We Talk Mystery, Scotland, ‘School Caramel Cake’ – and more!
Welcome, Nancy Jardine! Please tell us a little about your book, Topaz Eyes.
Topaz Eyes has been called a treasure hunt, a deadly mystery set in fabulous world wide cities, and more that one reviewer has said it made them want to immediately book a holiday to experience for themselves the fabulous European cities that feature in the story. Essentially, Topaz Eyes is a mystery that’s ancestral based – who is the deadliest cousin in the ‘family tree’ descendants of Geertje Hoogeven of 1880s Amsterdam being one of the big questions. Who is the cousin who will contemplate murder to keep the precious emerald jewellery collection that once belonged to a Mughal emperor?
What inspired you to write it?
I created a simple family tree structure for Monogamy Twist, a romantic mystery that became my first published novel. I enjoyed the task so much that I challenged myself to make a much more complex one. In Topaz Eyes, by choosing to originate my fictitious family in Amsterdam in the 1880s, I was able to scatter the family members around Europe in the intervening years between the two World Wars, with some of them leaving Europe to emigrate to the US. The cast of characters is much larger than in a simple romance so Topaz Eyes developed into a suspense mystery with romantic elements.
How easy was it to set your scenes in the European locations detailed in the book? I am particularly interested to know since my debut novel contains multiple cosmopolitan scenes… and unfortunately, I didn’t get round to flying back to them before writing the book!
I’ve visited all of the fabulous places mentioned in Topaz Eyes except one and I like to challenge my readers to work out which world-wide place I’ve never been to. I lived in Holland for three years (1979-1981) and have been back to visit many times since so I’m quite familiar with all of the Dutch places mentioned. My daughter spent a year studying at Heidelberg University (like my main female character Keira Drummond in Topaz Eyes). I’ve visited that quaint university town a few times, which makes it easy to describe and I’ve made tourist visits to the other places in the novel bar one. For anywhere not experienced, the internet is a useful tool!
You live in beautiful Scotland. How does the very particular landscape there influence your writing?
I try, where possible, to include a Scottish connection in my writing. In Topaz Eyes, Keira Drummond is from Edinburgh, a city I know quite well and some of the action of the story is set there. Another of my contemporary mysteries Take Me Now has my humorous version of a contemporary highland hero who has a Scottish island castle base and a lot of the action takes place in the west coast of Scotland. Though in Take Me Now, I also feature world wide cities during the saboteur hunt, locations I’ve also visited and loved so much I wanted to include them in my writing.
My historical romantic adventure Celtic Fervour Series is set in first century northern Britannia which geographically means from Yorkshire and Cumbria northwards, all the way to where I live in Aberdeenshire. It’s quite a challenge to imagine what these British locations were like almost 2000 years ago so that I can describe them as well as I do in my contemporary writing.
Can you give us any clues as to what you are working on next?
Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series is my current writing. It’s a project that’s been through many changes and is taking me a long while to complete. I’m completely fascinated by the (pre-) historical Roman Britain/ Roman Scotland era that has almost no written documentation to work on and every new archaeological discovery has me reaching to make revisions! I’ve a couple of other manuscripts that I also work on- a second historical time travel, and the beginning of a family saga both set in Victorian Scotland.
That has to be what I call ‘school caramel cake’. Shortbread base, yummy caramel filling with chocolate vermicelli scattered on top. I love it served with vanilla custard. It’s sinfully sweet and so delicious, not quite Millionaire’s Shortbread, but so bad for me!
Favourite place you have ever visited anywhere in the world?
That’s so hard to answer since I’ve managed to visit loads of fantastic places. The most sumptuous would be a hotel in Oman called the Al Bustan Palace. The interior in the mid-1990s was unbelievably decadent and afternoon tea served in the central atrium with the harpist playing next to the interior waterfall was incredible. The surroundings were of totally impressive marble. I think it will have been redecorated by now but it was a beautiful place. (BTW – it’s one of the places that features in Take Me Now)
As a family tree fanatic, what has been your most eye-opening discovery about your own family’s roots?
That would be telling! When I discovered that my Victorian great-grandfather had more than one wife – at the same time – I found it highly amusing. My sister wasn’t quite so amused though, and I heard that my grandmother’s sister’s daughter (are you following?) was so affronted she wanted it hushed up! My most eye-watering moment, so far, was discovering that the same great-grandfather was father to twin girls, born in 1882 and who died of diphtheria at 7 months old, on the same day. When I read that during online searches it touched me very deeply. Their birth and death certificates declare them illegitimate and times were much harsher then if you were touched with the stigma of illegitimacy so I have to wonder if it was a good thing, or not, that they died.
Your one piece of advice for anybody writing in your genre?
That’s a tough question since I write in two different genres/ sub genres. Realistically, the marketing is hard for any genre of fiction but some are harder to market than others. If your work straddles genre types, then classifying it for selling on Amazon is very difficult yet it can be crucial to more sales if you get into a niche part of a genre that reflects aspects of your story better than a more general classification. I’m totally delighted, though, that @Crooked Cat Books make it their business to publish excellent novels which straddle lots of genre areas.
The Topaz Eyes universal link is: Amazon Universal http://getbook.at/buymehere
Bio: In Nancy Jardine’s contemporary romantic mysteries there’s easy reading and deeper plots to please different readers. Topaz Eyes was a Finalist in The People’s Book Prize 2014 (UK). Her Celtic Fervour Series of historical romantic adventures is set in first century northern Roman Britain when the Ancient Roman advance into barbarian territory means the Celts need to get their act together!
The Taexali Game is a historical time-travel adventure set in third century Roman Scotland. This acquired second place in the Barbara Hammond Competition for Best Self Published Book March 2017 (Scottish Association for Writers).
Nancy’s week vanishes in a blur of reading, writing & reviewing and blogging. She’s creative about squeezing in gardening but regular grandkid minding (official & unpaid) is a priority—any time left is merely for breathing, sleeping and keeping up with news and politics. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, the Scottish Association of Writers and the Federation of Writers Scotland. She’s published by Crooked Cat Books and has delved into self publishing.
You can find her at these places:
Amazon Author page http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere