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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