Very proud to start this blog with the amazing news that my short story The Man Who Rowed Away will be published in August in MidnightSun's anthology, Crush. It is a contemporary retelling of the selkie myth – a theme I use also in my new novel - working title A Hebridean Mystery. The anthology is being edited and published by MidnightSun Publishers a small but expanding South Australian publisher. They have also asked to read the manuscript on my completed novel Vivaldi’s Lost Concerto. Big hurrah for small local boutique publishers. midnightsunpublishing.com
A Hebridean Mystery is split into four time periods spanning eight centuries. When Hannah, the contemporary character and curator at the British Museum, begins her research into the somewhat nebulous provenance of the somewhat famous artifacts, the Lewis Chessmen she discovers that the gender bias of history has all but erased the significant roles of these women in the Chessmen’s journey from Iceland to Scotland to London’s British Museum. Amidst the controversy of where the treasure should be housed at the time of the Scottish referendum for independence Hannah reports discloses her findings to her male superiors and puts at risk not only her career but also her relationship with her colleague and lover.
I intertwine into the plot Celtic myths, such as that of the selkie - a sea-lion who takes on a human form - and Icelandic sagas, full of betrayal and revenge, to create the lives of the five female protagonists. Their courageous and clever actions in the creation, disappearance, re-discovery and preservation of the Lewis Chessmen go against the gender expectations and cultural norms of their times and lead them into deep water, sometimes literally!
As always the research for the novel and the ongoing development and nurturing of my writing skills have consumed much of my writing time. In fact, recently I have been to the Library of Congress in Washington DC, The University of Virginia, and an Edinburgh archaeology meeting. No, I haven’t won the lottery; I have simply accessed the wonderful www. For example: I’ve listened to a lecture on the how works of historiographic meta-fiction, such as Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, reveal a theoretical self-awareness of history and fiction as human constructs. We all knew that right? : I “attended” a presentation by Elizabeth Kostova, author of my current book club book, The Historian, and heard how she used Bram Stoker’s myth of Dracula (itself based loosely on the real life Vlad the Impaler) as a jumping off point to fictionalise the possible political and human stories behind the terrifying never-dead blood sucking character. I listened to a lecture by Geraldine Brooks on her research and writing choices for The Year of Wonder and her use of the Historical Thesauraus. (Did you know that at the time of the plague a fetus used to be referred to as a shapeling. What a lovely word!) I read a 1831 Edinburgh Archaeological Society report in the Caledonian Mercury and explored the history of Scottish whisky.
All this for free from the comfort of my writing room!
Here are some links to some of the sites I have used. let me know what you find.
Jennifer is a writer of short stories, novels and a family history.