Stepping Back in Time Again

Iron Age roundhouseChristina here and I’ve been out and about again doing some research for the story I’m working on. As I think we’ve mentioned before on this blog, there really is nothing better for an author than being able to actually see or experience something for real. One of the best places to do that is at an outdoor museum, where they have reconstructed old buildings and environments so that the visitor can really experience what it would have been like to live there. Going to places like that feels like stepping back in time. Last week I found an excellent one – Butser Ancient Farm in Hampshire here in the UK – and took a day trip to see it. Well worth a visit!

Low hangingButser features experimental archaeology with reconstructions of buildings from various different periods of early history in Britain. It was started on a different site in 1972 with the aim of setting up a working ‘ancient farm’ so that archaeologists could test out their theories as to how people lived and farmed in the Iron Age. There are different varieties of ancient crops grown, and they have rare animal breeds. The focus is on education and research, and loads of people visit every year, especially school children coming to learn about the past.

Read more

Atmosphere and Memory

Dragon hillNicola here, pulling up a Wench classic blog from a few years ago as I’m travelling at the moment, far from my laptop!

Today I’m musing about the atmosphere of particular places. I’m taking us back a long way in English history, beyond the Regency, beyond those ubiquitous Tudors, to a time before the Norman Conquest when England was split into the Anglo Saxon seven kingdoms. The village where I live has a recorded history that goes back to this distant time – there are actual documents from the era relating to events that happened in this very place over a thousand years ago and I find that mind-blowing. As I walk along the footpaths and over the hills I frequently imagine how it might have looked in that time and try to see all the way back through the mists of history to think myself back there.  I can be pretty successful at this; when it’s quiet and I’m standing on the Ravens’ Fort and all I can hear are the birds singing and I feel the breeze on my face I can persuade myself, for a split second anyway, that I have travelled in time. Then an aeroplane flies over and I think perhaps not after all.

Certain places have a very strong sense of atmosphere. I’ve been to battlefields such as Flodden and Culloden where the whole landscape feels as though it is steeped in the bloodshed and suffering of the men who died there. I’ve visited historic houses that feel imbued with the personalities of the people who lived there, and I’ve wandered happily through gardens that feel peaceful or visited buildings that have a joyous atmosphere. How much of this is down to the emotional memory of the place and how much is down to my imagination, I cannot say. As writers and readers of historical fiction I think we all step into that other world. One of my books looks at “stone tape theory” which was an idea popular in the 19th century and later in the 1970s that places retain emotional memories in their very fabric. This is one theory said to account for ghostly sightings. It’s an intriguing idea around which to build a timeslip novel.

Read more

All that glitters …

Poster… isn’t gold – but sometimes it IS!

Christina here. Next week my latest book will be released and the idea for this story was sparked by the Galloway Hoard, a magnificent treasure found in Scotland in 2014. As soon as I heard about it, I was fascinated. I could only imagine how amazing it must feel to discover something like that. Despite having bought myself a metal detector a few years ago, I’ve never found anything other than a few rusty nails and a piece of iron pipe, so I decided I would have to fulfil this dream in my imagination instead. Add to this the fact that the hoard was of Viking origin and it seemed like serendipity! That’s when Hidden in the Mists started to take shape in my mind.

BirdThe hoard was probably buried around 900 AD and consists of various gold and silver items, as well as other more ordinary things. It’s one of the most incredible treasures ever found in Scotland and the richest one from the Viking age. I read all the articles about it when it was first revealed and couldn’t wait for it to go on display. That took a while as obviously the items had to be conserved and assessed first. Eventually, I was fortunate enough to see it in person, and I was enthralled by the many precious objects. My absolute favourite was a little gold pin in the shape of a bird which I had already used in another story, Whispers of the Runes. The hero of that book is a silversmith/jeweller and I had him make a pin just like this. I saw it as a bird of prey or a raven judging by its curved beak, but archaeologists felt it more resembled a flamingo. Most probably it’s a fantasy bird but either way, I just love how intricate it is, despite being so small!

Read more