Today I have the lovely Time-Travelling author Anna Belfrage, who bravely stepped from the whirl of her time-slip series "The Graham Saga" to answer my questionnaire.
A little about Anna...
Born in Sweden, I was still a baby when my parents decided to move to South America – at the time as distant from Sweden as the moon. My childhood was spent in various South American countries, and as a consequence I grew up tri-lingual and with a fondness for spicy food, Salsa and hammocks.
Had I been allowed to choose, I’d have become a professional timetraveller. As such a profession sadly does not as yet exist, I settled for second best and became a financial professional (I like numbers – AND words) with two absorbing and time-consuming interests, namely British History and writing. These days, I spend almost as much time writing and researching as I do working, which leaves little time for other important pursuits in life such as cooking, baking and buying new rose varieties.
(1) What actually inspired the writing of your novel(s)?
It all began in 1624, when a twelve-year-old boy named John disembarked in Gothenburg. He was a Scot, of noble birth, but something had forced him and his mother to flee their homeland, leaving behind the boy’s father.
Approximately 370 years later, I married the descendant of that boy – yet another John, but with the name’s Swedish version. My husband brought a lot of admirable qualities to our marriage – and as the icing on the cake, he came with this fascinating family history, manna from heaven for a history nerd like me.
As a consequence, I started reading a lot about the 17th century, trying to discover why John and his mother fled in 1624. So far, the precise reasons remain unknown, but John himself cited religious upheaval. Whatever the case, thanks to long dead John, I developed a fascination for the 17th century – and particularly for all those religious conflicts that so plagued the century.
This is the very personal reason for me setting my books in the 17th century – and for having a male protagonist for whom religion is a big thing. Okay, so most people back then considered religion a big thing – especially along the lines of “are you with me or against me?”. Catholics persecuted Protestants, Protestants persecuted Catholics, and Christians persecuted Jews and Muslims – in general a heady brew with not one jot of tolerance in sight. Which was why I was so delighted when I came upon the Colony of Maryland and their innovative Act of Toleration, dated 1649, allowing all Trinitarian faiths to co-habit.
By now, I was starting to see a certain structure to my story: Presbyterian Scotsman must ultimately end up in Colonial Maryland. Said Scotsman is an attractive man, veteran of the English Civil War, a man of integrity and convictions. Borderline staid one could argue – which is why I threw dear Matthew Graham a curve ball by gifting him with a time-traveller wife.
Alex is a woman Matthew is helplessly attracted to, can’t live without, and who challenges his predefined notions over and over again. She is also brave and resilient, willing to risk everything for him, and being a man, Matthew is of course most flattered by her devotion and love.
(2) Alpha or beta hero –profession/title/rank?– brief description!
My hero - Matthew Graham – a most untitled Scottish Presbyterian is gifted with magical hazel eyes, a tall physique and a certain similarity to granite – quite recalcitrant in certain matters, principally those that have to do with his faith.
Due to his background as a soldier in the Commonwealth armies, Matthew can hold his own against more or less anyone with a sword. He is an excellent marksman, has a love for horses, but is first and foremost a farmer, in love with that little piece of Scotland he calls home. A man of integrity and convictions, Matthew is a tad too stubborn at times. And should anyone threaten his adored wife – or his beloved bairns – well then God help them, because Matthew Graham will stop at nothing to see his family safe.
At times, Matthew finds his wife somewhat of a challenge. Opinionated and outspoken, Alex ends up in a number of scrapes, and Matthew lives in constant fear that someone will find out she’s a time traveller – or even worse, that the ground will open at her feet and attempt to swallow her back, yank her away from him. To Matthew, Alex is his own, very personal miracle – a gift from God, no less.
(3) Can you describe your heroine’s personality- title/rank?– description?
Alex Lind is the daughter of a Spanish time travelling witch and a Swedish botanist – not that Alex is aware of her mother’s time travelling background, at least not initially. Her mother has been hop-scotching through time for ages, trying desperately to get back to 15th century Seville, and Alex’s father has his suspicions about his exotic wife but loves her too much to push too hard.
Alex is tough, agnostic and realistic – all qualities that help her come to terms with the very sudden change in fate she experiences on that momentous August day when she is sent spinning through time to land at Matthew Graham’s feet. She is also spontaneous and warm-hearted, and at times these rather likeable traits land her in all sorts of problems. Fortunately, she has Matthew watching her back (like a hawk).
Rarely does Alex yearn for the life she’s left behind – at least once she is over the initial shock. After all, had she not been dragged back in time, she’d never have met Matthew, and that would have been a major loss. But she is painfully aware of how much more fragile life is in this her new environment, and her man doesn’t exactly make things easier, what with his propensity to go gallivanting about on the moors to protect ousted ministers or his stubborn refusal to kow-tow to the Anglican Church. Alex makes it her own personal mission in life to keep her man safe – no matter what the cost. Matthew is touched and irritated by her protective streak; in his world, the man does the protecting, even when gifted with a wife who has a black belt or two in martial arts.
(4) Are there secondary lead characters with important roles?
Oh, yes, there is a whole set of secondary characters, starting with Matthew’s lawyer brother-in-law, Simon Melville and that force of nature, Mrs Gordon (Mrs Parson in the later books – the lady might be somewhat long in the tooth, but she is quite the guy magnet) who is the closest thing Alex has to a mother and best friend rolled into one. As the story develops, the Graham children come to play important roles, as do a number of ministers, some likeable like Julian Allerton, others narrow-minded worms (Alex’s words) such as Richard Campbell and the imposing Gregor Macpherson. Plus, of course, once the Graham family settles in the Colony of Maryland, we have Qaachow, Susquehannock chief, and the very nasty Burley brothers who make Matthew’s life hell on more than one occasion.
(5) Where is the novel (s) set? – timeframe – country etc.
The saga is set in the second half of the 17th century. It starts off in Scotland, does a most involuntary trip to Virginia (Matthew is sold as bonded labour by his nefarious brother), returns to the Scottish lowlands when His Restored Majesty, Charles II, decides to force all Presbyterians to foreswear their Kirk (and Matthew isn’t about to sit on his hands when the ministers of his kirk are persecuted, leading to a lot of tension), and finally makes for the somewhat safer Colony of Maryland, where Matthew and Alex set about creating a new home for themselves and their family. Not that they’ll remain welded to the ground, as adventure calls them off to Jamaica and Barbados – and back to Scotland, just in time for the Glorious Revolution. See why I need so many books to tell this story?
(6) What is it about your chosen era/periods that you most enjoy?
What is there not to enjoy about the 17th century? In many ways, it’s a breaking point between the old and the new, and by the time the century ends, the world has seen its first Bill of Rights, a recognition of every man’s worth (emphasis on man; women didn’t quite count – not yet). Plus,I find the religious strife that plagued the century fascinating –the relatively young Protestant factions facing off against the impressive might of the Holy Church. Also, this is the century in which the colonies in the New World were established, and I have always admired all those people who were brave enough to cut all ties with their homelands to cross the Atlantic in ridiculously small and fragile ships and then, once they’d made it over, reinvent themselves in an entirely new place.
(7) Which if any of your characters do you dislike, and why?
Quite a few, actually, but to pick one from the heap, Matthew has a brother who doesn’t exactly win any brownie points – at least not in the first three books. Luke Graham is violently jealous of his older brother, and when he comes home from the wars to find Matthew wed to Luke’s sweetheart… (This is before Alex shows up. Once she does, Matthew never looks elsewhere again. “Hmph!” Alex snorts. “We both know that isn’t true.” Well, no, but Matthew only turned to pretty Kate because he despaired of ever seeing Alex again. “Hmph,”Alex repeats, but her face softens, and she leans towards her man, resting her hand for an instant against his cheek) Where was I? Oh, yes, Luke comes home, finds Matthew married to his Margaret and is so enraged by this that not only does he woo Margaret back (easily, as Margaret loves Luke, not Matthew. She only married Matthew because she believed Luke would never return) but he also sets Matthew up, having him accused of being a Royalist traitor. Sort of amusing, seeing as the Royalist is Luke
(8) Do you avoid sex scenes, gross violence or other in your works?
Gross violence yes. Sex scenes absolutely not – but I try to not be gratuitous about it.
(9) How would you rate your novels – historical fiction, romantic fiction, tear-jerker, emotional drama, swashbuckling adventure, or...?
Historical fiction with sizeable pinches of romance, emotional drama and swashbuckling adventure (Now didn’t I do an excellent job of using up almost all the options?) Seriously, The Graham Saga follows a family through a tumultuous time in history – the 17th century was no walk in the park, neither in Scotland or in the New World – so there is plenty of room for adventure and drama.
The Graham Saga (published so far: A Rip in the Veil, Like Chaff in the Wind, The Prodigal Son, A Newfound Land, Serpents in the Garden. Coming soon: Revenge and Retribution)
Blurb: The Graham Saga: This is the story of Alex and Matthew, two people who should never have met - not when she was born three hundred years after him.
It all began the day Alex Lind got caught in a thunderstorm. Not your ordinary storm, no this was the mother of all storms, causing a most unusual rift in the fabric of time. Alex was dragged three centuries backwards in time, landing more or less at the feet of a very surprised Matthew Graham.
In a series of books we follow the life and adventures of the expanding Graham family, both in Scotland and in the New World - and let me tell you it is quite an exciting life, at times excessively so in Alex's opinion.
It isn't always easy. At times Alex thinks Matthew is an overbearing bastard, at others he's sorely tempted to belt her. But the moment their fingertips graze against each other, the moment their eyes meet, the electrical current that always buzzes between them peaks and surges, it rushes through their veins, it makes their breathing hitch and ... She is his woman, he is her man. That's how it is, that's how it always will be.