A big welcome to writer Nancy Jardine

I've been swapping emails with Nancy for a while. It seems we are definitely kindred spirits when it comes to certain types of literature.She's managed to find some time in her busy schedule to answer a few questions and share her many enthusiasms. Welcome, Nancy. We'll try and keep up.

I can see from your website and blog that you’re a busy woman. When on earth do you find the time to write?
I write when I’m not child-minding, or gardening, or blogging, or writing interviews etc for other blogs, or doing social media/ marketing, or reading. It’s much the same story as every other writer, I guess. I’m pretty boring in that I’ve no time for other hobbies – except, of course, ancestry researching which is also spasmodic. I rarely watch TV and now watching a film is a novelty.

And the research! When does that take place?
I did a lot prior to beginning my current writing, a sequel to my historical The Beltane Choice. Sadly, I’ve a rubbish memory so if I don’t bookmark, or make thorough notes, I’m never sure I’m using the right information at a later time, so I’m constantly rechecking.  As a novelist, I know some people would say I don’t have to be historically accurate, but since I’m a lover of history I hate reading inaccuracies in the work of other authors. That means I want to be as accurate as possible. Anachronisms are anathema could be my motto!

Do you need to use libraries or is more info now available on the web?
My local library used the inter-library system to arrange for the loan of a particular document on Eboracum/ York from The British Library, a work that fellow Crooked Cat author, Mark Patton, recommended for me. Also using Mark’s recommendations, I bought some ‘used’ books from Amazon on Roman Britain which have been fantastic. Otherwise I use the internet, or my own stock of books bought while I was still teaching.

We crossed paths doing the marathon A to Z blog in April, and I was stunned you sustained it all on Celtic/Roman themes, from Agricola to Zosimus. How much effort did that take? And was it worth it?
It was definitely worth it from a personal point of view. I actually changed a number of things in my novel during the A to Z researching. Some information I’d already used in my writing was re-checked more to my satisfaction. The A to Z challenge drew more traffic to my blog, averaging between 70 -120 hits a day, but was generally more like 110 so that was worth it- though I had very few comments. I did ‘meet’ a German historian that I now connect with on facebook, and she’s a mine of information, especially on continental Roman aspects.  The effort to maintain the A to Z theme was quite considerable, so I’m largely taking May off from blogging! The huge downside was not spending that research and writing time on my current WIP.

I can see you loved the greats – H. Rider Haggard and so on. Why don’t people read them so much now?
I don’t know that answer- except to say they’re maybe not being ‘encouraged’ to read them. While growing up I was a copious, very fast reader and I was influenced by my father who loved the great adventure writers. From the age of 7 we had ‘Daddy and child’ bonding time when he walked me down to the local library about two miles away (we didn’t have a car). Of course, in a peripheral housing estate in Glasgow the concept of ‘quality time’ was ludicrous in the 50s and 60s but we talked about books all the time, there and back. I still occasionally went with him as an early teenager and we would sometimes ‘swap’ our books when we were finished (I got an adult ticket at 14). At school the English Lit curriculum was very traditional till I got to 5th year and was doing work for my ‘Higher English’ exam. Then the ‘classics’ were replaced by some more modern literature which included Hemingway and American writers. By then I was very eclectic and read everything I could get my hands on.

You write in several genres. Do you have a weakness for any particular one?
Not really. I feel that as a writer I’m still deciding which niche I like best, since I’ve only been a ‘serious’ writer since 2008. I really like the variety I’ve done so far. Before starting my current historical work in progress I’d have said that historical is my favourite, but now that I’m eight months into it I’m not so sure! 

Which of your books did you enjoy writing the most? (Am I allowed to ask that?!)
On a more intellectual level I’ve really enjoyed writing my historical work, since history is a passion. I loved the intricacies of creating the family tree for Topaz Eyes and really enjoyed working out the complex plot for the mystery within a mystery. But, writing about my almost ‘tongue in cheek’ handsome highland hero in my sensual romance Take Me Now was great fun to do. I set myself to writing a quick read, although it’s not short at 85 thousand words. It’s designed to be an entertaining contemporary romance but I need something more to hang a plot together so it’s also a corporate sabotage mystery. To get it published by The Wild Rose Press, which is a romance publisher, I had to make it very sensual!

I especially love the striking covers for your two Crooked Cat titles, The Beltane Choice and Topaz Eyes. How did they come about? What about your favourite cover – and why?
The two publishers I work with have very different covers. My Wild Rose Press novels are highly graphic, produced by their graphic artists, but are expensive to produce because of that. Take Me Now has already won a cover competition so I’m pretty fond of it!  I was involved much more in the concepts of my Crooked Cat covers. For The Beltane Choice we wanted something that set a typically Celtic mood. There are few Celtic/ Roman images ‘out there’ in the pool of available images to use to get something that was tasteful and suitable. I loved the idea of a ‘fiery’ Celtic knot so we went for that. For Topaz Eyes my publishers had dabbled with using images of Amsterdam, Vienna and Heidelberg on the cover but that made it look too much like a travel brochure. I had found the image of two imperial topaz stones on my favourite images site and was already using it in my book trailer video. That same image was used for my cover and I love the ‘aged tattered paper’ background they found for it.   

What did you do when Crooked Cat accepted your novels?
I was even more excited than when my first romance novel was accepted. Historically speaking The Beltane Choice was my second written novel, the first being a time-travel historical for kids. I had tried a number of places to get them published, had failed and decided to try my hand at a contemporary romance. Monogamy Twist, an ancestral mystery romance, was accepted on first submission in 2011, as was Take Me Now in 2012. While going through the publishers’ editing processes for those two romances I had revised The Beltane Choice - again - and had submitted it to Crooked Cat. When they accepted it in 2012 I was over the moon, dancing and crying (not really me) as it was the book I really, really, wanted published. When Topaz Eyes was accepted in the summer of 2012 I was totally ecstatic, since it was different from my other work. As a family we don’t need much of an excuse to get out the bubbly!

When you write, are you systematic – so many words a day, for example – or do you blitz when in the mood?
I wish I was systematic, but I’m not. Tuesdays and Thursdays I can’t write when officially child-minding my energetic granddaughter. That tends to mean Wednesday is a non-productive day as well since I can’t summon the discipline to block out everything and just write. On the days which are meant to be writing days (Fri - Mon) I’m still tending to spend too much time on marketing tasks. When I have real ideas I can make good headway but I need to be properly ‘back into’ the story. That often means a re-read of a recently done section to ‘pick up’ the flow after a break of some days. I’m also trying a new ‘style’ with this book so that’s taking more time than with my previous stories since I keep ‘slotting’ in more bits when more ideas occur to me. I’m definitely a ‘pantser’ in that respect. And the writing is sometimes slowed down by research details.

On your website, you wax nostalgic about comics. And yes! I remember Sandra and the Secret Ballet in the Bunty; I adored the Judy magazine. How much do you think they influenced your taste in reading – and writing, come to that?
I’ve no idea if anything is residual but I do know I avidly waited for them every week. My mother stopped the delivery of them so that I could go and pick them up from the local newsagent as soon as they arrived at the shop. That way I could pick them up on my way to school (I was around 8-10 years) and didn’t have to wait for the paper boy to deliver after school. My school was about a mile and a half walk from home and by the time I reached school I had scanned the 4 comics and knew which stories I’d read at break and lunch time in the playground! I also loved the fact that my older sister got the ‘boy’ comics (Topper/ Beezer/ Dandy and Beano) and I read them when she was finished. I was also reading everything written by Enid Blyton, The Chalet School stories… and loads of other series writers that I could get from the library. I got Biggles and things like that from my older male cousin and read them too. To me reading anything and everything was important and that lasted into my teaching career. As a teacher of P7 (ages 11-12 years) I was sometimes frowned upon for encouraging my reluctant readers to read comics, though that wasn’t during class time- only during inside break times if the weather was awful. I felt that reading comics was better than reading nothing at all.

I see you love to travel for inspiration. Where’s the most exotic place you’ve ever been?
If by most exotic you mean sort of tropical and expensive then a trip to Oman was very memorable. It was around 1995, I think, and I stayed in the Al Bustan Palace in Muscat. It was originally built as a sheik’s palace but was taken over by Intercontinental Hotels. It was a hotel all year round except when closed to the public for major Oil/ Middle East conferences. The interior has been redesigned since then but when I was there it was stunning, the interior atrium huge and lush. Middle Eastern art influence was everywhere. It’s the only hotel I remember having afternoon tea in beautiful surroundings with a world class harpist playing in the background – fantastic and so memorable. The private beach had very tasteful tiki bars, one of which served cocktails specially to order for me pre-dinner. Yum! The backdrop of awesome purplish mountains behind the startling white octagonal hotel building was really something to view. The wadi driving and dune trekking was unlike any other middle-east experience I’ve had. Once over those mountains which were close to the sea, the landscape was otherworldly- like a crater plopped red earthed moonscape. The fierce lightning storms and heavy rain which happened during my visit was incredibly dramatic, even a little bit scary, and was blamed on me since I was Scottish. Oman hardly ever has rain like that out of season!     

Nancy's mini Stone Henge, constructed from original stones in her garden, from the area where 10,000 Roman soldiers might have tramped back in AD 84. Inspiration for her current novel? Definitely.
I’m also Scottish, although I’m not lucky enough to live there. Where’s the most romantic place north of the border? How much does your homeland inspire you?
I’m not sure I could pick just one place. Since overseas travel was dependent on where my husband’s business needs took him we tended to take our family holidays in Great Britain covering as much ground as possible, though not all of those places are romantic. I could say that camping on the Mar Lodge Estate, not far from Braemar in the Cairngorms, is romantic since that’s where I first got to know my husband. But camping on open ground back in 1973- no facilities- would not be everyone’s idea of romance! I’ve tended to sneak Scotland into a lot of my writing to date. Only Monogamy Twist, set in Yorkshire, doesn’t have any Scottish references. All the other work does. Take Me Now, my fun romance, is set on a fictitious Scottish island off Oban, and I sneaked Scotland into Topaz Eyes by making Keira Drummond be from Edinburgh.

Finally, can you give us a hint about the current project?
I’ve been saying I’m almost finished my second historical, the sequel to The Beltane Choice, for ages - but every writing day I’m getting closer to that. The Beltane Choice, though a romance, was quoted as having ‘serious historical content’. This one at the moment is more ‘historical’ and less of the romance and could be loosely said to follow the Agricolan campaigns in northern Britain AD 70s and 80s – though Agricola is no more than a very minor character. Since the final form is likely to be different from today’s I’ll say no more!

That’s it, Nancy. Looking forward to the next book!

An ex-primary teacher, Nancy Jardine, lives in the castle country of Aberdeenshire – Scotland. Ancestry research is an intermittent hobby: neglecting her large garden in favour of writing is becoming the norm. Activity weekends with her extended family are prized since they give her great fodder for new writing.

A lover of history, it sneaks into most of her writing along with many of the fantastic world locations she has been fortunate to visit. Her published work to date has been two non fiction history related projects; two contemporary ancestral mysteries; one light-hearted contemporary romance mystery and a historical novel. She has been published by The Wild Rose Press and Crooked Cat Publishing

Amazon UK author page http://amzn.to/N6ye0z  
Amazon.com author page http://amzn.to/RJZzZz 

Interview by Pamela Kelt


  1. Morning, Pamela. Thank you for interviewing me - and for keeping in what now seems to be my very long answers to your lovely questions!

  2. Lovely interview, ladies. Always so happy to know more background on my colleagues!

    1. Hi Ailsa, there's always another bit to learn. Thanks for popping in and commenting!


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