Today I’m delighted to feature historical fiction author Sarah Maine. Sarah writes engaging novels that explores how the landscape can alter perspective, and how characters are shaped by wild, unfamiliar places.
Sarah did not start writing fiction until her mid 50s and her debut The House between Tides was Waterstone’s Scottish Book of the Year in 2019. Since then two of her other books (Women of the Dunes and Alchemy and Rose) have been Waterstone’s Scottish Books of the Month. With Anglo-Scottish heritage she likes to write about Scotland and the wide diaspora where Scottish people settled. Her own family has had generations of contact with Australia, New Zealand and Canada and she spent her teenage years in Canada before returning to the UK to study archaeology. A career in archaeology allowed her to travel as well as be involved in fascinating projects in the UK. Her latest book The Awakenings has just been published by Hodder and Stoughton.
Over to Sarah:
Which piece of music/song would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
Cool Water by the Sons of the Pioneers. Hilariously this was my very reserved father’s favourite wind-down music after he came in exhausted after a stressful week in his single-handed doctor’s surgery.
Women of Ireland by the Chieftains. I used to listen to this in existentialist moments when growing up and trying to work out the meaning of life. Still work in progress. . .
We’ll Meet on the Ledge by Fairport Convention. My lovely husband was a devoted follower
Landslide by Fleetwood Mac. A high point of family life was seeing Fleetwood Mac in the Rumours revival playing at Madison Square Gardens in New York and so I canvassed opinions amongst them and this track was the agreed memorable one (of many)
Wild theme by Mark Knopfler. Especially the version with the saxophone. Says it all for me. Wide open skies and far horizons.
What (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.
Paper and pen (equally so)
Sound system and my playlists
Oceans or lakes (or is that cheating, having two?) – not cheating Sarah, they’re both bodies of water
Can you offer a piece of advice for your younger self?
Plan, but deviating from the plan is absolutely fine.
Be more confident, everyone else is just pretending too.
Accept any (reasonable and attractive) opportunities.
Play the hand you are dealt.
Learn what is important, and value it.
Tell us something that most people don’t know about you
Steered a square-rigged brigantine, aged 16. Loved it despite being sick immediately after.
Sang on the pier at Blackpool and got a stick of rock. Put up to it by grandparents. Mortified.
Went fishing off the coast of Maine and caught a baby sand shark with huge teeth.
I enjoy kippers for breakfast
I keep secrets very well
Tell us something you’d still like to do or achieve.
I’d like to continue writing.
I’d like to see pristine Alaska while it still is.
I’d like to learn to play the violin but I know it won’t happen now
I’d like to declutter the house – one day
We’d all like to do some good in this troubled world, wouldn’t we?
Many thanks for joining me today Sarah, and also for some great music choices. I also have a Scottish ancestry and in my teens was very into ‘Celtic’ folk music. I also saw Fairport quite a few times myself as I was a big fan of Dave Swarbrick. I fully endorse all your advice to your younger self, I certainly wish I’d been more confident – I still wish that now at times! I love your tale of singing on Blackpool pier, at least you got a stick of rock, so that was a win. I hope you get to tick off some (if not all) of your dreams, if you discover the secret of how to declutter the house let me know – I understand the theory but …
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Yorkshire, 1890. Having lost her father and brothers in tragic circumstances, Olwen Malkon is forced to leave her childhood home to live with her uncle’s family. In his chill vicarage, however, she fears that she is also losing her mind, as strange dreams take her into the life of Ælfwyn, a woman from a distant past whose fate is overshadowed by menace and betrayal.
In the grip of these afflictions, Olwen finds sympathy with the local doctor, John Osbourne, who is intrigued by her case. Suspecting darker undercurrents are at work, John comes into conflict with Olwen’s family, who dismiss her as a hysteric and, when he seeks to protect her, with the law.
As the dreams intensify, danger awaits them both. But when they begin to mirror reality, she and John start to suspect that it is these visions of the past which hold the answers . . .
Alchemy and Rose
A beautiful and sweeping historical novel that takes the reader from the west coast of New Zealand, to Scotland and Melbourne in the 1870s
1866. Will Stewart is one of many who have left their old lives behind to seek their fortunes in New Zealand’s last great gold rush. The conditions are hostile and the outlook bleak, but he must push on in his uncertain search for the elusive buried treasure.
Rose is about to arrive on the shores of South Island when a storm hits and her ship is wrecked. Just when all seems lost she is snatched from the jaws of death by Will, who risks his life to save her. Drawn together by circumstance, they stay together by choice and for a while it seems that their stars have finally aligned.
But after a terrible misunderstanding they are cruelly separated, and their new-found happiness is shattered. As Will chases Rose across oceans and continents, he must come to terms with the possibility that he might never see her again. And if he does, he will have to face the man who took her . . .
Women of the Dunes
It is the women who are keepers of tales.
Atmospheric, intoxicating and filled with intrigue, this sweeping novel is an epic story spanning the centuries, that links three women together across history.
Libby Snow spent her childhood hearing stories and legends from long ago. Now an archaeologist, her job is to dig deeper into the past, but her excavation at Ullaness, on Scotland’s west coast has a very personal resonance. For the headland of Ullaness holds not only the secrets of the legend of Ulla, the Norsewoman, but also begins the strange story of Ellen.
Libby’s grandmother passed on these tales – of love, betrayal and loss – but the more Libby learns at Ullaness, the more twisted the threads become. When human remains are discovered in the dunes, it becomes clear that time, and intention, have distorted accounts of what happened there. Is it too late to uncover the truth? Or is Libby herself in danger of being caught up in this tangled web of fable and deceit?
The House Between Tides
A captivating story of a crumbling estate in the wilds of Scotland, its century-old secret and an enduring mystery…
Following the death of her last living relative, Hetty Deveraux leaves London and her strained relationship behind for Muirlan, her ancestral home in Scotland – now in ruins. As Hetty dives headfirst into the repairs, she discovers a shocking secret protected by the house for a hundred years.
With only whispered rumours circulating among the local villagers and a handful of leads to guide her, Hetty finds the power of the past is still affecting her present in startling ways.
Beyond the Wild River
Scotland,1893. Nineteen-year-old Evelyn Ballantyre, the daughter of a wealthy landowner, has rarely strayed from her family’s estate in the Scottish Borders. She was once close to her philanthropist father, but his silence over what really happened on the day a poacher was shot on estate land has come between them.
An invitation to accompany her father to Canada is a chance for Evelyn to escape her limited existence. But once there, on the wild and turbulent Nipigon river, she is shocked to discover that their guide is James Douglas, Ballantyre’s former stable hand, and once her friend. He disappeared the night of the murder, charged with the shooting.
Evelyn never believed that James was guilty – and her father’s role in the killing has always been mysterious. What does he have to hide? In the wild landscape of a new world, far from the constraints of polite society, the secrets and lies surrounding that night are finally stripped away, with dramatic consequences.