Supernatural Scottish History with Cathy Donnelly

The Scottish have a long history of  ghost stories. Possibly because their national folk lore is full of clan warfare, murder, revenge, and way too much whiskey (how they managed to get the Irish to take the heat and get the reputation for all the drinking is beyond me. It’s brilliant PR) and all the good stuff that creates restless spirits in the first place. Cathy Donnelly has written a nifty story that blends historical fiction with the supernatural, in There is a Place.

So give. What’s the Cathy Donnelly story?

Cathy Donnelly, author of There is a Place
Cathy Donnelly, author of There is a Place

I’ve been an avid reader since I was a child when my grandfather gave me his old novels. He was a fan of Nevil Shute and after I devoured A Town Like Alice, On the Beach and Pied Piper, I wanted to read everything I could get my hands on. I always thought that one day I would write a book but it wasn’t until later in my life I pursued my dream. In a way I’m glad I waited because I was able to entwine many of my interests – history, the Knights Templar, Druids, Alexander the Great and the supernatural – into the mix of my storytelling.

Writing my first novel Distant Whispers, a historical reincarnation story, was a tremendous experience, and an interesting learning curve for me. I love the research part of writing and realised there is such a thing as too much research. If I had included everything I wanted to, I may have ended up with something about the size of War and Peace and exhausted my readers before they worked out what the story was about. Fortunately I curbed my urge to include everything and hopefully ended up with an enjoyable read. I was touched by feedback from my readers that they would like a sequel so that will be coming down the track.

And what’s the story behind the new book? What’s it about?

There is a Place is a Scottish historical novel. I lived in Scotland most of my life and have always been fascinated by its vast and interesting history, so I loved researching and writing this book.  It is the story of Michael whose brother dies in his arms at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. He will spend the rest of his life seeking forgiveness for the revenge he took.  That day also triggers in him the ability to see the dead.

We follow Michael as he studies in Rome, makes a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, and enters the priory on the island of Inchmahome in Scotland as an ordained priest. He becomes involved in the lives of the Royal Family, Lord John Erskine and the Knights Templar. Michael develops other gifts, including healing and travelling in time to the past. There is a time slip in the latter part of the book to the present day at the same locations, and includes scenes with my sister and brother-in-law who are fortunate to live beside Inchmahome.

Scottish history, templars, ghosts and castles.
Scottish history, templars, ghosts and castles.

What is it about that time period or character that intrigued you and motivated you to write about it?

Although you could pick any century in Scottish history and you would find a story to write about, I am particularly interested in the 16th century. It had many a bloody battle, including Flodden where 10,000 Scots lost their lives, intrigues with King Henry VIII, the death of two Kings of Scotland, the birth of Mary Queen of Scots and the reformation. A feast of tales.

What’s your favorite scene (and don’t say you can’t pick. Authors always say that, and it’s not true. We do love some of our children more than others.)

My favourite scene takes place at Rosslyn Chapel and involves Michael, the Knights Templar and some ghosts.

Where can people find you and your books?

I love to hear from readers and can be contacted via:

Website:  http://www.cathymdonnelly.com

Amazon Author Pagehttps://www.amazon.com/Cathy-M.-Donnelly/e/B01A0BXFA0

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13774671.Cathy_M_Donnelly

Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/Cathy-M-Donnelly-857935897561457/

For Scottish readers, or visitors to Scotland, There is a Place is also available from Alloa Tower, where many of the scenes are set. This medieval tower was built by the Erskine family in 1368 and is now under the care of the National Trust for Scotland.

Full disclosure, the picture at the top of the page is the tartan for Clan Forbes, my mother’s people. She always wanted me to wear a kilt–and no. Only one of many ways I disappointed that poor woman.

 

 

 

19th Century Scottish Mysteries with Lexie Conyngham

One of the beauties of historical fiction is finding yourself in a different time and place and totally making yourself to home. Just like in life, that rarely involves huge battles and famous people, sometimes you’d just like to live in a time when people don’t tread across your yard staring at their phones while looking for invisible creatures. A good writer can make you feel at home anywhere, even in a Scotland older than Sean Connery.

Lexie Conyngham, What’s the deal on you and the Letho of Murray series?

A very old photograph of Lexie Conyngham, apparently
A very old photograph of Lexie Conyngham, apparently

I’m a historian living North East Scotland, in the shadow of the Highlands. My Murray of Letho novels are born of a life amidst Scotland’s old cities and universities and hidden-away aristocratic estates, but I’ve been writing since the day I found out that people were allowed to do such a thing.

Beyond teaching and research, my days are spent with wool, wild allotments and a wee bit of whisky – and I’m fitting this interview in after a morning baking multiple batches of muffins for a church sale! (Editor’s note… that may be the single most Scottish sentence written since Robbie Burns declined killing that mouse.)

In a nutshell, what’s Death in a Scarlet Gown about?

It’s set in 1802. St. Andrews in Fife, an ancient Scottish university, is
wracked by murder. A vindictive professor, an uncouth student, and a man seeking ministry lie dead, but who wanted to kill them? Charles Murray, a student with enough problems of his own, is drawn into the mystery, where neither innocuous accidents nor good friends are all they seem. Death in a Scarlet Gown is the first in the Murray of Letho series, set in Georgian Scotland.

As a graduate of St. Andrews myself, I loved going back through the history of
that little grey town by the cold North Sea which its alumni miss so much.
Though the university is much bigger now, the centre of the town has not really
changed much in two hundred years! The later books are mostly set in Edinburgh and other parts of Fife, and in one case my hero heads off for India, but in the next Murray book I hope once again to return to St. Andrews (which of course is an excuse for  a ‘research’ visit).

Whatever you have to tell yourself, Lexie. What is it about this time period that fascinates you?

I was living in Edinburgh when I first started to write the series, and working
in Edinburgh’s New Town which is a Georgian architectural wonderland. I’d had a Georgian dolls’ house when I was a teenager for which I tried to make furniture, and the styles and fashions had always fascinated me. When I started to look into the people of the period I was hooked: think somewhere between Jane Austen, Walter Scott and (the much-later of course) Dorothy L. Sayers for culture and manners. There was so much going on, too: the Napoleonic Wars, the aftermath of the Jacobites, massive advances in science and medicine, the British involvement in India, the madness of King George III: there’s almost too much!
Without spoilers, what’s one of your favorite scenes in the  book?

About halfway through there’s a nice little fist fight, which like all

Death in a Scarlet Gown is the latest in the Murray of Letho series.
Death in a Scarlet Gown is part of  the  the Murray of Letho series.

unprofessional fist fights does not go smoothly. Writing action scenes doesn’t
come naturally to me, and I greatly admire those who can convey the detail of a
fight without losing the force of the action, but I think this one went quite
well in the end. Though the conflict is based on a massive misunderstanding, it
says a good deal about the characters involved without much in the way of
dialogue, and is, I hope, also quite funny, though I don’t generally do much
slapstick! I prefer one-liners. There’s one terribly sad scene, too, and while I
was quite pleased with it, it is too sad to be a favourite. It still makes me
cry.

Where can people find you and the Murray of Letho series?

Where can people find you and your book (links to Amazon page, Goodreads,
Twitter, Blog whatever)
You can find the books on Amazon

on Smashwords:

and on Kobo:

I have pages on Goodreads and Facebook:

Find my blog at www.murrayofletho.blogspot.co.uk, and there’s a Pinterest page
for each book in the series, too: https://uk.pinterest.com/lexieconyngham/