Posted by Literary Titan
The Mystery of St. Arondight’s tells the story of six teenagers on a mysterious supernatural quest across Europe. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?
Like my characters I was a teenager when I had my first taste of field archaeology. It was exciting, that feeling that you never quite knew what was waiting under the ground for you. It didn’t seem to matter how many of the experienced archaeologists on the site told me that treasure is unlikely, I firmly believed that every shovel full of dirt could hold some priceless artefact of great importance. Now, having been a professional archaeologist for ten years I have learned that not every excavated site uncovers great historical mysteries. In fact the closest I have ever come to treasure is five scattered Roman Denarii, probably from a lost purse. But I still have that belief that something important could be hiding just under my feet.
History itself consists of so many unanswered questions, so many what ifs, so many intangible stories. Folk law suggests the presence of ghosts at sites of violence, or in places they knew when alive. Legends tell of strange women living in trees, lakes or isolated ruins, of heroes who transcend time. There are so many mysteries out there to solve, who is to say that the conclusions must always be rational. Some stories tell of tangible artefacts, a philosopher’s stone, a sacred cup or a powerful sword. Legends give us all the chance to daydream … What might happen if one day I excavate a sword of Arthurian date from a waterlogged deposit. Could the legends be true?
The story has a host of young characters all with their own unique personalities. What themes did you want to capture while creating your characters?
With my characters I aimed to create firstly a group with a shared interest, archaeology, but to give them their own skills, knowledge and personality. The intention was to balance them so that no one character held all the aces and there was essentially no go-to hero of the piece.
I wanted to make sure that the girls were just as capable as the boys. When I was growing up I spent most of my time wanting to be one of the lads. So called ‘girly’ activities did not interest me and I felt that as a teenager there were no characters in my world, with perhaps the exception of ‘George’ from Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’, that represented me as a perpetually bruised, knee skinned tomboy, hanging out with the boys, fencing with sticks and pretending that my bicycle was a motorbike. What I wanted to do here was to create characters that represented my sixteen year old self. The girly side, the tomboy side and the downright laddish part of me. Alongside my own traits I have borrowed elements of personality from the many wild, passionate, and possibly crazy archaeologists of all ages and genders, that I have met whilst digging holes all over the country. I had to try and capture some of that combination of crude humour, intelligence and boundless enthusiasm, encountered on all archaeological sites.
The action scenes and references to historical sites was well developed. Was there anything you pulled from you own life and used in this novel?
I first started fencing at university and was lucky enough to fence for my university, even becoming captain of the team and later the club. Fencing is a lot like chess, but played at the speed of light and with significantly bigger bruises, but you get a real appreciation that timing and intelligence are every bit as important as strength and skill. In writing the sword fights in St. Arondight’s, I wanted to put across some of my own experience as a fencer – the noises, the exertion required and the clear presence of mind required to make a successful attack.
Having lived in the UK all my life, I have visited many of the locations from the book, although I do admit that for a few of them I may have used a little creative licence – getting to the “beach” below the White Cliffs of Dover is much more difficult than Sarah and Jerry found it and I certainly wouldn’t advise trying it!
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am currently working on the sequel to The Mystery of St. Arondight’s, following the same characters on their next archaeological adventure. I’m hoping it will be available March/ April 2018 although the first draft is playing hardball right now, and it’s fair to say that working full time as an archaeologist, active fencer and motorcycle enthusiast does take up some writing time. So I’m afraid the date is tentative and it may be a little later.
Camping at ruined abbey at the end of the summer holidays, six teenage archaeologists find themselves witness to a violent haunting and discover a secret crypt below the abbey.
The discoveries they make set them on an epic quest across the country. In a race against an unhinged academic and armed with only their honour, knowledge and swordsmanship the group will have to trust one another and work together, as reality and mythology merge and the quest for an artefact of legend becomes a fight for survival.
Told in a unique blend of first and third person narration, The Mystery of St. Arondight’s follows Suzannah Jones, Melody Knight, Sarah Heddon, Claire Scott, Jerry Llewellen and Símon James Matherson in their first archaeological adventure.
Posted in Interviews
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Posted by Literary Titan
The Mystery of St. Arondight’s tells the story of six teenagers on a mysterious quest full of adventure and suspense. During a camping trip among an abbey’s ruins, Suze, Claire, Jerry, Melody, Simon, and Sarah witness phantom flames, living skeletons, and a haunted crypt. The supernatural phenomenons raise questions that lead the group on a mysterious quest across Europe. To make matters worse, they are pitted against a crazed doctor and his menacing lackeys searching for the same answers. As the young adventurers search for clues, they uncover secrets about the legends of King Arthur, his queen, and his loyal knights.
What a fantastic break-out novel for author S. M. Porter! The plot was littered with suspense, adventure, action, a little romance – everything you need to create a great story. I enjoyed trying to figure out clues the characters had to find and the puzzles they discover.
I love history, especially history of the Middle Ages, and I find the legends of King Arthur fascinating. Porter ties these interesting topics together by using an archaeological dig as the setting, which I believe serves as the perfect venue for a novel like this. Her experience working on dig sites allows her to explain ruins, decaying bodies, and crypts in amazing detail that pulls the reader into the story.
Due to her experience with fencing, Porter makes the fight scenes lifelike. She uses her experiences to provide another level of understanding within the novel. Suze and Simon both fence, and there is a scene where one of the characters must fight a knight. Porter’s understanding of weaponry allows her allows to describe swords and shields in detail, pulling you right into the action.
Overall, I think The Mystery of St. Arondight’s is a great story with a fantastic plot, but some parts were confusing. The characters were lovable, and Porter described teenage friendships and interactions in a humorous but true way. As relatable as the characters are, I do think they needed more character development. Each character did grow throughout the story, but I felt like there development was too obvious.. I also had a hard time with the constant point of view changes. The book is primarily in first person from Suze’s point of view, but as more characters and plot developments are introduced, the point of view switches from first person to third person. I think a novel with this many point of view changes should have been written completely in third person.
I loved the mix of history and paranormal in the story and was fond of the characters. I am impressed by Porter’s ability to draw experiences from her life and describe them in such a way that makes you feel as though everything in The Mystery of St. Arondight’s really happened. My biggest criticisms are the character development and the point of view changes, but those wouldn’t keep me from reading this novel again. I hope Porter continues to follow the adventures of Suze, Jerry, Claire, Simon, Melody, and Sarah. I can’t wait to see what happens to them in the future!
Pages: 393 | ASIN: B01L0CQT42
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