Release date - 21st September 2016
Book length - 190 pages
Available on - www.amazon.co.uk | www.amazon.com
It is 1841 and like so many of the villages in Scotland at that time, Ceannabeinne is under threat of eviction from the Master. Through the eyes of a spirited twelve-year-old, Janet, we are transported back in time to when life was tough and family and friendship meant survival against the odds. As Janet prepares to fight to stop their homes getting burned down in front of their very eyes, will her selfless interference cause more trouble? And as the day draws near when the Sheriff will clear them out by force, can luck step in and give them a reprieve?
With echoes of the past shown through Janet's Granna's memories, we get to feel the fear, sadness, and anger that is boiling beneath the surface of the Scottish people. And with beautifully detailed descriptions and hypnotic narrative, the villagers and their plight comes alive in front of your very eyes. FIR FOR LUCK by Barbara Henderson is an emotional debut that brings the harshness of history to light, but also displays the true meaning of friendship, loyalty, and never-wavering love. In the vein of Marita Conlon-McKenna's Under the Hawthorn Tree, FIR FOR LUCK by Barbara Henderson is a story that should be read by children and adults alike, and I look forward to reading more from this talented author.
BOOK RATING - 📖📖📖📖📖 5+
As all writers know research is vital to any story. Find out what Barbara Henderson had to say about the research involved in FIR FOR LUCK (and there are photos too!):
I did not set out to write historical fiction. Mainly because I’m no historian.
Don't get me wrong, I love history. I find it fascinating how we used to live, interact, react, make sense of the world. I love to read it, too - those books that take you into a different world, rich with detail, evocative, stirring the senses. One of my favourite children’s books is The Executioner’s Daughter, a fantastic re-imagining of life in the Tower of London during the Tudor reign.
But in all the five unpublished manuscripts I had written before Fir for Luck, I had not ventured into historical territory at all. There were contemporary school-based stories, a dystopian novel, one set on a Hebridean island, some light-hearted stuff; but history? No, that was too hard. It would require more than imagination. It would require accuracy, attention to detail, self-discipline. RESEARCH.
I am not hardwired to care about detail. At all. I’m the sort of person who gets things started, the one to run away with a big idea, but I tend to let other people worry about the nitty-gritty bits and bobs that require actual effort.
The thing is; I didn’t search out the story of Fir for Luck. As I explained at the very beginning of this blog tour, it found me: I visited the place, my imagination cooked up the story, and I now I suddenly had to figure out what the scaffolding was on which I could pin my tale. The shape of the story wasn’t mine to decide. It was already out there - I just had to find it.
I took photos of every display and sign on the Ceannabeinne Trail as I visited it. That meant I had a record of the basics. Tracking down the original piece of local historical research really helped, and I was incredibly lucky that its author was generous enough to read my first draft and give me feedback on it. I revisited the place as often as I could - one luxurious sunny day, my husband actually looked after the children and gave me the car so I could explore. I ran down the hill like Janet, navigated the cliffs above Rispond where Janet catches up with the Superintendent’s horse, peered up and down the road from the schoolhouse to decide what could and couldn’t be seen from here. I stepped across the burn like Isabella and stood where the cottages lay ruined, imagining the village elder’s house and the Seamstress’s beside.
One particularly happy day, I spent visiting the Strathnaver Museum, touching the tools, feeling the fabrics that would have formed everyday life for people like Janet. Whatever did we do before phones had cameras? I clicked this way and that, just to make sure that I couldn’t forget a thing.
Back at home I printed the best of the pictures and hung them on the wall above my desk, making the transition from myevery-day to Janet’s every-day as quick and smooth as possible, whenever I found snatched moments in which I could write.
In the end, I stuck to a fairly simple timeline of non-negotiable events and characters, to which I added my own imaginative twist. I didn’t feel compelled to mention every single thing we know about the village at the time: pace was essential.
The best research treasure I came across was a census list of the actual tenants of Ceannabeinne, the year before eviction. Even when I think about it, a small shiver runs down my spine: real names and ages and occupations. Real families who lived through the actual evictions I describe. I didn’t use their original names (pretty much everyone was called Mackay anyway), but swapped first names and second names around where possible. The occupations listed are the jobs my characters do. I loved that nod to authenticity.
It wasn’t all reading and ancient documents either. There were many phone calls, watching of a village re-enactment video, countless first-hand accounts of the Strathnaver Clearances, re-reading and watching of John McGrath’s first-class The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black Black Oil. YouTube clips of Gaelic psalm-singing came incredibly handy.
Not too bad, this research lark, I thought. Maybe I can do detail after all.
P.S. I’m currently researching Victorian Inverness for my work-in-progress. Let’s see where the research takes me.
I would like to thank Barbara for taking the time to write this informative piece for my blog. Fascinating stuff!!
I’m a writer (Fir for Luck out 21/09/16), puppeteer and drama teacher living in the beautiful Highlands of Scotland. First and foremost, my writing is aimed at children, but I also enjoy dabbling in short stories and Drama.
I’m in the process of re-starting a book festival in my hometown of Inverness and have just signed up to co-ordinate the Highland Hub of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators).I love books, nature’s wild places, history, baking, folk music (I fiddle badly in my church band), old buildings, mosaics, Celtic Christianity, thick woolly jumpers…Oh yes: And I do have a soft spot for all things puppetry. You have been warned! For more information:
Website - www.barbarahenderson.co.uk
Twitter - twitter.com/scattyscribbler
Facebook - www.facebook.com/barbarahendersonwriter/
*Book received from author in exchange for an honest review
Hi fellow bookworms. My name is Linda and I'm a reviewer & blogger from Ireland. Oh and also a wife and mother!
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