Thursday, July 21, 2016


 I am very pleased to present my guest, Anna Chant. She is an author, tutor, and mother of three children. She has one published book and a second one soon to be published. 

                                                What inspired you to write your first book?

My first book is called ‘Kenneth’s Queen’ and follows the rise to power of Kenneth (Cinaed) Mac Alpin of Scotland. I stumbled on his story while researching a much later king and queen of Scotland. His wife intrigued me even more, as virtually nothing known about her. It seems wrong that someone who helped to found the dynasty which would rule Scotland should have been written out of history – I wanted to tell her story.
I have found that one story seems to inspire the next. While researching to see whether it was possible or even probably that this woman might have accompanied Cinaed on his military campaigns, I found a list of Dark Age women warriors. One of these formed the basis for my next novel – ‘The Girl from Brittia’.

2                                               How much of the book is realistic?

      I try to make as much as possible of the book realistic, but the Dark Ages was a time of poor record keeping, so there are plenty of gaps to be filled! In ‘Kenneth’s Queen’ some events, such as the disaster of 839 are known to have happened. Other events, for example the births of the children certainly happened but we don’t know the dates. Other parts of the story, including the Viking attack on the fortress of Dunadd happened at some point, but in real life may not have affected the characters in this book or even have happened in their life-time.
The Girl from Brittia has only one source – the Byzantine writer Procopius and I have kept the story fairly faithful to that. However he lived a long way from where the events took place, so it’s impossible to say how true the events are.

3                                            Is there a message that you want your readers to grasp?

The message in ‘Kenneth’s Queen’ is the fairly simple, but inspiring one that unity is better than enmity. ‘The Girl from Brittia’ has a darker message. It’s easy to be a good person when everything is going well. But we can never be sure of what we might be capable of if everything goes wrong.

4                                            When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer!

5                                         Tell us what you like about the main characters of this book.

I like that Baena and Cinaed never give up on their relationship despite the challenges it faces. It’s a dynastic marriage between hereditary enemies, so the challenges are significant. Cinaed is both ruthless and ambitious, but he also genuinely cares about his family and his people. I also like that at times they seem very ordinary. They have toddlers who misbehave at the most inopportune moments, just like us!

6                                 What were the challenges in bringing your story to life? 

The main challenge I found was psychological. Because these are real people I felt a responsibility to do them justice. There were also challenges in reconciling very different attitudes between then and now. It was a brutal age and the characters are involved in some violent deeds. These events needed to be included in the book, but it was a challenge to be true to the historical reality while still keeping these characters sympathetic to a modern audience.

7                           Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?

I have learnt a lot from writing these books. Some of it is boring, but practical like the amount of time that can be saved by correctly formatting the writing from the start, rather than just ploughing on with the writing and then having to sort out fonts and indents at the end! More interestingly I have vastly increased my historical knowledge and been introduced to some wonderful historical characters that I previously didn’t know existed – Domnall Mac Alpin, Wehha  of East Anglia and the Island Girl to name but a few!

8                     If you could have dinner with three authors, who would they be and why?

Geoffrey Chaucer because he lived through some interesting times and I’d love to hear about them from someone who was both there and was an exceptional observer.
J R R Tolkien because he created not only books, but a whole world. It would be fascinating to hear how he did it.
Diana Wynne Jones because she created books that appeal to both adults and children alike. I find her characters so well drawn and I’d like to hear more about them, particularly the enigmatic Chrestomanci.

9                                       What books have most influenced your life?
     Watership Down is one of the first books that I really fell in love with. I read it about fifteen times before I’d left primary school! A number of historical fiction writers fueled my love of history including Rosemary Sutcliff, Jean Plaidy, Georgette Heyer and Anya Seton. It would be impossible to pick one book, although Rosemary Sutcliff’s ‘The Queen Elizabeth Story’ was one of the first historical novels that I enjoyed.

1                              Please give us an excerpt from your book.
Excerpt from Kenneth’s Queen

“Go home, Cinaed,” Drust laughed. “The lands we have taken remain with us. But as a token of my goodwill, here, take your hound.” Drust cut the cord of the excited dog who bounded happily back to Cinaed. “Fare you well, I hope for your sake that our paths do not cross again. She was promised to me, Cinaed. If we meet again I will take back my property,” Drust cried out, as the horses swept out again in a cloud of dust.
Cinaed’s face was white with fury. “Keep packing,” he snapped at the clan. “We march on by midday.”
“Cinaed-,” Baena started.
“How close were you to that man?” Cinaed glared at her.
“You know a marriage was spoken of,” Baena stammered. The rest of the clan had not yet moved very far and many were watching curiously.
“Did you lie with him?” he asked angrily. Baena could see the shock on the faces of the watchers. She stared at him in horror at the question.
“Answer me,” Cinaed hissed. “Did you lie with him?”
Baena went red with mortification. “No! You know I did not. I was a maid the first time I lay with you. You must know that,” she said trying to keep her voice low, although she knew everyone had heard.
“Then what did he mean? Do not lie to me. I was not the only one to see you in his arms.”
“I know,” Baena whispered, close to tears.
Cinaed produced a cross from under his tunic. “Swear by this that an embrace such as I witnessed was all that past between you. Promise me that you did not lie with him. That you did not even kiss him and that you have not lusted after him since our marriage!”
“I can’t,” Baena’s face crumpled. “I did not lie with him, Cinaed. I swear it, but-”
    “Faithless slut!” Cinaed turned away from her and stalked towards Graunt.

                          A review from

5 stars: A delightful read. A beautiful romance skillfully interwoven into historical events. Looking forward to reading other books by this very talented author.

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