Nancy Jardine lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. After her primary teaching career ended in 2011, she ventured into fiction having already published local historical non-fiction. She reads across many genres but it’s no surprise that her seven published novels since 2011 are historical adventures or contemporary mysteries since she devours those genres!
Q: Who is the real Nancy Jardine?
A: No idea! Essentially, I’m a family first person with fantastic offspring and wonderful extended relatives to have zany adventures with. Sometimes I want to hide away for days, not see anyone at all and just do nothing but write…but I don’t tell them that!
Q: Every time we chat, you seem to be looking after your grandchildren, often 12 hours at a time. How do you manage to find the time to write?
A: Short answer: New writing is done slowly. I fit some in when I can concentrate and do blog posts and book marketing catch up when my brain is fried!
Longer answer: My grandkids are five and almost three and I love them to bits! They’re my charges two days a week plus other bits. They’re exhausting but kids grow quickly and I know I’ll be back to writing all day long like I was after I stopped teaching. I feel extremely privileged to see them almost every day. They’ve lived next door since 2015, so no hour-long commute to their house. Even better is their new house was built on my former back garden- a huge chunk of shrubbery and grass I don’t need to tend any more! My garden is often my escape, and I’ve still got lots to work with, but less is more! I’d love to say I compose new work as I cut the grass but I’d be lying – I just enjoy doing the mechanical task while I get fresh air and exercise.
Q: Who has been the biggest influence in your writing career?
A: Great question. No idea!
Q: You were born in Glasgow but now live in Aberdeenshire. Was it the move to northern Scotland that inspired your earlier novels of 1st century Roman Britain? How much research goes into writing historical books of this nature?
A: Not really…and loads!
History has always been a passion. During my late 1970s teaching career, I taught in a school near Falkirk, very close to the Roman Antonine Wall. That headteacher was extremely insistent on Scottish History being taught including the Roman history of the area. I was completely delighted about that!
Moving to Aberdeenshire in 1988 meant exploring the truly fabulous history that’s all over the shire- ancient and more modern. Standing stone circles, monoliths, brochs, and castles abound. During 2002-2004, there was an archaeological excavation in my home village of Kintore. When I learned that my garden is literally yards away from the corner of an Ancient Roman Marching Camp of c. AD 84 that held at least 10,000 Roman soldiers, my interest in Roman Scotland was rekindled big time! And yes- that certainly did spark my interest in writing novels set in Roman Scotland.
Researching the era is tough – probably why almost nobody writes about Roman Scotland. Few primary source texts means a reliance on archaeological interpretation and that can be problematic. Archaeologists don’t always agree with each other. Some interpretation of the 1970s is being doubted now due to much enhanced scientific techniques being used to interpret findings.
Keeping up is a daily exercise and it’s just as well that I adore research. I’m quite happily found procrastinating when I come across something new.
Q: You regularly do books signings, local book readings, and even sell your books at craft fairs, which I think is a brilliant idea. How successful have you found these to be?
A: Success is dependent on definition. If you mean huge monetary gain, the answer is probably no with regard to amount of hours spent. I love doing PowerPoint presentations to local groups on: 1) my novels; 2) Roman Scotland; or 3) a combination of both. Some want a simple ‘talk’ but I prefer sharing images since I’m essentially used to (young) learners learning better with visual input. Recent feedback from adults is my images make the information more entertaining and a lot clearer. An example would be me explaining what 10,000 Roman soldiers tramping over my shrubs would have looked like. Showing the audience the structure of 2 Roman Legions makes much better impact! Photos of locations in my contemporary novels, and images of my imagined characters, make a bigger impression on my audience of potential readers.
Obvious benefits? I recently sold 18 paperbacks and some ebooks to an audience of 40. (There was a spike in Amazon rankings) My saved basic PowerPoint presentations only need tweaking to suit the particular audience, so little time is spent now prepping my 1 hour stints.
At Craft Fairs I love talking face-to-face with potential readers. We have fantastic conversations about local history, or my contemporary locations. It’s great for acquiring ‘bookings’ for my author presentations. I don’t make much profit from the sale of one novel but during the season of 2016 (April to Dec) I sold 320 paperbacks that I wouldn’t have sold via Amazon or other sites. The downside of Craft Fairs is the long day- generally ‘6 hours’ plus travel. I take my laptop with me and either write blog posts or edit recent new work if there’s a lull. If the fair is busy, I go home happy and exhausted!
Q: Being published under Crooked Cat Publishing also means that your books are stocked in their bookstore and they support you at book fairs. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being with a publisher?
A: Advantages: 1) The ‘Cattery’ of Crooked Cat authors is fabulously supportive of each other, as are the owners of Crooked Cat. 2) ‘Crooked Cat’ refers to their purpose in choosing to publish quality work that doesn’t fit into fixed categories that traditional publishers will ONLY take on. Crooked Cat excels at publishing across many genres, many titles straddling sub-genres. My historical work is typical in that it’s not Historical Romance because I include too much historical detail, have multiple characters and because the books don’t all have HEA endings. My Celtic Fervour Series isn’t traditional Historical Fiction either because I consciously chose to write about higher echelon (imagined) Celtic clan members, rather than historical figures like Queen Bouddica. 3)Crooked Cat pays for editing; cover art design; formatting; some marketing and they upload the books onto many different ebook/ internet platforms that I haven’t worked out how to do yet for my self-published novel!
Disadvantages: There’s a very short time involved when asking my publisher to change the price of a book on Amazon, or on the other places they have it presented. Their publisher cut from a book sold is very fair, though a self-published book pricing is easier to control, and it’s simpler to personally track its earnings which then belong solely to the self-published author.
When I chose to self-publish my Teen Time Travel novel, because it’s historically based in my own local area of Aberdeenshire, I paid an editor but learned how to do the formatting myself. AARGH! That took the best part of a month’s writing time. I truly hadn’t realised how much skill and time proper formatting can take. I totally appreciate what Crooked Cat has done in formatting my work so professionally.
Q: When you wrote The Beltane Choice you crafted a love story that is timeless; Nara and Lorcan fall in love but the union looks impossible, yet finally love conquers all. However, by placing your main characters in 1st century Roman Britain it makes for a very unique love story. What made you choose this era, and when you were thinking of writing this story, was there any other era that you were thinking of placing them in at the time?
A: There was never another era for The Beltane Choice. Roman Britain and the Celts who lived there before the Roman invaders arrived enthrall me. When I looked at the timeline of Roman occupation of the north, it made sense to begin during the first major invasions of the barbarian areas of ‘Yorkshire and Cumbria’ first. I needed a good reason for the tribes who straddled the Scottish/ English border area to come together, to fight as one entity against the Romans, so the (not so simple) marriage alliance of Lorcan of the Brigantes and Nara of the Selgovae was conceived.
Q: Topaz Eyes was the finalist for The People’s Book Prize in 2014. This book is a romance mystery of family intrigue which centres round the missing jewel collection once owned by a Mughal emperor. Where did the idea come from for this book?
A: Before writing Topaz Eyes, I’d created a fairly simple family tree structure for my contemporary mystery Monogamy Twist. I enjoyed the ancestry aspect so much I decided to make a much more complex one for a deeper mystery with thriller aspects which became Topaz Eyes. Since I lived in Holland for three years (my two daughters were born there during a convenient career break), I decided to use an Amsterdam setting for the 1880s ‘matriarch’. It was feasible to have her family scattered immediately prior to World War II. This meant I could place contemporary family members in fabulous European and North American cities, most of which I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. The reader must decide who the deadliest cousins are and what they will do to lay hands on the collection! My time in Holland gave me ideas for the plot but also for formulating my characters. My other contemporary novels have stemmed from personal experiences as well.
Q: As a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Scottish Association of Writers, what benefits do you derive from being a member of these associations and would you encourage other writers to follow suit?
A: No direct benefits, as yet, since I’ve only been a member of RNA for a couple of years and I joined SAW last year. RNA meetings in London have been too far away to attend and I’ve been too late to enter anything for competitions— but I look towards future submissions. SAW has a Scottish Chapter, as of autumn 2016, and if all goes according to plan, I’m meeting some members very soon. Both groups (virtually) have lovely helpful members!
Q: What are you currently writing?
A: Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series-slowly! Book 4 picks up from the aftermath of the Battle at Beinn na Ciche in AD 84 between The Roman forces of General Agricola and the Celts led by Calgach. My imagination has to work really hard regarding Agricola’s strategies in Book 4 since nothing was written about that, at least nothing yet found. I’ve started a family saga beginning in Victorian Scotland and a second Teen Time Travel novel, also a Victorian Scotland adventure. Yes – I loved teaching about the Victorian era as well!