important roles?

In Book 1, Brennus is a secondary character with a strong role in the plot. It was because he got a raw deal from me in The Beltane Choice, I decided he needed a story of his own. That decision led to the writing of a follow-on book which, in turn, ended up being Books 2 and 3 of the series. Book 2 introduces Ineda of Marske who is also a Brigante, though not from Garrigill. As well as interacting with Brennus in Books 2 and 3, Ineda finds herself imprisoned for a while by a Roman tribune, Gaius Livanus Valerius. The tribune has great impact on what happens to Ineda and as such, Gaius plays a very strong pivotal role- in essence he’s a third protagonist in Book 3. However, since my series is about the Garrigill warrior brothers, Lorcan and Brennus reappear in later books- along with their immediate families- playing secondary roles.

(5) Where is the novel (s) set? – time-frame – country etc.
The era is the late first century Britain from AD 71 onwards. Books 1 and 2 are set in current northern England (mainly in Brigante Territory AD 71-78). The locations are Celtic hillforts or Roman forts and fortresses. Book 3 sees Brennus and the Garrigill warriors moving slowly northwards into modern day north-east Scotland, largely mirroring the northern campaigns of Governor Agricola when he marched his legions to the far north of Britannia.  Celtic settlements and Roman forts are also the main settings in Book 3.

(6) What is it about your chosen era/periods that you most enjoy?

I love plunging my characters into an imaginary landscape that I’ve created using as thorough research of the period as possible. Since visual and written artefacts are rare, there’s a lot of reliance on interpretative history. The fact that new archaeological research can alter previously perceived ideas makes researching the period even more exciting, perverse as that may sometimes seem. Though I’m writing fiction, and haven’t needed to do it, I’ve altered my WIPs to accommodate new evidence that has been unearthed whilst writing my Celtic Fervour Series.
(7) Which if any of your characters do you dislike, and why?

I’m not sure I actually dislike them, but I’ve included some minor characters which have made the lives of my protagonists more difficult. I wasn’t too enamoured of a warrior of the Carvetii called Shea of Ivegill who appears in Book 1. He’s quite a nasty man who wants Nara of the Selgovae but only on terms acceptable to him. Reading the book will show why he isn’t the happiest of men. In Book 3, Ineda has to deal with her Roman master’s mean secretary - but Pomponius isn’t all bad, he has some qualities I hope readers will enjoy. Otherwise I’ve not, so far, felt the need to make any character really, really horrible.

(8) Do you avoid sex scenes, gross violence or other in your works?

No. I don’t avoid sex scenes but I’ve had to be cautious in writing some of the scenes to avoid some readers reading it as rape. However, I stand by my decisions that in the era in which I’m writing, what we now term ‘rape’ – as in unwanted sex – happened as a result of war between Celtic tribes, and between the Celts and the Roman Empire. When Celtic lands were invaded, I’m sure such events did occur. With regard to violence, I have some scenes of battle which definitely include bloody tactics – though I don’t believe they are unnecessarily gory. 

(9) How would you rate your novel – historical fiction, romantic fiction, tear-jerker, emotional drama, swashbuckling adventure, or...?

My series is being promoted as Historical Romantic Adventure. It has a sound historical background in which varying degrees of romantic entanglements happen, so it isn’t a historical romance where the romance is prime, and the background superficial. Happy endings don’t result in all books. It isn’t conventional historical fiction since the protagonists aren’t Kings, Queens or well-known historical figures- though the backdrop is historically accurate in terms of settings and historical locations. My authentic historical Celtic and Roman figures appear in cameo roles, or are mentioned in a background role. The Celtic Fervour Series is a meld of different historical sub-genres and as such is Historical Romantic Adventure.


Back cover blurb: Book 3- After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks
Pursued by Rome. AD73 Northern Britannia

After King Venutius’ defeat, Brennus of Garrigill – known as Bran – maintains a spy network monitoring Roman activity in Brigantia. Relative peace reigns till AD 78 when Roman Governor Agricola marches his legions to the far north. Brennus is always one step ahead of the Roman Army as he seeks the Caledon Celt who will lead all tribes in battle against Rome.
Ineda of Marske treks northwards with her master, Tribune Valerius, who is responsible for supplying Agricola’s northern campaigns. At Inchtuthil Roman Fort Ineda flees seeking fellow Brigantes congregating on the foothills of Beinn na Ciche.
Will the battle against the Romans bring Ineda and Brennus together again?

Thank you.
My review of The Beltane Choice:

If you're a fan of the late TV drama series "Xena Warrior Princess", then "The Beltane Choice" is for you. It's set in AD 71, Britannia, and the heroine is indeed a Warrior Princess. Nara has lived for many years on the Island of Nemetom with the priestesses until her coming of age, and the upcoming Beltane fires are set to decide her fate.

Although extremely brave, from page one Nara has committed a grave mistake and by her own hand has incited the wrath of a wild beast. Put to flight and seeking a safe haven her options are few. To accept the help of any warrior is bad enough and goes against the grain of Nara's upbringing. To be grateful to an enemy warrior is humiliating indeed. Besides, not only does her bitterest enemy achieve a kill where she has failed, he has it in mind to reap a grand reward in exchange for her life. But her life comes at a greater price than expected. Unwilling to concede to his ardent advances, albeit he awakens forbidden desires within her, she cannot and will not succumb.

Lorcan, although a hardened warrior and far superior in strength he nonetheless concedes to wise inner counsel and sets out to unravel the mystery surrounding his captive. For rather than take her against her will, he knows the journey ahead is long and arduous and will afford time enough for him to win her over: if that is ever possible. Her belief all man's inner desires and needs are base proves mildly amusing to him, and he's not immune to her secret observations all things Lorcan.

But events soon unravel to mar a burgeoning mutual respect erring affection between the captor and captive, and although both are aware of intense desire and longing they remain enemy warriors, Brought to the tribe elder Nara is forced to await her fate for she is nought but a bargaining tool between two tribes. And yet, a Roman legion marching ever closer is set to turn her fate around, and come the night of the Beltane Fires she wishes to succumb to the one she loves but is instead betrothed to another. How then can the Goddess Rhianna make her life complete and remove the darkness now befallen her? Of course as the fires fall to smouldering embers and the sun rises on the distant horizon Goddess Rhianna finally plays her trump card!

Nancy Jardine has spun a wonderful romance set within Roman Britain, and likewise woven a tapestry of tribal life and political ambitions in the shadows of the great forests of Britannia.

My Review: After Whorl - Bran Reborn:

In this novel, the second of a trilogy set in Britannia 71 AD, Nancy Jardine brings the heartbreaking post-battle trauma experienced by Brennus (hero) to the forefront of his very existence. Although as a well-trained native warrior, when faced with the might of well-trained Roman soldiers, the Brigante's defeat at the Battle of Whorl reveals the weakness of individualistic heroics against that of disciplined Roman team-led assaults and defence tactics. Left for dead, to his chagrin, Brennus' survival is reliant upon the expertise of an aged healing woman (Meaghan), who not only tends to his physical injuries she affords wise counsel. But in the long process of his recovery and the sad loss of his healer, he sheds his old identity as Brennus of Garrigill and instead is reborn as Bran of Witton.

With Witton as his adoptive home, and he too becoming an adoptive son, Bran is as good as sworn to protect his adoptive sister (Meaghan's granddaughter) from harm, which is easier said than done. Ineda proves a force to be reckoned with, and causes Bran (Brennus) more than mere headaches, for he becomes enslaved as a day-worker to Roman supremacy and she remains free to roam within set boundaries. Nonetheless, both are committed to ridding the land of the Roman invaders, occupiers-cum-slave takers, and when opportunities arise for garnering valued knowledge of the enemy and troop movements, Bran and Ineda are as one but find themselves at odds in ways that are to prove fatal for both. And so the saga continues, for suddenly and brutally separated, their roles are reversed, in that Bran is free to roam and Ineda is enslaved. Although each knows where the other's heart lies, can they ever be as one again?

It will be intriguing to see, come book three, when and where Bran (Brennus) and his brother Lorcan (book 1) will meet again, if ever, and what effect the Roman officer's enslavement of Ineda will have upon her wilful streak. Either way, a tribal and Roman Pow Wow is in the offing, but will it bring peace with compromise or a fiery hell-ridden showdown with the Romans? Roll on book 3
My Review: After Whorl - Donning Double Cloaks:

It’s Northern Britannia AD73, and through the eyes of Lorcan and Brennus, two Brigante brother warriors, Nancy Jardine casts the reader back in time to Celtic Britain. It all seems such a far off point in history until the first light of dawn streaks the horizon, mists rise from deep dark dells to creep wraithlike across hills, and the sound of wood on wood is heard. That sound alone was the moment I stepped into Nancy Jardine’s Celtic world of the The Beltane Choice. Subsequently, Whorl: Bran Reborn was next on my agenda. I then eagerly awaited the publication day of book 3 After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks, and this is why:

Book 1 of Nancy Jardine’s Celtic/Roman series brings to the fore two brothers with wooden swords, who grow to manhood and become hardened Brigante warriors. Thus this reader lived through their hopes; their dreams; their love of their homeland and their struggle to survive the advancing might that is the Great Army of Rome. The Celtic tribes have little choice but to fight and die by the Roman Gladius or capitulate and serve their new overlords. And yet love still blossomed within the sanctity of the Celtic hearths, and the hero Lorcan discovered a happiness he never thought could be his. But he lost something dear to his heart too, and that something became the heart of book 2.

By Book 2 the Celtic struggle to regain sense of freedom has the reader riding with Brennus who becomes separated from his kin in tragic circumstances, and all the while the might of the Great Army of Rome advances steadily northward. After a great battle, Brennus is all but a broken man, his survival and enslavement serves only to instil greater loathing for every Roman standing on the land of Britannia. And for Brennus love springs from an unexpected source and brings with it great healing and greater determination to survive, and to escape and once again challenge the might of the Roman invader. But with freedom comes tragedy.

By Book 3, Brennus and Lorcan are again as one in mind, body and spirit. Rebellion is on the ether. And while Brennus has already sacrificed much for his freedom, the woman (Ineda) who made him whole again sacrifices even more. Torn between loyalty to her Roman master (for personal reasons) and that of her people, she risks her life to relay vital information to Celtic spies and couriers. Likewise Lorcan could lose everything that is close to his heart, but if the Celts are to achieve freedom from oppression, the rape of their lands, the slaughter of their people and hold fast to the dream of one day setting the might of the Roman Army to flight, they must stand and fight! This Book (3) is every bit as thrilling as 1 & 2, and I’m fingers crossed this is not the last of Brennus, Lorcan and their children.


Nancy Jardine Author said...

Thank you so much for having me as your guest ,today, Francine. It's a pleasure to visit you and absolutely wonderful to see reviews of all my novels below the interview. A special extra thank you for that!

Francine Howarth said...

You're welcome, Nancy. The reviews reflect my joy in reading the books!