Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Friend - Nancy Jardine

Welcome to today's Friday Friend, Nancy Jardine.
A former Primary teacher, Nancy 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.
What’s In a Name?
Hello Paula. I’m really delighted to visit you today. I’d like to talk about an area of the world I believe you will be familiar with, since I seem to remember you blogging about the Lake District. My historical novel, The Beltane Choice, is set in areas covering northern England, and over the border hills into southern Scotland. The year is AD 71.
Why did I write about that particular era? It was simply because I loved teaching about Celts and Romans to my primary school classes. There was such a lot we could discover about the influx of the Roman armies and how they dominated the land that was lived in by the Celtic tribes.
It was particularly good to be able to teach about how the further north the Roman armies marched, the less hospitable they found the landscape…and subsequently the more resistant they found the northern Celtic tribes. I chose that particular year since it was a crucial time for the Celts of Northern Britain. In the annals of Roman history, as in the works of Tacitus, the domination of the Brigantes of the north was strategically important for the Roman Empire. Subduing the Brigantes meant the Roman Army could march even further north, into the lands we refer to as Southern Scotland-in particular into the lands of the Celtic Selgovae. The island of Britannia was the last outpost of Europe to be conquered-the Roman Empire dominated pretty much everywhere else.

History isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it is mine, and I itched to use my scant factual knowledge in a work of fiction. The plot of The Beltane Choice changed over the different draft stages, but in essence what I wanted to contrive was some way of having a unity amongst normally warring Celtic tribes, in order for them to stand more united against the super-disciplined Roman legions. The relationship between my Nara of the Selgovae, and Lorcan of the Brigantes, became the linchpin of the plot for The Beltane Choice.
Sometime around the year 2000 I visited Hadrian’s Wall country. Housesteads-a Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall, in Northumberland-was a great place to steep myself in the remains of a Roman encampment. I also visited the nearby Vindolanda, another Roman Fort, to get more background knowledge. Travelling to those sites gave me some idea of what the countryside looks like. Some places change a lot over the centuries, but I can’t imaging the rolling hills of the North Pennines, and the Cheviot Hills, changing so drastically that they would have been vastly different. The lower slopes, I imagined, would have been much more wooded with mixed plantings, but the view from the high tops I could easily imagine.
Some years later, when I wrote the first draft, I created my fictional landscape for The Beltane Choice. I’d never written a historical novel before so I contrived to find names I liked which had some authenticity. By that, I mean I took names from a fairly recent Ordinance Survey map. The names I honed in on were ones which had a particularly nice cadence, or ones which sounded like they, perhaps, had a Celtic connection from way back. I don’t speak Gaelic, and am not familiar with the Northumbrian dialect, so any names I chose were just because I liked, and wanted, to use them. I pulled up my memories of the landscape I’d travelled in during my Housesteads, trip and matched them up with my knowledge of Galloway in Scotland. The crannog village of Gyptus I set in a lake scene that stuck in my mind, though I can not recall which lake it was. It was definitely a smaller one in the Lake District of England.
When it came to writing about the battle scenes with the Roman armies, I picked Whorl as the main place for the action. I have no way of knowing if there ever was an immense battle there, between Brigante tribes and the Roman army, but in my work of fiction that’s where it happened. I used other names, or very close to other names, for other places during the conflict.
Roman history tells of conflict happening to the north of Eboracum (the current city of York) around AD 71, the Roman army settling back at the Eboracum garrison afterwards. Treaties were then signed between the Brigantes and the Roman Governor, Petilius Cerialis, to the effect that if the northern Celts did not attack Roman occupied areas, then the Romans would not attempt another surge north. Those same documents, written by Tacitus among others, state the agreements lasted some seven years before there was a change of Roman policy. By then Julius Agricola had been made Governor of Britannia and he wanted to show his worth by conquering the whole island. I used this basic piece of history as a part of the basic plot for The Beltane Choice.
I really will be delighted if someone, who knows the areas well, can tell me if I made good judgements over my chosen names, after they read the book. So long as they are aware that The Beltane Choice is a work of fiction!
Thank you for giving me the opportunity of sharing some background to The Beltane Choice with you today, Paula. It’s been lovely visiting you!

Buy links:  Crooked Cat Bookstore:
Book Trailer for The Beltane Choice

Blurb:  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?


“Your spear, warrior-woman. What name do you go by?”
The Brigante’s burr was infuriating.
Aware of his change of mood, Nara hastened for her weapon. Almost letting her grasp it, he tugged it from her reach, his chortle derisive. “Nay. I do not think so. Not yet, woman of the Selgovae, of the tribe who call themselves hunters.”
Stung by his sneering attitude, Nara bristled. “You have saved me from the boar, Lorcan of Garrigill, but you may not toy with me, whatever you desire.”
Half-hooded lids flickered, a dangerous gleam settling, before his brows lifted skywards. “You have no knowledge of what I desire.”
His amusement rippled deep into her very centre, creating a heightened swell of reaction to wash through her. He paced around her setting off another quiver of unease…and a surge of anticipation she did not understand. The confrontation in his gaze she despised, but in a contrary way felt a deep response to it.
“And how do you think to stop me?” Sardonic humour permeated his gaze, which Nara did not appreciate when his head bent towards her.
“There is always a choice.” Her body tensed as she challenged him, her tongue sharp. “Did you not just tell me that?”
The Brigante chuckled. His rugged face came closer, so close the drooping facial hair prickled her skin. She reached forward, though she would have sworn she had had no intention to move. Covering up her strange response to him, she spluttered, “Leave me be! My tribespeople lie close.”

Other books by Nancy Jardine:



Thank you so much for visiting us today, Nancy. You've brought back many memories for me of visiting Hadrian's Wall, several times with groups of twelve-year-olds. One of them, on seeing scaffolding at Vindolanda, where restoration work was taking place, asked, "Oh, are they still building it?" As I'd given the class more than a dozen lessons on Roman Britain and the Wall, I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry!  


  1. Hi Paula. Thank you for presenting the post so beautifully! I'll be around all day, to answer comments, see you later!

  2. Very interesting post, Nancy! I, too, am inventing details based on research for my timetravel WIP. The Celts are an interesting people. Too bad they didn't leave written records like the Romans. History tends to be written by the victors.

  3. Nice to meet you, Anna. Too true! It is a pity we have few/ no real written Celtic records. What has b een passed down in myth is harder to corroborate as evidence! Glad you enjoyed the post.

  4. Hi Nancy,

    So nice to 'see' you here again celebrating another release with us!

    I loved the excerpt and the blurb. I can't wait to read the book.

    Paula, I had to chuckle about your last comment. I tell my students things all the time and I think they only hear half of what I'm saying...sigh...

  5. Hi Debra.
    I think we all have a bit in common with the student's not listening bit! I had a moment, or two, that was memorable as well....but that's for another blog /place!

  6. Wow, you certainly put in a lot of research! I'm very impressed, especially because you had to know enough to realize what you could make up without losing credibility. I'm currently trying my hand at a historical as well, and the research, frankly, is daunting. Great job! Thanks for visiting us today.

  7. Thank you, Jennifer. The research wasn't a burden as I love history! Good luck with your own historical.

  8. Thnks so much for being with us today, Nancy :-)

  9. My thanks to you, too, Paula! Now I need to give my 'Behind The Beltane Choice' blogs a wee bit of a rest, methinks! :-)