If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that once a week I invite an author into my home in Yorkshire. I ply them with tea and a variety of cakes and biscuits. If the weather’s nice, sometimes we even sit out in the garden. My guests have come from all over Europe and North America.
Of course the questions are real, but sadly these authors aren’t actually with me in real life. Our exchanges are all made in cyber-space. Today I have no excuse for not giving my guest a real cup of tea and a Walnut Whip cupcake. Fellow MuseItUp author Alan Calder lives in Yorkshire, too, only an hour from me, and is my first Yorkshire guest :)
Whereabouts in Yorkshire do you live, Alan? My main home is south of Huddersfield. We have a nice view of the Pennine ridge to the west. I also have a house in my native county of Caithness in the north of Scotland. We spend at least three months of the year there.
Oh, those are both lovely parts of the Britain. Where is your favourite place in the world? It’s difficult to pick one place. As I get older I’m tending to gravitate to my roots in the north of Scotland. It’s a different place, beyond the Highlands, more like an island really. The people are a mix of Viking and Gael. It’s a land of rugged cliffs and dramatic seascapes against a big sky. At the same time I have an affection for the Vaucluse area in the southern Rhone valley in France, especially the wine villages of Vacqueras , Gigondas and surrounding appellations. We got to know the area well when we lived in France and have been back there on holiday many times.
Both beautiful places, and for different reasons. Impossible to choose!
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? I’ve very much enjoyed my professional career as a scientist and manager in a multinational. However, within that the thing I hated was having to make people redundant, something that happened a lot as my part of British industry went into terminal decline.
That is truly an awful job to have to do. The past few years have been tough in the north of England.
On a much lighter note: what book do you wish you’d written? I wish I could write prose like Hilary Mantel. Having said that the historical novel that I wish I’d written is The Silver Darlings, by between the wars novelist Neil Gunn. It charts the impact of the herring fishing on the population of Caithness in the nineteenth century and was made into a film. There are loose ends there that I’m tempted to follow up myself.
That sounds a fascinating read. It’s now on my TBR list. What’s your happiest memory? The happiest memories are all tied to my immediate family, especially when the children were small and achieving their stepwise rites of passage. My personal achievements often left me with a profound sense of anti-climax.
If you could meet anyone…….? I’d like to meet Nelson Mandela. I remember seeing his release from prison live on TV and couldn’t believe that this benign looking dignified man could be the monster of the Apartheid regime propaganda. I’d like to ask him what was going through his head as he walked out of detention with Winnie at his side.
What would your superpower be, if you could choose one? It would have to be time travel. It would be amazing to be able to experience so many historical events. What was it like to be a hunter gatherer? How did the first farmers settle? Coming ashore with the Vikings- were they rapists or settlers? I don’t think I’d bother with the future, probably too depressing.
If you won twenty million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? I don’t do the lottery. I took a ticket in the very first draw and didn’t win so that was me cured! If I won twenty million pounds I’d certainly drink first growth clarets while I was formulating a spending plan. I’d have to give away quite a lot. My main charitable activity would be to support academic research in chemistry.
What’s the most important lesson life has taught you? The most important thing to realise is that life isn’t a rehearsal and it is very finite. Get on with it!
Very true! Please tell us about your latest book, and where we can find it.
The Glorious Twelfth is my second novel. The first, The Stuart Agenda, told the tale of a young Stuart claiming descent from Bonnie Prince Charlie, returning to claim the throne back for the Stuarts in a newly independent Scotland. The Glorious Twelfth is set in Caithness.
The genesis of the story has a number of roots. In The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown speculates that the Holy Grail lies buried in the filled in crypt of Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh. This mysterious church was built by the Sinclairs in the first half of the fifteenth century, by which time the clan was well established in Caithness, where it still holds the Earldom. Caithness, then remote and inaccessible, would have provided a much better hiding place for the Grail than Rosslyn, especially after the Sinclairs began to build a series of heavily fortified castles round the Caithness coast and mausoleums for their high-born dead. So did Dan Brown have the right family but the wrong hiding place?
The Glorious Twelfth opens as archaeologist Ben Harris finds a Celtic stone and evidence of a medieval shipwreck on the Noster estate of Sir Ranald Sinclair. Careless talk by Ben at a conference in Paris sparks off a robbery at Sir Ranald’s mausoleum, uncovering a treasure that has been hidden for centuries. The robbery follows the opening day of the grouse season, hence the title of the book. The chief suspect, grail fanatic Russian Boris Zadarnov, also abducts Sir Ranald’s wayward daughter, Fran, who is already in love with Ben. American oilman Al Regan, a neighbour of Sir Ranald, leads a rescue party to Paris. The action pans out to France, Italy, Egypt and Poland. When Ben finally settles down in the north, he makes the discovery of his life near one of the ancient Sinclair castles. Has he found the greatest archaeological prize in Christendom, the Holy Grail? Will he be able to protect it from the malevolent attention of the Russians?
The genre is mystery/suspense with a streak of romance running all the way through.
Also by Alan Calder, The Stuart Agenda published by Willowmoon www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B005BJ3GNI
Alan blogs about his writing, travel, Caithness, fishing, cookery and lots more at http://alancalderwriting.blogspot.com
Thanks for your visit today, Alan. Looking forward to meeting for a drink in The Rat and Ratchet in Huddersfield some time. (I’m not making it up – that really is the name of the pub!)
If you enjoyed Alan’s interview, or have any questions or comments, please let us know – we’d love to hear from you!