My first encounter with Shakespeare was at secondary school. Then, as now, studying his works was a non-negotiable part of the English Literature curriculum. Like most stroppy teenagers I found it very hard to understand the plays, and even harder to understand why anyone in their right mind would ever want to read them. Faced with a few hundred pages of solid text written more than three centuries earlier, and in a near-incomprehensible style into the bargain, our collective response was “What on earth is the point of all this?” (That, at any rate, was the gist of our collective response…)
What we stroppy teenagers had totally failed to appreciate, at least at first, is that the plays are not meant to be read in the same way that one would read novels. They were written for performance. It’s only when the text is translated into speech and action (on stage, screen or radio) that it really comes alive – and nowhere is this more apparent than in works which consist entirely of dialogue.
In an attempt to keep us interested, our English teacher allocated the main parts in the play to members of the class, and the key scenes were acted out at the front of the classroom. Our efforts were hardly RSC standard, but they did serve as an early lesson in the basic principle of “show-don’t-tell”. After this, Shakespeare did begin to make some kind of sense.
The play which we studied for O-Level (the equivalent of modern-day GCSE) was Julius Caesar. As I struggled with the idiosyncracies of rhyming couplets and iambic pentameter, little did I realise that more than forty years later this very play would form the backdrop for what was to become my third novel.
The Unkindest Cut of All is a murder mystery set in a theatre, during an amateur dramatic society’s production of Julius Caesar. The novel’s title is adapted from a quotation from Mark Antony’s crowd-turning funeral speech after Caesar’s death. The play is staged during the week which contains the Ides of March – March 15th, the date on which, according to tradition, Caesar was murdered.
When I’m writing my Celtic Fervour Saga Series, set in late 1st century Roman Britain, I depict a reality that my readers can immerse themselves in and totally relish. A 2019 review of Book 1 included: “The descriptions of the people, places, tribes etc are phenomenal – I literally felt like I was there.” Comments like these are absolutely delightful and tell me that what I strive for is well-appreciated.
Since written evidence for late 1st century Roman Britain is so scant, more than a quick dip into archaeology is needed, and other sources also help with world-building. Scientific disciplines like soil culture, land erosion, natural plant and animal habitats assist with describing the landscape of 2000 years ago – because, to me, it’s wrong to put characters of Roman Britain into the fields and farms of the 21st century and call it historical fiction.
However, I also acknowledge that what I write comes from speculative information. An archaeologist digs out an artefact from a situation, takes care to detail its surroundings, but what happens after that is his/her interpretation of its use in society. Since beginning the writing of my series in 2011, I’ve discovered a recent archaeologist interpretation of a historic site may differ from an interpretation of the 1970s. Both of those may also be quite different from those of the earliest historians and ‘hobby archaeologists’, from the Medieval era onwards (before archaeology was a proper scientific study with documented procedures).
I love reading that evidence uncovered four or five centuries ago is being given a new examination because the very early investigators were sometimes a little bit off the mark. A glaring example might be that, for a while, it was thought that the c. 73 miles of stone wall, which extends across the north of England, was built by Ancient Roman Emperor Septimius Severus. Severus’ Wall? I can see lots of heads negatively shaking right now! That opinion was formed by some of the early classical scholars who relied on translating the scant written texts available to them, in conjunction with studying some artefacts unearthed in the area. It was only after a lot more physical evidence was gradually uncovered that Emperor Hadrian was given the glory for being such an incredible frontier builder. Emperor Severus WAS in the Hadrian’s Wall area during his Caledonian campaigns of c. A.D. 210, but by then the wall had existed for around 90 years.
Now, it seems that almost every day, there’s new information on social media about artefacts uncovered from the forts and settlements that peppered Hadrian’s Wall. I’m heartily glad that we now get an almost daily update on archaeological digs, and it’s really exciting when we get glimpses of the evidence before they are cleaned. Even better is when I see daily webcam footage of ongoing archaeological investigations!
In late 2018, I visited a wonderful little museum in Melrose, in the Scottish Borders, run by the Trimontium Trust – though it’s currently closed to visitors and under expansion. When re-opened, its upgrade will make it mirror the typical museum style of the 21st century and in some ways, this saddens me. When I visited the one-roomed museum, it was literally crammed to the ceiling with evidence collected from the nearby Trimontium Roman Fort (Newstead Roman Fort) and wonderful reconstructions of what life might have been like at Trimontium during the few centuries of fort occupation. I hope the new museum will still have a similar tactile and visual impact. The most recent excavations indicate that the area housed multiple successive forts with adjacent temporary camps – the Romans adept at dismantling a building, levelling the ground, and rebuilding over the top. The downside being that process makes it difficult for archaeologists to asses the layouts of the earliest Flavian forts, especially the one which my characters would have inhabited.
Trimontium Roman Fort, named for the three peaks of the Eildon Hills behind it, was situated at a crossing of the River Tweed where the Ancient Roman Road we refer to as Dere Street wended its way northwards. Trimontium was therefore an important, strategic fort on the main route north/south and, unlike many forts in Scotland, had longer periods of use than some others.
The evidence collected at Trimontium has been astounding, as has that of another location on Hadrian’s Wall named Vindolanda Fort. I expect to be writing at length on my own blog about Trimontium and Vindolanda…not to be mistaken with Vinovia, which is yet another fort on Dere Street and not so far away from the ‘wall’
All of these forts feature in Book 5 of my Celtic Fervour Saga, expected to be published later in 2020 when I complete the stories of General Agricola, Beathan the Brigante and my Garrigill Clan.
Ocelot Press novels are all well-recommended, wonderful tales. Whatever you may be reading – enjoy the experience!
For the link to Nancy Jardine’s Author Page on amazon click HERE . All novels are available in #KindleUnlimited and paperback versions are available to order/buy at bookstores.
Huge excitement here at Ocelot Press as The Ghostly Father, Sue Barnard’s wonderful rewriting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, is launched in audiobook format! This is the first – but certainly not the last – of the Ocelot list to become an audiobook, and more will follow soon.
In the meantime, you can now listen to The Ghostly Father in the car, on the train, while you’re doing household or gardening tasks, or even in the bath (but be careful not to drop it in the water!). The possibilities are endless.
Think you know the world’s most famous love story? Think again. The alternative version of Romeo and Juliet, The Ghostly Father, is now in #audiobook format. @OcelotPress
If you haven’t already come across this lovely story, here’s the description:
Think you know the world’s most famous love story? Think again. What if the story of Romeo and Juliet really happened – but not quite in the way we’ve all been told?
This part-prequel, part-sequel to the original tale, told from the point of view of the Friar, tells how an ancient Italian manuscript reveals secrets and lies which have remained hidden for hundreds of years, and casts new doubts on the official story of Shakespeare’s famous star-crossed lovers.
If you love the Romeo and Juliet story but are disappointed with the way it ended, this is the book for you.
The Ghostly Father has two narrators: Danielle Cohen, a rising star in the audiobook narration world, who can master an amazing range of accents; and Philip Rose, a voice actor with long experience in voice-overs and audiobook narration.
“If you enjoy Historical Fiction or you’re curious about the genre, I highly recommend this series. The books should be read in order, in my opinion. I had no qualms about giving this 5 stars!“
The Blog Tour arranged for Agricola’s Bane, Book 4 of Nancy Jardine’s Celtic Fervour Historical Saga Series is now over and what a tour it has been!
Four Guest Posts written by the author were very well-received; one really entertaining Author Interview was conducted; four Extracts were posted; and along with general promotional material, a wonderful new clutch of 10 Reviews has been gained for the novel.
Choosing which of the reviews to mention here is a difficult task since they have been highly complimentary of the writing of the series and/or really positive. The variety of comments has been extremely helpful to Nancy as she progresses with the series.
A huge thank you goes to all of the participating bloggers and to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for organising such a well-executed and professional tour.
Here are a few of the review comments:
“As I’ve come to expect with a Nancy Jardine novel, the narrative is full to the brim with fascinating insights and historical details.”
“Nancy Jardine has done it again with Agricola’s Bane! I am in love with this series and I cannot rave about it enough. This is how Historical Fiction should be done.”
“As ever, I have enjoyed the story from both sides of the battle lines. The Celts and their unyielding determination to remain free of the Roman yoke is inspiring to read. Equally, the complexity of the ever-expanding Roman empire and their struggles in a new challenging climate are really interesting too!”
You can access all the Reviews, Guest Posts, Extracts and Interviews via Nancy’s own blog HERE
The Celtic Fervour Saga Series is available in ebook and paperback formats from Amazon; paperbacks can be ordered from your nearest bookstore.
We’re thrilled to share that Cathie Dunn‘s bestselling novel, Dark Deceit, is now available through Ocelot Press.
In a gripping combination of murder mystery, historical setting, and romance, Dark Deceit takes you to medieval England and Normandy in the era that became known as ’the Anarchy’ – the civil war waging for two decades between King Stephen, the usurper, and the Empress Matilda, rightful heir to the English throne.
Cathie is currently working on the long-awaited sequel.
A tale of danger, betrayal and love in medieval England & Normandy
On his return from battle at Lincoln, Geoffrey de Mortagne, undersheriff of Gloucester and spy for the Empress Matilda, assists a dying knight who had been ambushed. Promising to look after the welfare of the knight’s only daughter, Geoffrey stays at her manor, investigating the murder. Keen to join the Empress on her progress through England, he is torn between his oath and his duty.
Left to defend herself and her manor following her father’s murder, Alleyne de Bellac reluctantly accepts Geoffrey’s support. But as she doesn’t trust the taciturn stranger, she asks Will d’Arques, an old friend of her father’s, for help. But loyalties change, and she is no longer able to tell truth from lie. Her life in danger and her inheritance at stake, Alleyne must decide which man to trust.
Discover England and Normandy divided by a brutal civil war, where vows are broken as men switch allegiances between two sides.
Dark Deceit is the first in The Anarchy Trilogy. The second instalment will be released in 2020.
The Kindle version is now available on Amazon, with the paperback version to follow shortly. Enjoy the read!
Brennus of Garrigill—Bran—monitors Roman activity across Brigantia. Stability prevails till AD 78 when Agricola, Governor of Britannia, orders complete conquest of all barbarians. Brennus heads north, seeking the Caledon who will lead the northern tribes against Rome. Ineda treks northwards with her master, Tribune Valerius – supplies officer for Agricola’s Britannia campaigns. At Pinnata Castra, she escapes and seeks fellow Brigantes congregating for battle in the north.
The Legions of the Roman Empire and the Caledon allies clash at BeinnnaCiche in AD 84, but where are Brennus and Ineda? The adventures of the Garrigill Clan continue…
This is another well-researched and thrilling historical novel written by Nancy Jardine!
The book begins not long after the last book ended. Brennus is now back with his family…
Ocelot author Cathie Dunn’s latest novel is out today and is available in ebook and paperback formats from Amazon.
This dual timeline historical romance is set in the present-day Languedoc region in southern France and in its predecessor, Septimania, in the 8th century. Cathie lives in that area of France and has been able to do a lot of research in situ. Read on for more details of the story.
A tale of love, death and redemption…
AD 2018 Languedoc, south-west France
Madeleine Winters must live in her late mother’s old stone house in south-west France for one hear before she can claim her inheritance – and sell it! Reluctantly leaving her life in England, she begins to renovate the house. But she’s not prepared for all the discoveries…
Is it her imagination when she hears a woman’s voice? Or when the ground shakes?
When ancient human bones belonging to a female are found beneath the kitchen floor, the mystery deepens. How did the woman end up buried, without a sarcophagus and all alone, in that particular spot in the Cabardès hills?
And why were her bones broken?
AD 777 Septimania, on the western coast of the Mediterranean Sea
17-year-old Nanthild attends Charlemagne’s court with her father, where she is introduced to Bellon of Carcassonne. Unimpressed by the blustering young warrior, Nanthild is shocked when Charlemagne and her father arrange their wedding as a gesture of ensuring Bellon’s support in the king’s conquest of the volatile southern region of Septimania.
Despite his Visigoth origins, Bellon is installed as Count of Carcassonne, and he soon has to face challenges to Frankish rule that often keep him away from home – and his family.
Bellon’s absences make it easy for Nanthild to keep her calling as a healer and wise-woman from him, and she continues to visit those in need of her help.
But dangers lurk on her journey…
Readers of Kate Mosse and Barbara Erskine might enjoy the story of Love Lost in Time.