I have just finished a wonderful novel, While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax. It is a super read and I recommend it. (My review is on Goodreads).
After I finished reading, it occurred to me that as I lived near, and often visited Highclere Castle (Downton) when I lived in England, there must be numerous novels sited in actual places, rather than fictional ones. I have used my road trips the length and breath of England, Wales, Scotland and a portion of Canada to create locations in my books.
Knowing a place you are reading about is exciting as you can picture it exactly, and spot any errors, truth be told, as well. Of course, in the TV series of Downton the locations are many and not related to the fictional area at all in many cases. Here is a list of locations, many are far apart from each other! Link: That is the magic of TV & movies.
I used my many visits to castles, historic houses and ancient sites in my medieval novellas, The Rython Kingdom and Rython Legacy. Experiencing a place makes the narrative even more compelling and real to write about, and I hope that comes across in the stories.
For my speculative fiction novel, Life in Slake Patch, I used the enormity of a Canadian prairie as the setting for the male compound. Mountains are seen in the far distance, just like we see when driving west on the Yellowhead, but the concrete jungle is no longer in existence in my story.
What books have you read where you have known the location? Did it ring true? DId you find errors, or notice author’s license to fictionalize it?
This is a character interview with Owena from my steampunk novel, The Commodore’s Gift.
1. Tell me a little about yourself (where you live, who you are, what you look like.) Currently, I am living within a rebel stronghold, deep in a cave complex in a forest in England. I am the daughter of a widowed landowner and sister to an older brother, Benjamin. My mother died when I was young, and so being brought up in a male dominated household, I was able to pursue more exciting and physical pursuits. I am boyish in my interests, but as my body developed these pursuits became more difficult and frowned upon. I have a strong yet feminine body, long auburn hair and brown eyes. I am told I have a determined and fierce look. This reflects my true inner personality, I am not happy to play the ‘little woman’.
2. What do you like to do in your spare time? There is no spare time for any of us fighting the usurper King, but if I did have time to enjoy, I would be horse riding through the hills and valleys of my home. The freedom from conventional clothing, the wind in my loose hair and to control a strong, capable beast is truly magnificent.
3. Is there something more you would like to do? To find a way to pursue my ideal way of life, which is the opposite of what society expects. I do not want to be shackled to a man, his home, his rules and restricted by societal conventions. I want a man, who is my equal, to stand side by side, and right wrongs and protect those unable to protect themselves. I dream of traveling a life of adventure and experiences.
4. When did you first ride a horse? I was much younger than probably was acceptable. I was brought up by my father and brother and lacking a female role model, I initially rode with my father at five years of age and then quickly gained enough confidence to ride a pony at six years old. I did not ride sidesaddle, but astride, which was frowned upon, of course.
5. How did it feel to discard your female clothes in favor of more manly attire? Today’s fashion, in itself, constricts and limits a woman to the detriment of her health. Without the restriction of a corset and layers of petticoats, I felt free to move. No more stifled and moderated movements. With such agility I could certainly weld a sword more easily, as well as move more freely, it is liberating.
7. What would you say is your biggest quirk? I do not accept I have a quirk at all! However, my strength of character and ability to fight with a sword are viewed as unladylike to say the least, within our Victorian society. I do not bow down to such demeaning rules and conventions. I forge against the ill conceived view of women in society – this makes me ‘odd’ to many people.
8. Who are your enemies? I, and my fellow resistance fighters, have two common enemies. King Buldrick – the self-proclaimed king, whose revolt against the rightful king had the royal family flee for their lives, and Commodore Gripe-Rudhall. A man of such sadist cruelty, even to hear of his exploits can make a grown man vomit. He is without an ounce of compassion in his body. He welds such control, as the false king’s right hand man, that many have given up all hope. He is the one I aim to defeat.
9. What or who means the most to you in your life? What, if anything, would you do to keep them in your life? I would say my dear father and brother, and my friend and longtime companion Josephine are those souls I would protect with my life. However, there is another more recent acquaintance, who has become very important to me. But, I cannot reveal that relationship quite yet. (Read the book to find out!)
10. Are you fearless? No, far from it, but I found out that most people are not either. A man, however, can appear fearless, as he learns to control that fear, use it to his advantage and I am learning that lesson too. Fear can incapacitate or bring rage – it is up to the individual to use it best.
Do you have a question you would like to ask Owena?Put it in the comments.
I’m in the unusual position of having the potential to celebrate two Mother’s Day’s. In England the day is celebrated in March, however in Canada it is celebrated in May.
I wondered why this was the case, so did some research to find out why there are two dates. The Mother’s day in the America’s is a 20th century invention by a woman called Anna Jarvis. Her mother organized women’s groups to promote friendship and health, and was also a human rights activist during the Civil War of 1861. Anna wanted to celebrate her mother in a memorial service and did so on 12th May 1907. This was her late mother’s birthday. Within five years virtually every state was observing the day.
In England, Mothering Sunday was not originally to celebrate mother’s per se, but began as an explicitly religious event of the 16th Century, with no connection to mothers at all. The word “mothering” referred to the “mother church”, which is to say the main church or cathedral of the region. Thus the date falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent three weeks before Easter Sunday.
I was treated to supper and received this lovely calla lily.
The rest of my weekend was spent walking Sammie, editing book two of The Delphic Murders and reading.
What did you get up to?
What are you reading?
My current read is The Swan House by Elizabeth Musser. Blurb: Mary Swan Middleton has always taken for granted the advantages of her family’s wealth. But a tragedy that touches all of Atlanta sends her reeling in grief. When the family maid challenges her to reach out to the less fortunate as a way to ease her own pain, Mary Swan meets Carl-and everything changes. For although Carl is her opposite in nearly every way, he has something her privileged life could not give her. And when she seeks his help to uncover a mystery, she learns far more than she ever could have imagined.
My current read is My Ghosts by Mary Swan, the book I found in a small bookstore while traveling. I am enjoying the author’s style and get a real sense of the main protagonist and her plight. It is of particular interest to me as I too emigrated. Getting to know the customs, language and manner of another country is a remarkable journey for anyone. The novel character’s are from Scotland and travel to Toronto, Canada, while I was from England and came to Edmonton, Canada. You might think that there could be no language differences, but you would be wrong. For example, in England the front of a car is a bonnet but in Canada a hood, or the rear is a boot but here a trunk. I know a sidewalk as a pavement and a wrench as a spanner. This last item puzzled my Canadian work colleagues, when I first asked for one, but when I described it, I was informed the item was indeed a wrench not a spanner.
Languages are a combination of settlers and native inhabitants own language, which is assimilated into common use over generations. Accents are closely related to specific areas, where the majority of inhabitants are from a common location that influences dialect development. This can be from invasions, an influx of settlers or workers to the area and in modern times the use of slang has become incorporated. Another influence is class, where an upper class person will speak differently from a lower class person. It is the influence of their peers that affects their accent.
While writing a story, a writer has to be conscious of the dialect of an area they are writing about or indeed the origins of the character. I find no problem in writing English dialects and accents as I have known them for most of my life. However, as I write my Canadian detective series, I am conscious of word usage and slang. I have to check with my author friends as to the names of certain things. Once example is I use dado rail in a paragraph, but no-one knew what it was until I described it. Then it was clear the word I needed to use was chair rail.
Some author’s have a ‘key’ at the back of their fiction books, most commonly found in fantasy stories. However, I am sure that most readers can understand the ‘new’ words due their context within a sentence or paragraph and the repeated use. Obviously, we are used to a glossary in a non-fiction book, whil ewe study a subject.
Have you read a book with noticeable language differences to your own?
Did you find it easy to read or puzzling?
Was there a glossary at the back of the book? Did it hinder your reading or help?
My daughter asked me to find certain photographs for her recently. As I went though hundreds of photos (not the digital kind either!) in this large tea chest, that belonged my Mother, it was quite apparent that the numerous family day trips and vacations all had one common thread – nature and wildlife. We went to zoo’s, safari parks, wildlife parks, and even family walks ended up at farms or in fields and forests. This interest has been passed down from parent to child and grandchild. It is a family interest to this day.
My narratives reflect this fascination, even if a location is ‘off world’ there are always references to the natural inhabitants of that world. In Ockleberries to the Rescue, although there are magical woodland sprites caring for forest animals, it is based on Earth. Each chapter allows a child to learn about a specific animal or bird on Earth. These sketch’s by J.E. McKnight illustrate some of the chapter headers.
In Clickety Click there is a hidden world within our own and in Creature Hunt on Planet Toaria there are fantastical plants and animals of my imagination. The initial spark for the story behind Creature Hunt was a chance encounter with this enormous mullein plant on one of my road trips. As can see it was taller than me! You will have to read the book to find out what character it plays.
In The Twesome Loop, an Italian olive grove is a fundamental part of the story. Olive trees can grow for hundreds of years and their gnarly trunks give them character. The story is set between England and Italy, two places I love very much, having lived in one and visited the other.
I used my new found knowledge of my new home, Canada, for the setting of my novel, Life in Slake Patch, which has a prairie location. And The Commodore’s Gift has my protagonists living in a forest cavern, while I take my readers back to medieval England in The Rython Kingdom and Rython Legacy.
As you can see the settings for my stories are as much a character as the protagonists are. It allows my dear readers to imagine the surroundings and the flora and fauna. I personally love discovering the natural world, while letting nature relax and inspire me. There is always something new to learn and see from a bug to a bison, from a flower to a tree.