Journey Through Scotland With Diane Magras

Guest Post

Meet Diane Magras

 

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Photo credit: Michael Magras

Diane Magras grew up on Mount Desert Island in Maine. She spent much of her childhood reading and writing, but also outside: racing on seaside granite slabs, darting through birch-lined marshes, and hiking mossy forests. She is the editor, writer, and chief fundraiser for the Maine Humanities Council. She volunteers at her son’s school library, and is addicted to tea, toast, castles, legends, and most things medieval. The Mad Wolf’s Daughter is her debut novel.

Links:

Website: www.dianemagras.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dianemagras

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dianemagrasbooks/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dianemagras/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36441547-the-mad-wolf-s-daughter

 

Guest Post

Setting a Scottish Historic Fantasy Take a lass with a sword and an injured knight and send them off on a tense journey together to save her family (his enemies) from being hanged. That’s a snapshot of the premise of The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, my debut novel, which was published on March 6. When I set The Mad Wolf’s Daughter in medieval Scotland, I didn’t pick the Highlands, that glorious land of hills, glens, coasts, and mountains. I claimed the Lowlands (also a glorious land of hills, glens, coasts, and slightly smaller mountains), which is not what people usual think of when they think “Scotland.”

This region (scribble a line through the lower part of Aberdeenshire, cross over above Stirling, and loop up over Dumfries and Galloway to the coast) is simply the rest of Scotland. In the Southern Lowlands during the early 13th century (when The Mad Wolf’s Daughter takes place), the region held a population with a sense of Scottish identity but also many Anglo-Norman cultural influences (not so much in Galloway, which had its own distinct Scottish warrior vibe).

It’s that not-Highland-but-still-Scottish identity that I was interested in, and also the region dominated at times by England. The landscape, which includes the main battlegrounds of the Scottish Wars of Independence nearly a hundred years after my novel takes place, show identity through its castles.

Both the Scots and the English built these magnificent fortresses. Most castles changed hands, changed back, and many were destroyed by Robert the Bruce as a means to prevent these valuable bastions from falling into enemy hands again (battles and life were that uncertain). In only a handful of cases were these castles rebuilt. My obsession with castles and my interest in the medieval conflict between the Scots and the English (not to mention the Scots and other Scots), but also the similarities between the people of the region, was one reason I wanted to set my novel in the Lowlands.

That’s the history behind my novel’s Scotland. Or least a wee bit of it.

Ready for the fantasy part?

The Mad Wolf’s Daughter is technically historical fantasy because the conflicts I describe didn’t happen—and the landscape isn’t entirely real. Well, it is, but as a combination of elements of historical Lowland Scotland that I combined for a coastline and woods that suited my story’s needs. While you can’t quite follow my wee lass Drest, and Emerick, the wounded knight, on their adventure in Scotland, I can tell you a few places in the Southern Lowlands that will give you a sense of The Mad Wolf’s Daughter’s world.

 

 

St. Abbs Head.SRae.jpgCaption: Scotland, UK (St Abbs Head (from Pettico Wick looking northwest)) via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s start with the headland where Drest grew up and where the novel begins. Scotland is full of dramatic coastlines that would fit nicely for this setting, so I had my pick. One region in the Borders fit my needs nicely: St. Abbs Head in Berwickshire. This is a coast of jagged cliffs with nooks and crannies, rocks strewn in the sea below, and a rugged character, just the kind of place where my tough wee lass would grow up to be strong. Imagine what the rest of the world would feel like if this landscape was the one you knew best!

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Caption: Iain Thompson, via Wikimedia Commons

Drest knows her cliffs and stones, and knows a bit of what woods are like from the trees in a ravine on the headland. The woods she encounters on her journey are unfamiliar and often frightening. I wanted to use a landscape of ancient woodlands filled with moss, oaks, and pines. And a perfect match for my needs was the incredible Woods of Cree in Galloway (it’s managed by the RSPB—Royal Society for the Protection of Birds—a U.K.-wide charity). I haven’t had the chance to visit yet, but the pictures I’ve seen (such as the one above) helped me build the world I’ve tried to create. It’s also helped that I’ve lived in areas of Maine with similar forests, so I know what such woods smell, feel, and sound like. (And my copies of Complete British Birds and A Handbook of Scotland’s Trees have kept me accurate to my chosen region.)

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Caption: Dirleton Castle isn’t quite a historic match for Faintree Castle, where Emerick lives and where Drest’s family are taken to be hanged, but it’s a castle in more or less the right region. And a beauty! Photo: Diane Magras

Picking a representative castle is the hardest part of this post. Most Lowland castles that would have fit Faintree Castle were destroyed in the early 14th century by Robert the Bruce, as mentioned above. And any surviving castle built in the era of my novel (Faintree Castle was built in the mid 1100s) would be, thanks to the ravages of time, in complete ruin by now. So picture this as a Norman castle, square-towered, built quickly but well, with two gatehouses, on an earthen promontory with cliffs below and cliffs all around it…all right, all right, like many castles in fiction, this may be the most fantastical part of my novel. Still, I encourage readers to visit just about any ruined castle in the Lowlands to get a sense of what being in a castle might have felt like.  That’s a brief snapshot of the Scotland of The Mad Wolf’s Daughter. I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour!

Book Details

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Art: Antonio Javier Caparo

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mad-Wolfs-Daughter-Diane-Magras/dp/0735229260/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1494165571&sr=8-1

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-mad-wolfs-daughter-diane-magras/1126270831?ean=9780735229266

Indiebound: http://www.powells.com/book/the-mad-wolfs-daughter-9780735229266/62-0

Interview with kc dyer

Author Interview

Meet kc dyer

kc dyer

kc dyer resides in the wilds of British Columbia in the company of an assortment of mammals, some of them human. She likes to walk in the woods and write books.

kc has spoken with thousands of kids in schools across Canada from British Columbia to PEI; across the US and in Europe and Asia. She is a director and long-time participant at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference.

Her most recent novel—a romantic comedy for grown-ups—is FINDING FRASER, first published in 2015, and reissued in a new Berkley edition in 2016. For teens, kc’s most recent work is FACING FIRE, a sequel to the acclaimed novel, A WALK THROUGH A WINDOW, and published by Doubleday. She has been writer-in-residence at New Westminster Secondary School, and a featured presenter at the National Council of English Teachers in both Philadelphia, PA and Chicago, Ill; YouthWrite in Penticton, BC; Young Authors in Kamloops, BC; WORD Vancouver, Canadian Authors’ Association in Victoria, BC; Ontario Library Association Super-Conference in Toronto, ON; Simon Fraser University Southbank Writers in Surrey, BC; WriteOn Bowen and many others.

kc is represented by Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary agency.

An unrepentant geekgirl, kc can be found on-line at www.kcdyer.com and sweetly tweeting @kcdyer.

 

How did you come up with Emma’s story? It is so realistic and at times extremely relatable.

I can say so myself I have fallen in love with multiple fictional characters over the years.
Ha! I thought of it one day in the shower, when I was having a particularly difficult time with another project. That day I was meeting my friend for a writing session, so I told her, and she laughed. That laugh was enough motivation to get the project underway!”
Including blog posts within the story and comments was brilliant. Did you write the blog entries before, after, or while the story itself was progressing?
“Oh, totally wrote them as a part of the narrative. I never write to an outline, so when I start a book I only have the vaguest idea of where it’s going to end up. In the case of FINDING FRASER, it was so much fun to watch the personas of the various other bloggers develop. I have a particular fondness for HiHoKitty. She was just an idea to start, but by the end she was as real to me as she is to Emma.”
What would be one thing you want readers to take from Emma’s story of finding herself and her “perfect” man?
“Ugh – that there is NO SUCH THING! Emma starts off this journey as an airhead, without a clue, really, about what a legitimate relationship looks like. She goes in search of someone fictional, and it takes quite a journey for her to realize that her need to mold herself into something she’s not is just as unrealistic as expecting her partners to do the same thing. This was a journey in search of self [with a beautiful travelogue thrown in as a bonus!].”
How did you go about discovering who Emma’s love interest would be?
“I seriously didn’t know until Emma did. In spite of all her foibles, I was pretty fond of her while I was writing her story. I just hoped things would work out for her, and they did!”
What makes the “perfect” man in your eyes?
“[See question 3!]”

Where to find kc:
Websites: kcdyer.com & FindingFraser.com
Twitter: @kcdyer and @FindingFraser
FB: kc dyer Instagram: kc.dyer on Instagram!

kc will also be at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, which she participates in every year! For more information about the conference, click here.

Thanks kc for your time! It was a pleasure reading Finding Fraser.