Friday, May 27, 2016

Scots Wha Hae

As I’ve mentioned before, my New Books in Historical Fiction schedule has become crowded to the point where I can’t feature all the authors and books I would like to include. Antonia Barclay and Her Scottish Claymore is one such book.

Historical fiction combined with parody and an irreverent approach to both the past and romance, Antonia Barclay and Her Scottish Claymore tells the rollicking story of a memorable heroine in sparkling and often funny prose. I always enjoy a witty romance, and this one delivers, starting with the title. Jane Carter Barrett was kind enough to let me pepper her with written questions, so while we don’t have the full fifty-minute interview here, we do hit the highlights. For more information on Jane and her story, see her website. And thank you, Jane, for sharing your thoughts with us here!

How did you decide to start writing fiction? 

I began writing in college and continued in law school, but it was mainly technical writing, which wasn’t much fun and didn’t allow for a whole lot of creativity. Eventually, I experimented with writing fiction and discovered it was much more enjoyable. Besides Antonia, I have written one other book (which I’m shopping around right now to publish), started the sequel to Antonia, and also started a legal thriller set in Texas.

And how did Antonía Barclay and her story come to you? Do you have a Scottish background, or a particular interest in Scotland? 

After reading all I could find on Mary Queen of Scots, I found myself wishing that Mary had had a daughter. Consequently, I created the character of Antonia Barclay (Mary’s “should’ve been” daughter), and from that point the plot and other characters more or less spontaneously combusted in my brain. Naturally, Antonía had to resemble Mary in some ways, and this is the reason for Antonía’s lofty stature, independent spirit, and aptitude for riding. However, for plot purposes, Antonía could not be a dead ringer in terms of appearance, and thus Antonía did not inherit her mother’s trademark red hair and amber eyes. So it’s not necessarily that I wanted Antonía to be Mary’s daughter, but rather I desperately wanted Mary to have a daughter, to have had a daughter. And at this juncture, you can probably tell that I have to remind myself that Antonía is not an authentic historical figure, merely a figment of my imagination, but imagining will always make her real to me. And, of course, there’s always the off chance that history got it wrong, that Mary really did have a daughter, and Antonía really did exist.

And yes, my grandmother was born and raised near Kirriemuir so I’ve had a lifelong fascination with Scotland and the Scots!

Tell us about Antonía—and her Claymore—as personalities.

Breck Claymore was unequivocally the most challenging character for me to create, because he is a man of quiet dignity and by definition he couldn’t do a whole lot of talking. His calm solidity, stoic determination, and integrity had to be conveyed through action, not words; thus his dialogue could be neither lengthy nor abundant. The novel is Antonía’s story from beginning to end, and I tried to insinuate Mr. Claymore into it without eclipsing her light while also maintaining his strength of character. He had to possess both alpha and beta male characteristics in order to attract Antonía’s attention initially, and then as their relationship develops, he draws on these same characteristics to cope with her strong-willed and high-spirited nature. As a result, I made Mr. Claymore a self-made man with a job, a fortune, and a set of seriously broad shoulders. But despite Mr. Claymore’s fine qualities and his magnificent male musculature, he had roamed the Scottish countryside for nearly three decades without finding a woman worth marrying. Until, of course, he crosses paths with Miss Barclay. I’m not certain if I achieved my objective here, but I attempted to cultivate a new breed of man: The Alpheta Male. A man sufficiently secure and confident in his masculinity to view a woman as an equal partner in all respects, a man willing to relinquish both calling the shots and claiming the top position as a matter of course.

I was amused to see that you make an explicit pact with your readers, up front, not to get upset over anachronisms. Why is that? 

The last thing I wanted in writing this book was to offend hardcore historical fiction readers who expect extremely accurate representations of particular time periods. I have tremendous respect for the historical fiction genre and did not want to confuse or anger people who started to read what they thought was pure historical fiction only to discover that Antonia Barclay also contains elements of soft parody and romantic comedy.  So to avoid any misunderstanding from the outset of the book, I decided to include a caveat explaining that while the story has plenty of romance and adventure, it also has its fair share of modern-day allusions, irreverent humor, and a certain degree of incorrectness. 

What would you like readers to take away from “Antonia Barclay and Her Scottish Claymore”? 

Tenacity, perseverance, and self-reliance are probably not personality traits that were desired, instilled, or encouraged in the sixteenth-century young woman. But Antonía doesn’t care one whit what others think of her or what is expected of someone of her gender and social class. She trusts herself and is secure in herself. No swooning, kowtowing, or boohooing for her. Antonía is a tough critical thinker who is often contrary to the point of being a pain in the neck, but that’s who she is and if the entire world knows it so much the better. Suffering fools gladly and squandering time are not her deals. She makes no apologies for being herself, and when she sets goals she sticks to them, despite the obstacles and her own limitations. But having spouted all that platitudinous wisdom, I hope readers simply enjoy escaping to another time and place and enjoy the mix of fact and fiction.

What are you working on now?

As mentioned above, I’m working on two new books as well as attempting to find a publisher for my reently completed book called Thru the Iroquois Sky, which is more in the realm of the “New Adult” genre. If you’re interested here’s the synopsis:

Thru the Iroquois Sky is the story of a talented young athlete with bright prospects and boundless opportunities in front of him. In the spring of 1977, an extra layer of happiness is added to his already abundant supply of achievements and blessings. A quiet, introspective musician walks into his life and into his heart. Ben Longhouse is instantly smitten and immediately goes to work to make Evie St. Clair his own. He introduces her to his friends, his family, and his world as an assimilated Iroquois Indian. In turn, it doesn’t take long for Evie to become thoroughly enchanted with Ben’s sweet charm, selfless generosity, and lovable nature. To those who know the young couple, their future seems destined for success. But fate often has its own agenda.

On another note altogether, Five Directions Press’s very talented cover designer, Courtney J. Hall, has turned her hand to updating the cover for The Not Exactly Scarlet Pimpernel. You can see the results in the sidebar. The text is the same, except for some interior formatting changes to match the cover, and the book sites are in some cases taking a while to process the changes, but by this time next week the splashy new cover should be visible everywhere. And I, for one, am very excited, because I absolutely love Nina and Ian’s new “look.” Hope my readers agree!

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