Thursday, 23 August 2012

Guest Blog with Nancy Jardine

I'm delighted today to introduce my fellow author, Nancy Jardine, who will tell you a little about her book, The Beltane Choice. I'm currently writing about this period myself, so very much looking forward to reading Nancy's book!

Why Celtic Britain?


I’m delighted to be with you today, Mark, to explain a little background to my first historical adventure-The Beltane Choice-released yesterday by Crooked{Cat}Publishing.


Why did I set The Beltane Choice in AD 71 when the Romans were invading Britain? Researching for a Regency, or a Victorian, novel might have been easier, but the truth is my Celtic and Roman studies weren’t undertaken for writing a novel.


During my teaching career I taught 11-12 year olds who typically learned about World War 2, and The Victorian Era-though on rare occasions I taught about the might of the Roman Empire swooping onto the shores of Celtic Britain. Since I live in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, ancient history is on my doorstep. I used local archaeological evidence; collected information from public library sources; bought suitable books to use with the kids, and scaled it down for classroom use. Those were my first Roman /Celtic researches.


Archaeological digs, at the Deer’s Den site, in my home village of Kintore during 2002 to 2004 sparked my imagination further. The digs had been funded because the Victorian built village school was being replaced by a brand new building. The foundations for the new school would encroach on land long-designated as a historical site of Roman occupation, and no building work could happen till the digs were undertaken. The results were spectacular. Evidence of more than one Roman occupation of the area was uncovered- over two hundred and fifty bread ovens unearthed a stunning amount. The findings from Neolithic times were numerous, too.


Since I live opposite the school building, I was involved as a village resident and as a teacher. We were invited to view the excavations a few times over the duration of the dig. My class worked on stories where an invented character lived in a Celtic roundhouse village near the Deer’s Den site when the Romans attack- a short story of my own having been drafted as an example for the kids. Though an avid reader, I hadn’t been serious about writing fiction before then. That dig was the catalyst!


My fledgling writing career began, though it had a very shaky start. I wrote the first draft of a time-travel novel where contemporary children travel back to the Kintore of AD 83/84, and are involved in the battle of Mons Graupius – Romans against the Celtic tribes of the north. I sited the battle at Bennachie, a range of hills with a distinctive conical peak which lies 9 miles away from our village.  Sadly, that draft was abandoned since non-fiction writing projects took up my vacation time for the next few years.


In 2008 I wrote the first draft of a Celtic/Roman adventure. That eventually evolved- I’m delighted to say- into The Beltane Choice now published by Crooked{Cat}Publishing. Though, instead of setting my historical novel in Aberdeenshire, I set it in the border areas between Scotland and England, at an earlier time of AD 71. Any knowledge of Celtic life I’ve used in the writing of The Beltane Choice is my own interpretation of historical facts I’ve learned through my teaching. My hero and heroine are, respectively, from Brigante and Selgovae tribes. I used the Roman mobilisations around Eboracum (present day York) as a reason to bring what were warring Celtic tribes together. This scenario is a total fabrication on my part, though I have made a conscious effort to make the novel appear as authentic as possible.


However, I have started a sequel to The Beltane Choice which will take the protagonists on to the Battle of Mons Graupius…


Some readers may be interested to know my children’s novel has also been redrafted, but now covers the Roman Severan Campaigns of AD 210, in north-east Scotland-the action happening around Kintore and Bennachie. I’m hoping to see that work published some time, too.


I’d be very interested to know what might have been the catalyst that spurred other authors to take up their pen. What was your trigger?

Blurb for The Beltane Choice:

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: Book Trailer for the Beltane Choice:


Tags: historical, romantic, Celtic, adventure


Author Bio:

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.

Other books by Nancy Jardine:

MONOGAMY TWIST Book Trailer for Monogamy Twist:

TAKE ME NOW  Book Trailer for Take Me Now:




  1. Hello Mark,

    Thank you so much for inviting me to give some background. I love writing about the period, though I'm not sure any of the above would add much to whatever you are writing about-except if you've set your work in Aberdeenshire!

  2. My story is mainly set in Sussex & Norfolk, but ends with key characters setting off in the dirction of Aberdeenshire!

  3. Nancy asks us what spurred us to take up our pens. Well I started because I needed an additional source of income. That, by the way, is the very worst reason to start writing. It's very difficult to make money doing this, and sometimes it seems to be easier for bad writers than for good ones (one best-selling author, a gentleman whose colourful past includes a prison sentence, is absolutely notorious in the trade for the amount of editing his books always require). I continued because I thought I had something to say, and because, as an archaeologist, I wanted to find a way of filling the gaps that my excavations could never shed light on.

  4. I have now had the pleasure of reading Nancy's book, and what a book it is! If, as a child, you enjoyed the works of Rosemary Sutcliff (and I know few readers of historical fiction who didn't) then, as an adult, you will love this. It is the "adult version," in that there are sex scenes, and I personally find sex scenes very difficult to write. Even great writers often make a hash of them (Sebastian Faulks has a "Bad Sex Award"), but Nancy is at no risk of this. Hers are written with the elegance and tenderness and believability that one sees in the work of D.H. Lawrence. I will also say, as an archaeologist, that I find her vision of Late Iron Age society in Northern Britain more believable than just about any other I have seen in fiction.

  5. Mark, I'm so sorry that I'm only now getting this answer made. You have just boosted my confidence so much, and I'm very glad you have enjoyed reading The Beltane Choice.

  6. Hi Nancy

    Sorry to be late catching up here, and congratulations on your book release,The Beltane Choice sounds like a great read. Therre are a lot of historical sites in my native Wales, too, and they and the legends surrounding them are such a great source of inspiration.

    I've always made up stories in my head,I just love escaping into worlds of my imagination, and I'm not sure what the catalyst was to write them down, but I think a school friend encouraged me to do so and that spurred me on!

  7. That's a great nudge to take up writing, Hywela! I've only been to Wales a couple of times but loved what I saw. Didn't get into all the castles I wanted to, though, since we had two toddlers the first time, and then went to the north the second time.

  8. It would take a lifetime to explore the castles of Wales (let alone the other sites, and in conjunction with the fantastic literary heritage). I taught for several years at Carmarthen. I surveyed Llansteffan Castle with my students and took them to many other sites (Foel Trigarn, Pentre Ifan, Nevern - which oddly enough I'm writing about now), but really we were only scratching the surface!

  9. I love history, too. And fiction is such a great way to get others interested. It's wonderful that you have so much at your door.

  10. Hello To Mark and Cheryl. The British Isles does have a fantastic wealth of places to visit. There's always somewhere new. I agree, Mark, that a visit to a site for a couple of hours is never enough time to really explore all the possibilities. Thanks for visiting, Cheryl.

  11. Yes, thanks for visiting, Cheryl, but surely we all have history at our door if we look for it. I, perhaps, went for one of the easier options in Undreamed Shores, by featuring Stonehenge, a site both iconic and crying out for explanation. Nancy, in The Beltane Choice, does a great job with sites that are far less well known, and a handful of other writers (Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, Michelle Paver) have done so in much more remote and lesser known regions.