Today I’m delighted to revisit my Five on Friday feature with award winning novelist and short story writer Margaret Skea that was first published in December 2019. Margaret’s debut novel, Turn of the Tide, gained her the Beryl Bainbridge Award for ‘Best First-Time Novelist 2014’ and 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.
Margaret is now a hybrid author publishing both through a mainstream publisher, Corazon, and under her own imprint, Sanderling Books. She is particularly interested in the challenge of bringing relatively unknown historical characters out of the shadows.
Over to Margaret :
Which five 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?
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!!
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.
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.’
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.
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.)
What five things (apart from family and friends) would you 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.
Give five pieces of advice 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 five 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!
Tell us five things you’d still like to do or achieve.
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.
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Munro series – set within the violent clan warfare of 16th century Scotland
Turn of the Tide #1
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.
A House Divided #2
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.
By Sword and Storm #3
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…
Katharina series – set in early Reformation Germany –
Katharina : Deliverance #1
At five Katharina is placed in a convent.
At twenty-three she escapes.
At twenty-five she marries the most controversial man in Europe.
This is her story – of courage, resilience in the face of adversity and a determination to choose her own life.
If you like your historical fiction to be absorbing, authentic, beautifully written and full of warmth and heart, this portrayal of Katharina von Bora, the escaped nun who married Martin Luther, is for you.
Katharina : Fortitude #2
‘We are none of us perfect, and a streak of stubbornness is what is needed in dealing with a household such as yours, Kat… and with Martin.’
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.
Angola in my Heart : the Story of Ruth Hadley (non-fiction)
‘None of us have the desire to play the hero or martyr, nor are we made of that sort of stuff… I am fully aware of the possibilities and dangers…
If God has called me here, he can keep me.’
Ruth Hadley went to Angola in 1982. She left behind her family, her friends, and a life as a dedicated and gifted teacher. On the cusp of gaining a place in the England international hockey squad, she set aside both her career and her sporting ambition to devote her life to serving God and the Chokwe people.
When civil war broke out in 1984, she stayed, despite the advice of the Foreign Office. For thirty-four years she lived among the Chokwe people, sharing in their privations and the perils of conflict – including disease and hunger, gun battles and landmines. Alongside facilitating in-depth Bible study, she organised and dispersed humanitarian and medical aid and, when the war finished, oversaw the building and equipping of four rural schools.
Dust Blowing and Other Stories
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.
I tried to leave a comment on your post, but I’m not sure it took… However I have shared to FB and have tweeted replies to all the lovely folk who rt’d it. Thank you so much for revisiting my Five on Friday – `i think I would probably reply the same way still!
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It’s been lovely to revisit these, update the booklist and add the music videos. I’ve got my fingers crossed that you can tick off some of your final Five. x