Today I’m delighted to introduce historical novelist Margaret Skea. I must admit I’m drawn to well researched and therefore historically accurate fiction – I get the pleasure of reading a cracking story and come away having learned something at the same time. More recently Margaret had turned to fictionalised biography and I’m looking forward to getting to know Katharina in due course (she’s already patiently waiting on my Kindle!).
Margaret Skea is an award-winning novelist and short story writer. Short story credits include Neil Gunn, Fish, the Historical Novel Society and Mslexia.
Her debut novel, Turn of the Tide, gained her the Beryl Bainbridge Award for ‘Best First-Time Novelist 2014’.
She is now a hybrid author publishing both through a mainstream publisher, Corazon, and under her own imprint, Sanderling Books.
Katharina: Deliverance, a fictionalised biography based on the life of the reformer Martin Luther’s wife, was placed 2nd in the Historical Novel Society new Novel Award 2018. The sequel, Katharina Fortitude, was released in July 2019.
She is particularly interested in the challenge of bringing relatively unknown historical characters out of the shadows.
So over to Margaret:-
Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
Where better to start than with two of the hymns I’d like to be sung at my funeral?
1. An old hymn that I have loved since I was a child and which always reminds me of the church my parents first took me to. The first verse goes like this:
‘With harps and with viols there stands a great throng,
In the presence of Jesus and sing this new song,
Unto Him who hath loved us and washed us from sin,
Unto Him be the glory, for ever, Amen.’
This hymn incidentally is very relevant to the climax of my latest book – though I can’t say why, or it would be a huge spoiler!!
2. A modern hymn by Stuart Townend, which begins:
‘In Christ alone, my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song.
The relevance of this is that I am a Christian first and a writer second. What do I mean? – My personal faith impacts on both the content and style of what I write, but, importantly, it gives me a responsibility to write to the best of my ability, because I believe this is a God-given gift I mustn’t waste.
3. I met my husband in the very first week of university and the rest, as they say, ‘is history’. Leaving home for the first time is a critical point in anyone’s life and one I shall always remember. A song that was riding high in the charts at the time and which therefore is significant for me was ‘Annie’s Song’ by John Denver;
‘You fill up my senses
Like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses
Come fill me again.’
4. I walked up the aisle at my wedding to ‘Ode to Joy’ from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony – so that music marks another significant milestone in my life.
5. One of my regrets (probably in common with a lot of other folk) is that I didn’t keep up playing the piano, despite having lessons as a young teenager. Periodically I think of taking it up again, but time always seems to defeat me. One piece that has always been a favourite is ‘Fur Elise’, and if I do ever begin to play again it will be the first piece I practice! (The second will be a more challenging Chopin piece in B Minor that I love for the haunting quality of a minor key.)
Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
My Bible – which of course having 66 books in it provides me with loads of hugely varied reading material!
Chocolate – especially dark chocolate with mint or ginger.
Trees – my husband’s family originates in Orkney (or if you go way back – from the Vikings). But Orkney is virtually treeless, so I’m glad we aren’t living there for I would find a treeless landscape dispiriting.
Bird song – even the pigeons cooing at 4.30 am!
The sea – in all weathers and moods – my instinctive ‘go to’ place in times of turmoil or distress.
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Be less sensitive – folk are probably not intending to be hurtful when they say things that cause pain.
Be the first to say sorry and attempt to repair a relationship – whether you feel / know you are in the right or not.
Live each day as if it may be your last – it’s a great way to sort out priorities.
Pursue your dreams – if you don’t achieve them at least you will know you gave it your best shot.
Don’t ignore an inner prompting – sometimes you only get one chance.
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.
I took myself to the beach at age 2½ and was indignant when my parents found me sitting in the shallows – apparently I said ‘I got here myself, I could come home myself.’
I was escorted home by the police at age 6 for trespassing in a walled garden – what 6-year-old wouldn’t believe that a high wall hid a ‘secret garden’?
I once took up the offer of the loan of an apartment and car in Boston, in order to do some research, from a man I’d only met for 10 minutes in my town library. As I’m still here you’ll realize he wasn’t the axe-murderer my mother-in-law feared, just a genuinely kind person who vacated his house for me and went to stay with his son for the duration (2 weeks).
I would love to have been a) an architect and b) an antique furniture restorer.
I have flown a WW2 Tiger Moth – and loved it!
What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?
Leave a legacy of faith to my children
Travel to the Hindu Kush to see the derelict cities of the Moghul Empire
Go to Petra
Write a book that would a) be eligible for and b) make it onto the Walter Scott shortlist.
Undertake one more restoration project.
Thanks so much for joining us today, it was fascinating to find out more about you. You certainly sounded a very independent children that knew what she wanted, I like that. It stands you in good stead for adult life. I think your advice resonates with that, take your chances when they come and live for today – something I heartily agree with. I didn’t know that Orkney doesn’t have many trees, something else I’ve learned today. I really hope that you get to tick off some of those items on your bucket list, a Walter Scott nomination would be wonderful.
Scotland 1586. A land in turmoil, a family torn apart. 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. Known as the Ayrshire Vendetta, it began in the 15th century and wasn’t finally resolved until the latter part of the 17th, the Cunninghames and Montgomeries dubbed the ‘Montagues and Capulets’ of Ayrshire.
Ayrshire 1597. The truce between the Cunninghame and Montgomerie clans is fragile. And for the Munro family, living in hiding under assumed names, these are dangerous times.
While Munro risks his life daily in the army of the French King, the spectre of discovery by William Cunninghame haunts his wife Kate. Her fears for their children and her absent husband realized as William’s desire for revenge tears their world apart.
Clan feuds, skullduggery and medieval warfare abound in this turbulent tale of 16th century Scotland and France.
A sweeping tale of compassion and cruelty, treachery and sacrifice, A House Divided is set against the backdrop of a religious war, feuding clans and the Great Scottish Witch Hunt of 1597.
1598. The French Wars of Religion are drawing to an end, the Edict of Nantes establishing religious freedom in all but Paris.
For the exiled Adam and Kate Munro, the child Kate carries symbolizes a new life free from past troubles, despite their lingering nostalgia for Scotland and the friendship of the Montgomeries.
When Adam foils an attempt on the French king’s life the whole family are called to court. But religious tensions remain high, and Paris holds dangers as well as delights.
For the Munros and Montgomeries alike, these are troubled times…
Following the death of her mother and her father’s remarriage, five-year-old Katharina is placed in the convent at Brehna. She will never see her father again.
Sixty-five miles away, at Erfurt in Thuringia, Martin Luder, a promising young law student, turns his back on a lucrative career in order to become a monk.
The consequences of their meeting in Wittenberg, on Easter Sunday 1523, will reverberate down the centuries and throughout the Christian world.
A compelling portrayal of Katharina von Bora, set against the turmoil of the Peasant’s War and the German Reformation … and the controversial priest at its heart.
Wittenberg 1525. The unexpected marriage of Martin Luther to Katharina von Bora has no fairytale ending.
A sign of apostasy to their enemies, and a source of consternation to their friends, it sends shock waves throughout Europe.
Yet, as they face persecution, poverty, war, plague and family tragedy, Katharina’s resilience and strength of character shines through.
While this book can be read as a standalone, it is also the powerful conclusion to her story, begun in Katharina: Deliverance.
A varied collection spanning four continents and three centuries, the characters include an aid worker in Afghanistan, a mother in WW1 Germany, a girl who defies the Taliban, a father seeking to support his family in Kenya, an elderly lady facing eviction, and a young woman discovering her unknown past.
In these stories, the majority of which have won or been placed in international competitions, secrets are uncovered, actions have consequences, moral dilemmas are faced and heart-rending choices made. Together they provide a mix of despair and determination, sadness, and also hope.
This collection of short historical fiction was selected from the many entries for the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award. Jonathan Pegg, Literary Agent, and Gillian Green, Publisher, Ebury/ Random House placed the three finalists. All 12 writers showed outstanding ability. The winner was The Beggar at the Gate by Jasmina Svenne. The runners up were The Pearl of Blenheim by Elizabeth Philips and A Funeral March Fit for a Prince by Anna Belfrage.
A compilation of essays from the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, this book provides a wealth of historical information from Roman Britain to early twentieth century England. Over fifty different authors share hundreds of real life stories and tantalizing tidbits discovered while doing research for their own historical novels.
From the first English word to Tudor ladies-in-waiting, from Regency dining and dress to Victorian crime and technology, immerse yourself in the lore of Great Britain. Read the history behind the fiction and discover the true tales surrounding England’s castles, customs, and kings.
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