It's my great pleasure to welcome debut author Barbara Henderson to the blog. Today's post is only one stop on Barbara's Fir for Luck blog tour (for information on the others please see below).
Barbara's young adult novel was published last week by Pokey Hat, an imprint of Cranachan Publishing, and is set to be hugely successful. To give you an idea of what the book is about, here's the blurb:
When 12-year-old Janet’s village is under threat– she decides to take action. It’s a split-second decision that could cost her everything: her home, her family – even her life.
Can Janet save her village from being wiped out? Or will her family and friends be forced from their homes to face an uncertain future?
Based on real life events, Fir for Luck is a tale of the brutal Highland Clearances, when land owners cared more about sheep than people.
'Steeped in atmosphere, tension and the lyric cadences of the Highlands, Janet’s tale lights a fire of courage and hope in a shameful and tragic period of Scotland’s past. Henderson’s debut is brave and beautiful.'
Elizabeth Wein, Author of Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire
Sounds good, eh? Just wait until you see this trailer!
Has that whetted your appetite? I bet it has! But enough of me, let me hand you over to Barbara.
It takes a village to raise a child; or so the famous quote goes.
Well, I would argue that it takes a village to write a book.
Fir for Luck is a vivid example of the fact that a book does not just belong to the writer. I may have stumbled across the story, as I said in Janet Emson’s blog at the start of the tour, but I certainly did not bring this about on my own. As soon as I had finished the walking trail around the ruins of Ceannabeinne, I returned to Durness where we were camping at the time. ‘I would really like to find out more about the story of that clearance village along the road,’ I explained at the local tourist office. ‘Oh, there was something written about that', the tourist advisor said. ‘It was a local historian who did it. The guy in the candle shop was involved, I think.’
I thanked the tourist advisor and crossed the car park to visit the candle shop.
‘Yes, we did have some copies, but we’re out of them, and the research is not online. It was just a community project,’ Richard the candle seller explained. I turned to leave. ‘Wait!’ he called out after me. ‘I think I might still have it on my PC. I’ll just print you a copy. Wait there!’ Forty pages later, he handed me the bundle of papers, but would not accept payment. I thanked him warmly. The local bookseller pointed me to another book by the same local historian, Graham Bruce. ‘Read this, Durness Past and Present,’ he suggested.
I began to read. Once I had the historical context straight in my head, I began to imagine, and to write, but as someone who did not grow up in Sutherland – or even Scotland - I did not feel confident. I phoned the Durness tourist office again. No, the historian was not in the area anymore; he had moved to Aberdeenshire, but you could try Mrs Mary, she’s still in touch. Here is her number.’
I rang Mrs Mary. 'I'll email him for you,' she said and got back in touch soon after, with his detials which he had permitted her to share.
Dear Mr Graham Bruce, I began and asked him if he would at all consider reading my first draft to check it for historical accuracy and authenticity. And, to my astonishment, he agreed.
His comments gave me confidence to pursue the manuscript: ‘Historically it is more or less accurate as it stands,’ he wrote, listing a couple of pages worth of bullet points I needed to address.
The information plaques beside the ruins contained some lovely illustrations. Gosh, wouldn’t it be lovely if my book could feature one of those? I had nothing to lose by asking, and emailed to enquire what the name of the painter was. The lovely Nicola Poole, a Durness based artist, allowed me the use of a picture depicting the interior of a longhouse.
But even after Fir for Luck was accepted for publication, I had help from so many places: Eden Court Theatre and Strathnaver Museum lent me costumes to make the trailer, a kind Skye harp maker allowed me to use his harp music in the trailer, family friend Ross Wiseman filmed and edited it. And there are many others I could mention.
Fir for Luck may have my name on the cover and Cranachan’s logo on the spine, but make no mistake.
It took a village to write this book.
Thank you, Barbara, that was wonderful! I wish you lots of success with Fir for Luck and with each of your future books.
About Barbara Henderson:
Barbara Henderson has lived in Scotland since 1991, somehow acquiring an MA in English Language and Literature, a husband, three children and a shaggy dog along the way. Having tried her hand at working as a puppeteer, relief librarian and receptionist, she now teaches Drama part-time at secondary school. She is currently based in Inverness.
Writing predominantly for children, Barbara won the Nairn Festival Short Story Competition in 2012, the Creative Scotland Easter Monologue Competition in 2013 and was one of three writers shortlisted for the Kelpies Prize 2013. In 2015, wins include the US-based Pockets Magazine Fiction Contest and the Ballantrae Smuggler’s Story Competition. She blogs regularly at write4bairns.wordpress.com where full details of her writing achievements can also be found.