An Interview with Susanna Kearsley

Christina here and today it is my very great pleasure to welcome back Wench Emerita Susanna Kearsley to the blog to chat about her new novel, The Vanished Days, which will be published in the US on 5thOctober this year (and in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand next spring). It is a prequel and companion novel to The Winter Sea, and partly overlaps with the action in that book. It goes back in time to the 1680s and introduces the reader to the Moray and Graeme families.

 

I have had the honour of reading an ARC of this book, and as always, I was kept spellbound right to the end – it’s absolutely wonderful! It also gave me a very good excuse (as if I needed one!) to reread The Winter Sea, which is one of my all-time favourite novels.

 

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Susanna welcome! Please can you give us a brief summary of what The Vanished Days is about and how you came to write it?

 

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The history behind strange sayings

SherrifmuirNicola here, talking about odd historical phrases and sayings. The topic came to mind this week because I was reading an article about how the UK is awash with peculiar sayings and I’m sure that other countries and other languages are exactly the same. In fact many families share special phrases that have meaning only for them. Many of these have their roots in historical events. In our family, for instance, there are several sayings with Scots origins, reflecting my husband’s Scots roots. "Save your breath to cool your porridge" is one and, “There were bigger losses at Sheriffmuir” is my all time favourite. This is trotted out frequently when things go wrong in an effort to gain a sense of perspective.

Sherrifmuir was an engagement in the 1715 Jacobite rebellion. It took place on 13th November so we are almost at the anniversary of it. It was an inconclusive fight between the Jacobite army and the British government forces and in fact losses were relatively small compared with Culloden, for instance. In total there were just under 1000 men killed, wounded or captured but the bigger loss was the failure of the 1715 Jacobite rising. My mother-in-law went to school near Sherrifmuir and I wonder whether this was a local phrase. The famous poet Robert Burns, a favourite in our family, wrote a song in honour of the Battle of Sherrifmuir. “Mony a huntit, poor Red-coat / For fear amaist did swarf, man." Indeed.

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Jacobites!

Pine MartenNicola here. Today I’m talking about an eccentric museum in the Scottish Highlands, a ruined castle, a monument and… The “Harry Potter” train! The thing that unites them all is the Jacobites.

A couple of weeks ago, like Bonnie Prince Charlie, I made my way to the Scottish Highlands and enjoyed following in his footsteps around many of the places with connections to the Jacobite cause. (I also enjoyed seeing the wildlife, especially the pine marten in the picture which visited the bird table at the place we were staying!) I’ve always had a soft spot for the Stuart dynasty. Their political judgement might have been wayward but there is something dashing and romantic about their struggles again the Hanoverians. Like so many lost causes they appeal to the heart not the head.

The Jacobites aimed to restore the Roman Catholic King James VII and II, and his heirs, to the thrones of Scotland, England and Ireland. Jacobites rebelled against the British government a number of times between 1688 and 1745. There was support for the Stuart Monarchy all over the country but most particularly in the West Highlands of Scotland where some of the clans had strong Roman Catholic affiliations.   The story of Bonnie Prince Charlie has become inextricably linked with the Highlands and the Scottish clans but also with tins of shortbread, mugs and… trains.

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