I went to work straight from school, on to university as a mature student, gained a degree in English Language and Literature, and then a diploma in Library Science which all sounds terribly boring but was exciting at the time. I managed libraries in the academic sector and I've worked most of my adult life, which is why retirement seems so wonderful now. Along the way I've divorced and re-married and it is so much better the second time around.
My two historical novels are set in Viking times. They're both available as e-books from Fictionwise and one as POD from Amazon.com.
The Banners of Alba follows the repercussions of Old King Malcolm's decision to force through his grandson’s claim to the throne in preference to the traditional method of selection of the best candidate from the derbfine. When Finlay's girl is married off to a cousin and his best friend joins the King, Finlay throws in his lot with his half-brother Thorfinn of Orkney. Resentment simmers and makes for a heated relationship with Thorfinn's beautiful and headstrong sister Rada. A desperate struggle for the crown follows in a violent, exciting age slowly acclimatizing to Christianity yet still believing in love potions.
Dark Pool is set a couple of years later. The heroine is Eba, a young ward of Alba who makes a bad decision that ends in her being kidnapped by Dublin Vikings. Finlay feels obliged to rescue her, but finds Dublin's ruler Sigurd Silkenbeard a wily opponent who denies all knowledge of the girl. Meanwhile, Eba fights off an arranged marriage with Torquil's strange son Kimi.
Both books are written in the mainstream mould, but now I'm trying my hand at a lighter type of category historical romance. I'm re-editing an as yet untitled tale set in late Victorian Northumberland. The tone of this one is kind of frothy in comparison to the Viking books, and it is great fun to write, but of course the heroine will have to have a Black Moment of the soul before she can be totally happy with her hero.
For the Victorian time period the research is easy, but for the 11th century in Scotland it is a very different story. Almost no written material of the period has survived. Most of the information has been gleaned from the written records of other nations, particularly the Irish; but it is not unusual for the four major sources to contradict each other, vary the dates and call people by different names. Icelandic and Scandinavian records offer a different perspective, often along with another set of names and dates.
I found a wonderful academic discussion on the Internet about the reality and location of a place called variously Lothlend, Lathlind or Lochlainn. Was it the Isle of Man, somewhere in Ireland or in Scotland? It is also often difficult to decide if references to three men called Sigurd, all alive at approximately the same time, are actually one man, or any combination of father, son, brother and/nephew.
Writers were often monks and scribes who, since their livelihood depended on it, knew which side their bread was buttered. They wrote to glorify their patrons, and if that meant they bent the truth a little, that’s what they did and who can blame them?
This gives a writer wonderful freedom to invent and build a story around characters that have a nodding acquaintance with the scanty facts, which, as you've guessed, is what I did. Facts about food and weapons and ships are as accurate as I can make them by reading archaeological research, but the characters are truly a work of imagination. I went to Dublin to do research for Dark Pool and stayed in a hotel on Fishamble Street, watched the rain run down the hill to the river and thought about my heroine on that same dog leg of a street a thousand years ago. It was an odd feeling, but quietly enjoyable.