In my Author Spotlight today, I’m featuring Fife author Vicki Masters. Her novel The Castilians is based on true events which took place at St Andrews in the 16th Century. Find out more about that below. The ebook is currently on offer for just 99p until 18th June. Thanks for joining me Vicki. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
I was born and grew up on a farm a few miles outside St Andrews in Scotland. I went to school there, my grandparents lived in the town and I was in it almost every day. It was like growing up in the middle of a history lesson, book-ended by golfers and students. My historical novel closely follows the actual events of the siege of its castle, and is a love letter to my home town.
What inspired you to start writing?
Like many writers, I always aspired to write a book. I kept diaries, I faithfully followed the guidance laid out in the book the Artist’s Way for years and wrote ‘morning pages’ (thinking a book would magically emerge: it didn’t). Then, as the world spun, I wrote blogs. I wrote reports at work. I kept more diaries. It was as though I had a shameful secret… I wanted to be a writer — who did I think I was! Finally I got to an age that if I didn’t write a book then I was going to run out of life-time. Ten years after that, the long gestation was over and a fully finished novel emerged (and there are three others at various stages). I finally got it — writing a book is truly 5% inspiration, and 95% perspiration mixed with dogged determination.
Tell me about your journey to publication
I didn’t try to get an agent or publisher. I could see how the book might be promoted and didn’t want to give up the rights (or wait for years for publication, even if I did find an agent). Instead, I put my energy into learning how to indie publish and market my book. It’s hard work but I am enjoying it …and I find those who’ve gone before can be very generous with their time and support of a newbie.
In a nutshell, what is your book about?
It’s Scotland of 1546 and a preacher is burned at the stake. In revenge, a group of lairds seize St Andrews Castle foiling all attempts to re-take it. Local lad Will is among them, fighting for the Protestant cause. His treasonous actions place his family in grave danger, forcing his sister Bethia into an unwelcome alliance. As the long siege unravels, Bethia and Will struggle over where their loyalties lie and the choice they each must make — whether to save their family, or stay true to their beliefs and follow their hearts.
Finalist, Wishing Shelf Book Awards
Runner-up, SAW Barbara Hammond Trophy
How did you come up with the title for your book?
The group who took St Andrews Castle, killed its Cardinal and held it under siege for over 14 months, resisting the many attempts to re-take it, called themselves the Castilians. When I heard that, aged 12, I knew even then it was the perfect title for a book. I actually felt this shiver of excitement, a sixth sense I would one day write it, but I had no idea how very far in the future that would be.
How did you celebrate publication day?
Award winning historical fiction novelist, Margaret Skea was generous enough to host an online launch for me, and Dr Bess Rhodes of St Andrews University joined us. It felt so special, and especially in the middle of lockdown. The video is available on my website and includes an amazing virtual reconstruction of St Andrews streets from the 1500s, which is when the novel is set.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
The sequel, called A Joyous Entry, is due for publication on St Andrew’s Day, 30 November this year. It takes up, almost to the hour, where The Castilians left off.
What are you reading just now?
Research mostly – I’ve been enjoying ‘As Above, so Below’ by Rudy Rucker, a fictionalised account of Brueghel’s life.
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
I’d take as many Georgette Heyer novels as I could sneak in my pack. Her characters are brilliantly drawn and she immerses the reader in the era very successfully.
Is there a book you’d love to see made into a film?
Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. I’ve recently finished Pawn in Frankincense…and she writes on a grand scale.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
My website gives lots more information about the research and I also bring out a newsletter regularly, which you can sign up for.
I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
If you are tempted by the sound of The Castilians, you can order a copy here.
It’s available now in paperback or ebook formats.