Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Please welcome friend and author...

... Nancy Jardine to the blog today.

AW  Hello Nancy and thank you for being here.  Writing about times 2000 years ago... umm it’s all a bit of guesswork, isn’t it?  
NJ  Well, no, not totally.  That's a question and an answer that are pertinent to writing historical fiction in a period that’s considered to be pre-historic - though my era of choice is actually on the cusp!  
AW  So, what, exactly, does pre-historic mean?
NJ   Essentially, for me, the term covers the period before written sources were created.
AW  So, why is your writing on the cusp?
NJ  My Celtic Fervour Series of historical novels are set in late first century A.D. (CE), northern Roman Britain (from Yorkshire northwards into Scotland): a time and location that’s not covered by many authors.  It’s easy to see why because it initially seems like there isn’t much material to research to ensure a story is as realistic as possible without veering into the realm of a fantasy.  There are sources like Cornelius Tacitus’ Agricola, and occasional references in the work of other Ancient Roman writers about late first century northern Roman Britain but all of these prime sources need to be used with caution as their accuracy is considered to be lacking in historical terms.  The works I refer to were never intended to be an actual historical record, they were written for something more like political propaganda or entertainment, often both at the same time.
The Celtic Fervour books
AW   How interesting!
NJ   More was known about Iron Age tribes in Europe during the late first century, so some interpretations for the tribes of northern Roman Britain are extrapolations based on scant evidence.  Even calling my novels the ‘Celtic Fervour Series’ throws up problems for some people who don’t like my use of that generic term for tribes living in my location.  Other experts conclude that there’s sufficient evidence about the daily life in ‘Aberdeenshire’ to broadly term them ‘Celtic’ tribes.  What I know is that to describe my series it’s much easier to say ‘Celtic Fervour Series’ than ‘Roman Britain Iron Age Tribes Series’.
AW  I couldn't agree more!
NJ  Not having a lot to go on initially is what I love about writing in this era because, although it’s extremely hard work, there’s always something new to discover that’s ‘under the surface’.  Every other word I write in my work in progress throws up a mystery that needs to be solved first.  (Perhaps that’s why I also write contemporary mysteries?)  Simple examples might be: Can I say that my Roman Scotland Iron Age characters are tucking into bread every day?  That sounds pretty normal but was it usual two thousand years ago in what is now Aberdeenshire, Scotland?  I can’t write that in my novel before I check.  If it’s a Scottish setting would they be nibbling on oatcakes and cheese?  Check! What kind of animals would they be hunting for food?  Check!  Did they eat the plentiful fish from local rivers and lochs?  Check! Were there forests nearby for hunting boar or deer?  Check!  What was the weather like?  Check!
AW   Hmm, I see what you mean.
NJ  Today, specialist scientific disciplines, used in conjunction with archaeology, have interpreted that the farmers in ‘Aberdeenshire’ of 2000 years ago ‘tended’ more stretches of grazing for sheep than they cultivated fields of grain.  The wheat of today wasn’t grown in Aberdeenshire though they did grow some spelt - an earlier form of wheat - according to soil deposit samples.  However, the main cereal crops were ‘6 row’ barley and, to a lesser extent, oats (field core samples and midden heap faeces sampling).  So, my characters
Nancy's experimental baking -
unfortunately there was none for me to try!
could perhaps have the occasional bit of unleavened spelt bread and eating some kind of oatcake is probable.  Brose or soup is thought to be the most likely daily food made from barley, oats or a mixture of both (again faeces samples from midden heaps backs this up).  Vegetables for soup were rare and not what I’d be buying in the supermarket today.  Fat hen (we’d call that weeds) was used as was a type of wild garlic but most of the vegetables of today aren’t indigenous.  The Romans actually introduced some of today’s veggies to Britannia but since I write about the Roman invasions it’s too early to refer to my ‘Celts’ eating leeks, cabbage, peas or onions, though my Romans can tuck into some assuming their supplies have not been attacked by my resourceful Celts.

AW   Again, something else I didn't know!
NJ   You can read more of the aspects that I need to constantly check for my 2000 years ago setting on my own blog.  Finding out that spelt was being grown by my ‘Aberdeenshire’ Iron Age tribes 2000 years ago was interesting but what was really exciting during my research was finding that a local Aberdeenshire farmer is currently growing spelt as a trial because it is a highly nutritious form of wheat and good for people who cannot tolerate high intensities of gluten.  Spelt has a considerably lower gluten content.
AW   Have you tried it?
NJ   I bought some spelt flour and so far have made scones and pancakes.  When I can clear some more time for experimental baking, I’ll try some bread!  There's more about my spelt baking Here and Here

... about the books My Celtic Fervour Series published by Crooked Cat Books will no longer be available after the end of February 2018, though they will return soon under a slightly different guise.  Look out for new versions later in the spring!  My Crooked Cat Books contemporary mysteries are definitely available just now, easily seen via my author page below.

… about the author Nancy Jardine writes contemporary mysteries; historical adventure fiction and time travel historical adventure. She regularly looks after her grandchildren and sometimes her garden can look quite creative. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, the Scottish Association of Writers, the Federation of Writers Scotland and the Historical Novel Society. She’s published by Crooked Cat Books and has delved into self publishing.

You can follow Nancy on her Blog Website  Facebook & Author Page  Twitter  Amazon
and on Goodreads  you can  email Nancy at nan_jar@btinternet.com


  1. Thank you for inviting me today, Angela. It's fantastic to get away from the snow... and visit sunny places.

    1. You're very welcome, Nancy, and please do drop by again. Perhaps you could come back with some of the results of your experimental baking!

  2. Very interesting. I'm always impressed by Nancy's historical knowledge.

    1. Hi Tim and thanks for visiting. Have to agree with you, I had no idea the extent to which Nancy had to cross check just about everything. Most interesting.