Turn of the Tide: Winner of the Beryl Bainbridge Best First Time Author Award
Sequel – A House Divided – due on 15th October 2015
An ancient feud threatens Munro’s home, his family, even his life.
Munro owes allegiance to the Cunninghames and to the Earl of Glencairn. He escapes the bloody aftermath of a massacre, but cannot escape the disdain of the wife he sought to protect, nor inner conflict, as he wrestles with his conscience, with divided loyalties and, most dangerous of all, a growing friendship with the rival Montgomerie clan.
Set against the backdrop of the turmoil of the closing years of the sixteenth century, Turn of the Tide follows the fortunes of a fictional family trapped at the centre of a notorious historic feud between the Cunninghames and Montgomeries, the ‘Montagues and Capulets’ of Ayrshire.
Interview with Margaret Skea
Where do you get your ideas?
That varies, depending on what I’m writing. For short stories the inspiration can come anywhere, anytime. Whether it’s a snippet of overheard conversation, an item in a newspaper, a place or an event, anything that triggers a ‘what if’, a ‘why’ or a ‘who’ question can become the kernel of a story. For Turn of the Tide it was rather different. The story of the Ayrshire Vendetta was lurking somewhere in my subconscious for about 30 years, until I made the decision to write my first novel. Then up it popped and I just knew I had to write about it.
What is the hardest part of writing?
Starting! And particularly, as I’m writing historical fiction, knowing when to stop researching. And then not allowing myself to get distracted. I write at home and there are always things needing done, not to mention the lure of social media. I do need to discipline myself, turn off the internet and programme my day.
Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
Anyone from 10 to 110 who is interested in a good story, well told. My novels are historical fiction and have been described as of the ‘you are there’ variety, and that is exactly what I want the reader to feel. They are also for anyone who doesn’t require their reading to be spiced with explicit sex or strong language or excessive violence. You won’t find any of these in my writing.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
Munro, of course, who is the central (fictional) character in Turn of the Tide, and who is very conflicted and flawed. He begins badly, but manages to regain his integrity in the end. (Though I also have a sneaking fondness for Patrick Montgomerie, one of the historic characters. However there isn’t a lot of concrete information as to the real-life Patrick’s character, so my fondness may have more to do with how I chose to portray him.
How about your least favourite character and what makes them less appealing?
Without question Patrick Maxwell, also an historic character, who became, in real life, notorious because of his physical abuse of his wife.
If you could change one thing about your novel, what would it be?
Definitely the last sentence. I wrote and re-wrote it a zillion times before it was published, but, Murphy’s Law, it was no sooner ‘out there’ than I knew what I should have written. (Would changing it for the 2nd edition be cheating?)
Do you have any unique hobbies or talents?
As a student I collected the labels off miniature packets of Philadelphia Cheese – 40 years later I still have hundreds of them. ‘Unique’, would probably be a kind way to refer to it, my friends (and family) would say ‘weird’ was a more accurate description.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I am itching to start writing novel No 3. and am currently debating whether to continue with the Munro series or to take a wee break and write about someone else entirely. I also hope in the spring to embrace the digital age and publish a collection of short stories on Kindle.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
A big thank you to Melinda for the opportunity to be spotlighted on her blog, and to those who have given the time to read thus far. I hope you enjoy the following short extract –
Now a snippet from the opening of Turn of the Tide
Ayrshire 1586. Munro, a supporter of the Cunninghames, is charged with arranging the ambush and murder of a group of the rival Montgomerie clan.
As Munro entered the solar Lady Margaret Langshaw rose from her seat by the inglenook, one cheek flushed, the draught from the door rippling the tapestry on the wall behind her. She moved towards him, a figure come to life. He bent over her hand, her skin, buttermilk-white, unblemished, drifting with the scent of almonds as they touched.
‘A request, Lady, from Glencairn.’
‘My husband is from home. Can this wait?’
Munro proffered the letter. ‘It’s for you. Glencairn expects a reply tonight.’
Frowning, she slid her forefinger under the wax seal, her grip on the parchment tightening as she read. She looked up at Munro. ‘To betray a guest … a kinsman … and to such an end … Glencairn presumes much.’
Slate eyes met blue. Munro made his voice flat. ‘The Montgomeries are kin in marriage only. You are a Cunninghame.’
She bent to pick up the small shift, fallen to the floor as she rose to greet him, her fingers teasing at the edge of the unfinished smocking. ‘And for that I must risk my peace and that of my children?’
He dragged his eyes away, focused on the fire flaring in the hearth, on the basket of split logs, calloused with moss, stifled the unbidden thought – her bairn is likely ages with my own. Blocking the anguish in her voice and hating his own tone, he said, ‘We are none of us at peace. Our cousin Waterstone’s lady lies cold in bed at night and his bairns they say still cry out in their sleep.’
‘And am I to bring trouble to my lord too?’
‘No trouble. Glencairn asks a signal only. The real work is elsewhere.’
‘And if it goes awry? The sound of the rout will rebound to my door.’
‘Am I to take your refusal to Glencairn?’
She spoke so soft he had to bend his head to hear her. ‘I am a Cunninghame, God help me.’
About Margaret Skea
Margaret Skea grew up in Ulster during the ‘Troubles’ but now lives in the Scottish Borders. Studying Linguistics and then the Ulster-Scots dialect led to a fascination with the 16th and 17th century history of both Scotland and Ireland.
An award-winning short story writer, (credits include Neil Gunn, Winchester, Mslexia, Fish and the Historical Novel Society) she won both the Historical Fiction section in the Harper Collins/Alan Titchmarsh People’s Novelist Competition and the Beryl Bainbridge Best First Time Author 2014 for her debut novel,Turn of the Tide.
Both it and the sequel, A House Divided, due for publication in October, focus on a notorious vendetta in 16th century Scotland.
For your chance to win 1 of 5 ebook copies (MOBI or EPUB) of Turn of the Tide simply go to Margaret’s website leave a comment on her giveaway post and sign up to follow her website. ENDS 10/1/15. Winners selected randomly.