Sunday, 10 August 2014


Sunday Story

Why did I make the choices I did for the beginning of my Celtic Fervour Series? 

In response to a question asked of me, yesterday, at the Craft fair I attended to sell my books, I recapped more or less the following.

Many aspects of the Roman invasion of Britannia fascinate me. The failures and successes, on the western fringe of what was a massive Roman Empire by the end of the late first century AD make impressive reading. The inability of the Roman Empire to completely subdue the northern Britannic tribes, and keep them dominated, holds particular appeal to me. I love all periods of history, and none is easy to research, but some fascinate me more than others do. Celtic Roman Britain is one of those eras.

If Celtic tribes had left us with a plethora of written information that would have been incredible, but sadly, it doesn’t appear to exist. Accounts by Roman historians, like Tacitus, need to be read with caution since they tend to only reveal a conquering Roman viewpoint. This means a lot of what we 'know' about the time in Roman Britain is from archaeological interpretation and from comparisons with evidence found, or known of, in mainland Europe.

When I wrote the first draft of The Beltane Choice, I had been using various research materials to teach my primary class about the Roman Invasion of Aberdeenshire. 10,000 Roman soldiers encamped in a Roman Marching Camp a couple of hundred yards from my doorstep in Kintore, Aberdeenshire, in approximately AD 84, was impressive! Even more stunning was the concept that 30,000 + soldiers were encamped only 9 miles away at Durno, at approximately the same time- a very easy day's march for a Roman legion. Durno, a prime contender for what became known as 'the Battle of Mons Graupius', was something I became desperate to write about. 

So, why did I not begin my Celtic Fervour Series in 'Aberdeenshire'? The simple answer is that I was writing two different novels concurrently. I was using the Aberdeenshire location for an early teens time-travel novel which centred the action on an engagement with the Roman armies at Bennachie in AD 84, and didn't want to get myself confused between the two stories, since they were my first ventures as an author! (At a later date, I changed the time era of that time-travel to AD 210 to the Roman Severan campaigns of Aberdeenshire to make my stories even more different.) Since the novel for children was started first, I wanted a different location for what became my Celtic Fervour Series for adult consumption.

When I researched further, there was so much happening on the western boundary of the Roman Empire around AD 71, in what we now term northern Yorkshire and Cumbria, which I desperately needed to write about. My Garrigill Warrior tales then began with Lorcan of Garrigill being a Brigante warrior (north England) who encounters Nara of the Selgovae from over the high hills (southern Scotland).  In AD 71, the Romans had not yet infiltrated in large numbers into Scotland, as far as archeological interpretation shows, so I happily introduced the adventures of my Garrigill Warriors in northern 'England'. 
Book 1- The Beltane Choice  - loosely focuses on the Brigantes confrontation with an advancing Roman Empire of AD 71, when Roman Governor Cerialis send his troops to settle in Brigante territory. Towards the end of The Beltane Choice are references to my fictitious battle at Whorl. Whorl(ton) is real place in northern England currently found on OS maps. I’ve no evidence that a battle took place at Whorlton, although the location isn’t very far away from the documented stronghold of the Brigante King Venutius, at Stanwick, and Venutius probably did have some kind of engagement with the Romans near Stanwick (as documented by Tacitus).  

Books 2 and 3 are entitled After Whorl: Bran Reborn and After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks  because what happens in those books are a direct result of what happens to Brennus of Garrigill at the battle of Whorl.

I chose not to use kings or queens for my characters, and focused on elevated members of a Brigante tribe from the hillfort of - Garrigill ( a fictitious hillfort but a contemporary location in Yorkshire)- which made it easier for them to move from their home territory. Tribal loyalty and the frailties of people in general are to be read in The Beltane Choice. What evolved is a sensual novel with plenty of accurate detail.

There’s reference at the end of The Beltane Choice that the Brigantes came to the negotiation table with the Governor of Britannia - Quintus Petilius Cerialis Cesius Rufus - after which a peace of sorts reigned for around seven years, till Gnaeus Julius Agricola (The father-in-law of historian Tacitus) became Governor of Britannia. I used the 'peace' situation in Book 2 of the series, that 'haitus' between AD 71 and AD 78 keeping my action mainly in northern England. In Book 3 Brennus of Garrigill is on the move northwards into 'Scottish' territory, all the way up to the lands of the Taexali  'Aberdeenshire' where the third book culmintes in battle with Rome. Celts versus Romans, The followers of the 'Swordsman' Calgach against Agricola's Roman legions. 

On the writing table is at least one more novel. There's really almost nothing for me to use as research material for my version of Agricolan forces moving all the way to the Moray coast of Aberdeenshire. I'm into real imaginary fiction as I write it. All the historically authentic detail of daily life will find its way into Book 4 as well, but it will be my interpretation of what the Agricolan forces were sent to accomplish.

Amazon UK author page

Amazon US author page


No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for reading my blog. Please pop your thoughts about this post in the comment box. :-)