Early history: the ‘dark ages’; time slipping; the time-space continuum – Getting it right

The second day of my book tour and I’ve just stopped at the lovely spot: Books, Life and Everything (I love that name!), for a guest post.

https://bookslifeandeverything.blogspot.com/2020/02/a-shape-on-air-by-julia-ibbotson.html?m=1#more

So, this is what I said …

Researching for a time-slip novel

Anybody else, like me, love the historical novels of Philippa Gregory? History, intrigue, mystery, romance, drama, tragedy – it’s all there. I’ve learned much of my knowledge of the Tudor period from her work. Even though I know they’re novels and not non-fiction academic texts, I still trust that they are reasonably accurate albeit a fictionalised ‘take’ on characters of history. I do know that she has done her research, even though you may disagree with some of her interpretations!

All the authors I know do a lot of research before and during writing their novel, but it’s especially vital if you are writing about a historical period, or a location or a concept, because you have to get it right! There are, believe me, many readers waiting to jump on the slightest inaccuracy – and that’s understandable, and quite right. Readers want to see the novel, even if it’s a fictionalised account of the time or place, as an authority. When I read such a novel I want to feel I’m learning something correct and authentic, not something wrong.

For A Shape on the Air, I had a plot involving Dr Viv DuLac slipping back in time to 499 AD to solve a mystery, so I needed to update my research on the early medieval period and also to research concepts of time. Both of these are areas I love to read about, so it was no hardship. I’d studied medieval language, literature and history at university for my first degree and was fascinated by the Dark Ages (after the Roman rule ended and the early Anglo-Saxon settlements began). There wasn’t (and still isn’t) very much researched and written about the Dark Ages, which is where it got its name, not because it was violent and barbaric (which is what many people think) but because of the lack (darkness) of evidence in archaeology and documents. In some ways I had to use my deductive powers to assess what might have been retained from the earlier Roman period and what might be developing forward into the Anglo-Saxon period. More recently evidence is now appearing, such as from the ‘dig’ at Lyminge in Kent, England, where a fifth century feasting hall had been unearthed not long before I wrote my book. And there is a growing body of archaeological, geophysical and isotopic evidence to indicate how the people of the 5th and 6th centuries lived. But I had to keep up to date with new discoveries, all the time, keeping revisiting published research documents. So there was a fair amount of both evidence and informed imagination at work as I wrote A Shape on the Air.

My research into time-slip was also fascinating. I looked again at the scientific theories of quantum mechanics, which sounds a bit like something from Dr Who, the Einstein-Rosen Bridge, and worm-holes, all basically ideas about space-time portals through which you could slip from one layer of the universe into another, or from one historic period into another. Fascinating, especially for all those who like fantasy and the paranormal, and yet these are real scientific theories of the concept of time, albeit unlikely to be tested by experiment! Strangely enough, I seem to be hearing those theories quoted so much more these days in the media. So maybe something out there is catching on!

Time-slip sounds insane, and of course Viv (in the present day) wonders if she’s going mad when she thinks she’s had a dream but brings back a real golden key from 499 AD! And her ‘dream’ is so real she begins to wonder if she’s taken on the identity of Lady Vivianne, her counterpart in the Dark Ages. How do they fit together? Why are their lives becoming intertwined? Why do they need to reach out to each other across the centuries? Well, I’m afraid that you’ll need to read it and see …!

http://myBook.to/ASOTA

Book tour off to a great start in USA and UK

My book tour gets off to a wonderful start! Two lovely reviews today: the first from Laura’s Interests at https://dogsmomvisits.blogspot.com/2020/02/a-shape-on-air-by-julia-ibbotson.html

She says: “Seamlessly slipping us between eras, this book combines the elements of mystery and romance with dangerous precision.  It appealed both to this historical fiction lover in me and the mystery lover. With great details and wonderful characters, I was drawn deeply into the book and easily blocked outside distractions.  Great escape read.”

And the second, a very long, thoughtful analysis from Radzy at Vainradical.co.uk 

“A Shape on the Air is a dual timeline novel set in both present day, and 499AD, with our main character, Viv (in present day) and Vivienne (a presumed ancestor) as they combat betrayal, heartache, and the times they’re in. This is a tale of female empowerment tossed into a healthy helping of romance and adventure, with plenty of vivid imagery to boot.

My favourite part of this novel is easily the imagery. Ibbotson doesn’t dote on minor details, and rather gives us a large picture with just enough fixtures for our minds to piece the rest together. This style allows us to become lost in the world we create, while allowing fluidity and simple fixations – such as the wonderful sounding food and drink, the fabrics, and of course the handsome Roland. I found myself wanting to have medieval breakfasts, coffee with cream and a little honey, and to touch luxurious clothing. Viv is a woman who doesn’t scrimp on what she finds joy in, and things come across extravagant and wonderful. Vivienne is from a simpler time, but the way she finds comfort in swishing, soft fabric on her feet ties the two character’s personalities together well. They’re the same woman, if we’re honest, but Ibbotson has created them to be different enough, that I could tell them apart with ease, but sought their similarities as well. They’re quite vain women, not afraid to sing their own praises, and Viv at least sees her physical prowess as her strength, rather than what’s in her mind, but she’s equally a well-educated, impeccably spoken young woman. Their ages are never spelled out explicitly, but I assume Viv is in her early thirties, there’s no way she’s not, where Vivienne I’d assume is a decade younger. This fact doesn’t matter, but something I found myself thinking about, comparing her life to mine, and how her achievements are reachable, but worked very hard for. I think what I’m saying is that this novel makes you feel something, unexpectedly, but well received. I enjoyed thinking about food, and hot coffee. I loved thinking about swishing fabrics and cold, unyielding water. This novel is sensory, in a way I didn’t expect, yet highly recommend for that sensation.

But let me quickly get back to something I just mentioned. Both women are vain, and that’s a trait which often turns me away from romance novels. The women are always perfect, gorgeous, and everyone wants them. This doesn’t steer away from that enough to not put me off a little, especially with how other characters are described to not overshadow our leading ladies, but this doesn’t take over the story, so I could easily look past it. It’s not something I’d be aware of if you’re looking to read this, or something to bear in mind, especially if romance novels are something you love, but it’s not something I personally enjoyed. Female empowerment doesn’t need to come at the expense of others and describing the former friend as ‘homey’ and ‘comfy’ and ‘how could he want her when I’m here’ is combative. True to character, yes, but combative.

That said, I truly enjoyed the same plot essentially being told twice, but suitable to a t to the time. Viv opens the novel cooking a delicious sounding dinner for her and her other half, Pete, when he comes home and says he’s leaving her. He’s been seeing someone else. Rapidly, Viv’s life starts to spiral – Pete has already taken most of her money and is now seeking to sell their flat and take more money he’s not entitled to. This man we were introduced to in Viv’s mind as handsome, sweet, and loving, is conniving, selfish, and infuriating. He’s the perfect representation of when a human forgets others have feelings too, and becomes so wrapped up in themselves, they take full advantage of everyone. His ex could become homeless, he doesn’t care. She’s been paying 75% of the mortgage. He doesn’t care. Her career could suffer from his pure selfishness. As long as it’s not his business suffering – he doesn’t care. Pete, this sweet man we were promised, is disgustingly self-absorbed, and this shift is jarring – and perfectly suited to the hurricane of emotions Viv finds herself in. On the flip side, Vivienne is a young woman, living in her late father’s kingdom, but forced to be at the will of her ‘guardian’, Sir Pelleas, who is only desperate to wed her, force her to have his child, and be his doting wife, so he can have her kingdom and riches. Unlike Pete, Pelleas is never shown in a good light, which I liked (I do love when authors aren’t afraid to just make fucking awful people, even if I hate them with a passion, it’s a skill) and Pete’s actions are faintly mirrored by Pelleas, with about a year’s difference. Pete was seeing the other woman, he was colluding with her, and then they strike. It’s obvious they’ve been seeing one another for a while, and as it’s declared the other woman is pregnant a couple days after Pete leaves Viv, we can only assume this is what made him finally go. Pelleas on the other hand is still plotting, working with Vivienne’s lady in waiting, and seeing her behind Vivienne’s back. The two storylines are very similar, but told in carrying enough ways, with the trials and tribulations of the times, to be different enough to be enjoyed. I also think at some point I should mention Roland, or his modern equivalent Rory, the excruciatingly handsome man who just wants to see Viv, or Vivienne happy, and doesn’t mind being a tease while doing so. He’s sweet, wonderful, and the perfect leading man in this genre. I bring him up because there’s a trend in fiction to create brooding, hard to reach, so tantalising, men, but Ibbotson doesn’t bother with that. The good guy is great and kind, and the bad guy is an ass. There’s no teetering between, or the sullen hero who needs saving, and this was refreshing. I loved just being able to enjoy Roland/Rory, and how sweet he is. If you enjoy a novel where your main men aren’t all broken and need piecing back together, this is a book to check out.

This is also a book to check out if you love timeslips, well researched historical novels, and stories of strong women defeating evil, and getting their happy endings. There are characters who you’ll want to scream at, and moments you’ll melt over, and overall, even if romance isn’t you genre, as it isn’t mine, if you love well-constructed, dual narration, mirrored novels, I’d recommend this.”

Great reviews and interesting comments from both – thank you!

Lives intertwine across time and space

Can an ancient key unlock the secrets of past and present? Two women reach out to each other across the centuries in A Shape on the Air. It’s a medieval timeslip mystery with more than a little romance. To celebrate my upcoming Bookbub deal on April 16th when it will be on offer in the UK, US, Canada and Australia, my publisher Has reduced the price to 99p/99c for a couple of weeks. So I’m tempting you with a free preview of the first chapter. Just click below. I hope it’ll be a treat in time for Easter. Get it soon and enjoy! Along with the chocolate and hot cross buns of course!

And thank you so much for your interest. If you enjoy the book and have a moment, please do post a short comment up on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Authors really do appreciate reviews, however short.

With best wishes, and love,

Julia

Can you feel the heat?

So here I am, on my big book blog tour throughout Great Britain and beyond … and all from my desk in my PJs! Thanks to @rararesources I am on tour just a day after my shoulder operation. Truth be known, I didn’t start promotion until yesterday, Day 3, as I was hardly compos mentis for the first 48 hours after my op and am typing with one hand!

I thought I’d share with you my first guest post published on Sunday, Day 2, on the lovely blog The Magic of Worlds with many thanks to this book blogger and all the others who are taking part in my 42 stop tour  https://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

SCROLL DOWN TO JANUARY 27th!!

Can you feel it – the heat, the sounds, sights, smells of tropical Ghana? Here’s the guest post …

Today I’m celebrating the publication of my three Drumbeats novels in one Omnibus/box set edition for kindle books by my lovely publisher, Endeavour Media. It’s great to see the whole Drumbeats Trilogy all together in one – and at a bargain price too (currently £5.99 for the three books together)! It’s a saga of love, betrayal and second chances, and most particularly it’s about one woman’s (Jess) strength and spirit rising above adversity. You can find it at: http://mybook.to/DrumbeatsOmnibus

I’ve been working on the three books for about four years, with a couple of other books published in between! Finally, the long-awaited third and last novel of the trilogy was published this summer, called Finding Jess, http://mybook.to/FindingJess, and it’s set in Ghana (West Africa) and starts with: “Outside, the sun is beating down pitilessly, that sweet-sour stink of rotten meat and putrefying vegetables in the open drains at the side of the road. Yes, she knows that intense heat, that smell, the sound of the kpanlogo djembe and the donde, those kente-clad mammies, from all those years before …”

Jess is haunted by her experiences in Ghana when she was an 18 year old on a gap year, the basis of the first of the trilogy, Drumbeats, http://myBook.to/Drumbeatstrilogy where she is fascinated as a girl in 1965, by the whole idea of Africa: she looks around her in wonderment: “The streets were incredibly noisy, smelly, and bustling with people calling out to each other across the streets, jostling Jess. Swarms of little boys were again surrounding her, pushing at her for attention. The hot thick air stank of rotting vegetables, spices, melting tarmac. Jess pressed herself against the safety of the wall as plump women swathed in bright Ghanaian cloth swept haughtily past her. Their babies swaddled on their backs blinked passively at her with glassy eyes and long black eyelashes. Shallow platters piled high with tomatoes and mangoes were balanced on turban-bound heads, as the women made their way gracefully up and down the dusty streets, taking no notice of the foul open drains and the begging children around their feet.”

Ever since I spent time working in Ghana, I’ve been driven by the desire to write about this fascinating country. It’s a country of contrasts: poverty but richness of generosity, the arid landscape of the sub-Saharan north but the lushness of the rainforests and coastline. Then there’s the climate: intense heat of the dry season and the welcome deluges of the rainy season.

As a writer, I like to create stories set in a particular time and location, as those are the books I love to read myself, such as Dinah Jefferies’s far eastern novels and Kate Mosse’s Languedoc series. Wonderfully evocative! So, Drumbeats #1 starts in a specific time (1965) and place, the intriguing African country of Ghana.

I try to use all the senses to make the reader feel as though they are actually there, to make it as vivid as possible. I was therefore thrilled to have reviews that said: “beautifully written, conjuring up the colour and culture of the country”, and “feel the searing heat of Ghana burning off the pages.” How lovely! Then I had: “It’s a brilliantly crafted book where sights, sounds and even smells of the Ghanaian way of life are conjured up quite vividly… details … woven so well into the fabric of the story it becomes an essential part of the read” and even Julia Ibbotson’s descriptions of Ghana instantly transport the reader there… It is very clear that the author has spent some time in Ghana as her knowledge of the country and its political strife is extensive. I love the symbolism of the drums throughout the book, making it so atmospheric.”

Many thanks to those readers, whoever they are! If my readers can feel the location too, I’ve done my job OK. I do hope you think so too.

Can you be my left hand? – on my upcoming Drumbeats Trilogy book tour

So here we go with my exciting upcoming book blog tour, with Rachel’s Random Reads. 42 stops over two weeks! Goodness, I’ll be busy keeping up with three stops per day. Even more so now that I have an operation to my shoulder on Friday and the tour starts Saturday. Ouch! But the joy of a blog tour is that it can be done from my desk. No longer do I have to take a plane, travel between cities, appear in my professional togs, make-up perfect. I can sit at my laptop in my pjs if I so wish! Just as well as over the next few weeks I’ll have my left arm immobilised in a sling and probably won’t feel much like dressing up and putting on my make-up – let alone actually trying to brush my hair – even if it was remotely possible! You may think I exaggerate, but I have gone through all this before (twice!) with my right arm, so I am currently filled with trepidation …

However, the prospect of a lovely book blog tour cheers me up and I shall try to click on each stop each day and share/retweet, etc, although I may need to get my long-suffering husband to serve as my left hand for typing.

Can you help? Could you be my left hand?

I’d love it if you could share/retweet with me. The stops each day are in the poster below and the links will be on my facebook and author facebook pages. Thank you so much – much appreciated.

rrr drumbeats tour schedule – sheet1

 

Book Tours and a plot ‘spoilers’ challenge

The brand new Drumbeats Trilogy Omnibus edition is just out in ebook from my publisher Endeavour, and it’s available on Amazon right now – all three novels together in one place for only £5.99. The trilogy overall is a saga about love, betrayal and second chances – and one woman’s search for the strength to rise above adversity.

http://mybook.to/DrumbeatsOmnibus

It’s the story of Jess and we first meet her in Drumbeats as an 18 year old in 1965 on a gap year in Ghana (West Africa) where she’s teaching and nursing in the bush. She goes with a naive mission to make a difference in the world, but faces tragedy, civil war, and a new romance – with the echoes of the village drumbeats warning her of something … but what?

The next, Walking in the Rain, follows Jess back to England, and marriage, motherhood, and disaster … and the drumbeats continue to pervade her dreams.

The final book, Finding Jess, published singly just last August, sees Jess coping with betrayals, family problems and desperately trying to juggle a job at the same time … and finally returning to Ghana to try to ‘find herself’ again as an individual. Will she succeed? And what are the drumbeats trying to tell her throughout it all?

Some of the wonderful reviews I’ve already received: “scenes of raw emotion”, “an emotional roller-coaster”, “a heart-warming read, wonderfully written, compelling, warm and uplifting”“feel the searing heat of Ghana burning right off the pages”, “a powerful story”, “so evocative, it transported me to a different time, different place; I couldn’t put it down”.

There’s a major launch of the omnibus edition and a book blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources from January 26 to February 8. The tour’s full and all ‘sold out’ for 42 stops. So, I’m busy preparing content for the tour: guest posts, Q&As, selecting extracts …

How do you select extracts from all three books without giving away ‘spoilers’ for the plots? Goodness, it’s difficult! I’ve worked on several attempts. One host wants an extract from just one of the books, OK, but I have to select very carefully as it’s the second book in the series. Two of the hosts want extracts from all three and a few words about the context of each one. Fair enough, but what a challenge. All three hosts need a selection of different extracts, because I guess many blog readers will be following the whole tour and obviously don’t want to be reading the same stuff over and over! I wouldn’t! Should I take a different ‘theme’ for each, maybe? But even so, how do I do it, especially the context statements, without giving away too much of what happens to Jess through three whole novels and 30 years?! Well, I’ve given you enough above! Yikes.

Any advice, gratefully received! In the meantime, I’ll be ensconced in my study for the duration.

Get those brain cells working overtime, Julia. I WILL get there … eventually! In the meantime, I’ll pop up the official book tour banner from my tour organiser shortly. Six guest posts and Q&As drafted … nearly there …

Yesterday Uncovered: back to the 1960s with Chill With a Book

My lovely friend Pauline Barclay, a great supporter of authors, is running a series of features each month revisiting different historical decades through literature. It’s on her blog Chill with a Book and the series is called Yesterday Uncovered. I was thrilled when she invited me to take part. Today I’m slipping back to the 1960s! Well, actually I’m sitting by Pauline’s pool in the sunshine sipping bubbly and chatting, and being interviewed by Pauline for her blog. Pauline features the interview in the Yesterday Uncovered 1960s blogspot about the first of my Drumbeats trilogy and the background to its 1960s setting in Ghana, a time of danger, civil war, and tragedy that swept across West Africa (oh, and it’s about finding love as well!).

So, why did I choose the 1960s and why Ghana? What research did I need to do about the time and place? What was life like then? What were the great bands and songs of the 60s?

And how does the novel Drumbeats develop through the trilogy? Along with its successors, Walking in the Rain and Finding Jess, the trilogy is a saga of love, betrayal and second chances, spanning 30 years.

I’m having a busy time t the moment promoting the trilogy: tomorrow I’m being interviewed on Rachel Brimble’s blog and next Tuesday I’m on Jo Lambert’s Tuesday Talk – I’ll post the links for both next week. November 12-15 I’m on tour with Kelly Lacey and Love Books Group.

The trilogy would make a great Christmas gift in either paperbacks or ebooks! All the books are individually on Amazon in ebook and paperback but my publisher is bringing out the whole saga in an ebook omnibus edition in early December (see below)  and check it out at

http://myBook.to/Drumbeatstrilogy

Many thanks to Pauline for inviting me to be a part of her fascinating series. It was great to chat with the lovely and generous Pauline again! Check out the blog by clicking below …
 https://paulinembarclay.blogspot.com/…/yesterday-uncovered-… …

How to write 14 books in one year?

[‘Finding Jess’ launch day 10th July!]

Let me start by saying: I have no idea! I just read an amazing piece about a woman who has written over 40 books in less than 7 years; she likes to write a book every 6 weeks, and 14 in one year alone. I can only think that they are very short … and yes, judging by her Amazon profile they are what we call ‘novellas’ – or even ‘short novellas’. But good for her, she’s managed to buy a house and a farm with her royalties (no, I’m not jealous at all! Honest!).

I had this very conversation at a recent RNA chapter lunch where I was talking to some friends about whether to sign a contract with a publisher who wanted a commitment to two books a year, and most of us said no, we wouldn’t. But some of my friends do. Not perhaps 14, though! For me it would feel like too much stress and pressure just to commit to two a year. My novels are ones I need to research for weeks, if not months, before putting ‘pen to paper’ (or fingers to keyboard). I need to have a strong knowledge of the time and place: be it the early anglo-saxon period in England, the 1960s, Ghana, the Victorian kitchen, and so on. Additionally, my books are full novel length: 75 – 80k.

People ask me about my writing patterns. Well, I try to do my research during the summer, so that I can read and make notes in the fresh air and sunshine (if we have any in the UK!), and in Madeira. And then I write during the cold dark winter days.

But, to be fair, I don’t have to write for a living, and that makes a difference. Although since I retired from my post as senior lecturer at the university, it’s my ‘full time’ occupation, it isn’t my bread and butter, my sole income. So I can enjoy it, the research and the process of writing. And I’m so glad I don’t have to churn out 14 books in a year!

‘Finding Jess’, the last of the Drumbeats trilogy is being published on 10th July by my publisher, Endeavour. They will then be releasing an Omnibus edition (box set) of the three, although all will be available separately too. I hope you enjoy discovering what happens to Jess in the final part of her saga.

So,this summer I’ll be researching for my next novel (working title Azulejo) which is set in two or even three different time zones mainly in Madeira, each linked by a shard of volcanic rock and a mysterious document! The book opens with the volcanic eruption that created the island of Madeira millions of years ago with a huge explosion of basaltic lava fountains, rock and fire, the seas boiling and waves crashing … can’t wait to start writing it!

 

Christmas at Chatsworth

 

As usual Chatsworth was a delight at Christmas time and this year the theme was Charles Dickens – so wonderful for me, as a writer. The picture above isn’t our Christmas dinner at the Big House … look closely and you’ll see the cobwebs over a wedding feast. Yes, it’s Great Expectations, and Miss Haversham was there to greet us!

She was joined in other parts of the house by Ebenezer Scrooge, startled in his bed by the ghost of Christmas Past …

… and we loved Fagin, and the London Christmas of Oliver Twist….

…  the magical creations of houses sculpted from old book pages, the Christmas tree made from books …

It was all simply charming. But the day was truly icy as we wandered round the gardens, remembering the many days we’ve spent walking there in summer, along the river and across the parkland, but what a lovely walk it was, despite noses and mouths freezing. It was a fantastic start to the Christmas period and we look forward to next year’s theme.

Look out Great British Bake Off – TOR rising up the book charts on Amazon!

I’m thrilled that today I discovered that The Old Rectory is at #2 in the entire paid-for kindle sales in Canada and at #24 in the entire paid-for kindle sales in Australia! In the UK it’s #1 in the Food & Drink UK category, beating the Great British Bake Off, Mary Berry and Nadiya Hussain.

The Old Rectory: escape to a country kitchen has officially been awarded the ‘Best Seller’ badge!

http://myBook.to/TheOldRectory

A Shape on the Air has also reached #5 on Amazon so I’m pretty delighted!

http://myBook.to/ASOTA