A Scottish Seafaring Mystery- Bill Kirton

I’ve always loved sea-faring stories, which is odd since I can get “mal-de-mer” in a hot tub. Still, the idea of being on a schooner is romantic and thrilling. Bill Kirton has captured that spirit, plus what historical fiction does best, he focuses on a little-known art: the carving of the elaborate figureheads ships bore. His two-part series The Figurehead, and his latest, The Likeness.

So, Bill. You’re an interesting cat. What’s your story?

I’ve been lucky. My main job was as a university lecturer teaching French, which involved sitting around with intelligent, dedicated young people talking about books. I also presented TV programmes during which I went hang-gliding, drove a racing car, flew a glider and a plane, interviewed people and failed miserably at water-skiing. I was a voice-over artist for radio and TV and wrote and performed songs and sketches at the Edinburgh Festival. I’ve also written, directed and acted in stage plays in Scotland and the USA.

What’s the plot of The Likeness?

The book’s set in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1841. It’s the sequel to my first historical novel, The Figurehead, and it features a figurehead carver, a visiting troupe of actors performing maritime melodramas, and the strong-willed daughter of a ship-owning merchant in the city. There’s a suspicious death (which the carver investigates), a romance, which started in the first book and comes to its maturity in the second, and the first steps of the heroine in the (man’s) world of early Victorian commerce.

It was written to satisfy the demands of some readers who said nice things about The Figurehead, and pressured me to write a sequel.

That’s how Acre’s Orphans came about, readers wouldn’t let me give Lucca any rest. What is it about the story that     had you so fascinated?

The book had a strange genesis. I’d written five modern crime novels and a non-writing friend said to me ‘You should write about a figurehead carver.’ ‘Why?’ I said, and he just shrugged his shoulders. But I love anything connected with the old, square-rigged sailing ships and Aberdeen has such a great ship-building past that I was hooked on the idea. It also gave me an excuse to learn wood carving (so that I could convey how it feels to create figureheads) and fulfil a fantasy by being part of the crew on the beautiful Danish sailing ship, Christian Radich, on a trip from Oslo to Aberdeen.

I know this is an unfair question, but do you have a favorite scene?

Helen Anderson, the female lead, is often a scene-stealer, so any time she appears, things happen, but the activities of the actors during play rehearsals and performances, as well as the workings of stage machinery and effects in Victorian theatre are fascinating. From that, I even learned where the expression ‘You’ve stolen my thunder’ came from.

There’s also Helen’s voyage on board one of her father’s ships. And the final two scenes – the ‘reveal’ of whodunit, then the decision the carver and Helen eventually make about their future. Writing all of them presented different challenges so it’s hard to pick a favourite.

Where can we learn more about you and your work?

My website and blog are at www.billkirton.com and both books are on Amazon, where my author page is https://www.amazon.com/Bill-Kirton/e/B001KDNSLY, and Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/1100307.Bill_Kirton

And on Twitter, I’m @carver22

Not to barge in on Bill’s interview, but Acre’s Orphans is now  available for pre-order on Amazon,  Barnes and Noble, and Chapters. Please help us launch it successfully by buying now. And any time you read a book  like The Likeness (or one of mine,) please leave an Amazon or Goodreads review. It’s like applause for  the author.

Barbary Pirates and Scottish Lasses with Josanna Thompson

Most of us think pirates and we immediately go to yo-ho-ho and rum and all that. But the Barbary Pirates were no joke. Today’s interview is with Josanna Thompson, who gives us a gripping tale of Algerian pirates and sweet Scottish lassies.

So, Josanna, what’s your deal?

Hi!  I’m Josanna Thompson, and I’m the author of A Maiden’s Honor.  I’ve been weaving stories for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved history and learning about how people lived way back then. I’m also an avid traveler and was fortunate enough to explore many of these distant lands in my stories. When I’m not traveling, I live a quiet life with my husband in New England.


What’s the story behind A Maiden’s Honor?

It’s complicated to say the very least. What can I say, it’s not in me to write a simple tale. A Maiden’s Honor is no exception.  In fact, it’s two stories. The primary part follows the journey of Sarah Campbell. The other follows the journey of my villain, Naa’il Dhar. Their stories eventually intertwine.

Raised by her Scottish father and the natives of a remote island in the South Pacific, Sarah and her father embark on a perilous journey to Scotland. She knew that her life would change when she left her beloved island. Never did Sarah imagine that she would be sold into a harem. With her father murdered and everything that she had ever known gone, only Hassan Aziz, the most feared pirate on the Barbary Coast can save her. But is Hassan willing to jeopardize his secret mission and risk his life and the lives of his crew to shield this intoxicating maiden from slavery?

Naa’il is the Dey of Algiers, a man who has everything including, wealth, power, wives, slaves, concubines. Drawn to two beautiful American captives, Naa’il tests their loyalty to each other. Little does he know that his game will have devastating consequences… especially for him.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

One of my favorite scenes takes place between Sarah and the hero, Hassan Aziz. Sarah’s father had died early that morning. Hassan returns to his cabin and finds Sarah sitting beside the window looking reverently at her trunk filled with “treasures” from her life on her island. Hassan can tell she is sad, he sits beside her. She opens her trunk and pulls out four objects, a bamboo comb, a flat shell, a sharks tooth and a mat. Hassan gives into his curiosity and asks her about the purpose of these objects. Sarah proceeds to tell him about her life on her island while demonstrating the use of each one.

I love this scene because it’s such a sweet interlude between these two strangers. This is the beginning of their love affair.

 Where can we learn more about you and your work?

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Maidens-Honor-Woman-Eden-Book-ebook/dp/B076FQ27S8

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/JosannaThompsonAuthor/?ref=bookmarks

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17238374.Josanna_Thompson

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

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/josannathompson/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JosannaThompson

Look me up. I always enjoy chatting with readers.

Oh, I have a killer website. I built it like a DVD and packed it with lots of extras, including, a blog, interviews with characters, and articles about my research. I also give readers an opportunity to ask my characters questions. They are very chatty and would love to hear from you. (Click on the link below.)  Check back from time to time. I’m always adding to it.

My website:


 This is kind of a cool idea. Josanna has a feature on her site that says “Ask my character a question:” What would you ask her? I may steal this idea.


 Thanks for interviewing me, Wayne.  I had a great time answering your questions!

Subscribe to my newsletter and get a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Acre’s Bastard.  Each month you’ll receive links to interviews with great authors, news about upcoming events and previews of my work in progress, Acre’s Orphans. Look at the bottom left of the page for the sign-up sheet. No spam, just once a month updates and a chance to learn about great new Historical Fiction of all types from around the world.


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


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

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/