When I first read The Blue Bells of Scotland, I was immediately caught up in Laura Vosika’s fascinating story of two men, identical in looks, who suddenly switch places. Shawn Kleiner, a famous and spoiled musician, finds himself transported seven hundred years in the past. At the same time, Niall Campbell travels seven hundred years forward, to our present.
Laura develops her characters beautifully through all the books, including those surrounding the men and with whom they have relationships. I’ve read them all, and eagerly await the release of The Battle is O’er. In fact, I may have been first in line to pre-order it and cannot wait to read it.
Laura is as interesting as her books, and it’s my pleasure to have her with us. Thank you for joining us, Laura!
Tell us about your background. How did you get your start in writing, and how long have you been writing?
I grew up in the military—a great way to live if you look at the positives. You meet lots of people from lots of backgrounds. You learn about the world and other people and that there are a wealth of ideas and ways to live well.
On the down side, it’s easy to end up a bit rootless when you’re always the new kid in school. But there are always books. Whether I would have been a great reader anyway, I’ll never know, but there was certainly plenty of time to read in the summers we had just moved, before school started.
I started writing at a very young age. I tried a few poems when I was eight (and it’s probably just as well they’re long lost!) At nine, I was writing short stories and ‘binding’ them to put on the classroom’s book shelf. At ten, I was starting my first novel.
When was your first book published, and how many have you published since?
Blue Bells of Scotland was published on September 11, 2009—wow how time flies! Then came the second book, The Minstrel Boy, then The Water is Wide, and Westering Home, all in The Blue Bells Chronicles. The Battle is O’er is my fifth novel. I’ve also published Go Home and Practice, a musician’s record book, and Food and Feast in the World of the Blue Bells Chronicles: a gastronomic historic poetic musical romp in thyme, a collection of scenes from the novels that features over 200 recipes, the majority from medieval sources, along with history, stories, poems, and songs associated with the scenes.
How much does your background influence your writing?
A great deal, I’d say. I spent my earliest years in Germany, visiting castles and medieval towns, driving in the Alps, going down into the salt mines, camping in England where we once pitched our tent (with the sexton’s permission) just outside an ancient cemetery. When we lived on the east coast, we went to many historic sites. History has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, including medieval history.
Then there’s the music. The Blue Bells Chronicles centers on Shawn Klein, a famous classical trombonist. This is my background. I majored in music, on trombone, and for a time freelanced with various types of orchestras and chamber playing — so Shawn’s world is one with which I’m well-acquainted. Like Niall, the medieval Highlander, I also play harp.
What inspires you to continue writing?
The letters I get from readers, telling me how they love the books and are eagerly awaiting the next one, are very uplifting and keep me going faster than I might otherwise. But to me, writing is something I can’t NOT do. I’ve been writing stories almost since I was able to write. Niall and Shawn are, in a sense, very real, and I can’t NOT write their story.
I can attest to that, being one of those readers eagerly awaiting the next one! Aside from your fans, what is the best thing about being a writer?
Apart from the thrill of bringing worlds and people to life–the connections I’ve made with other people; the people I’ve met as a result of writing. I’ve met people literally all over the world whom I would never have known otherwise; and some I’ve become friends with, whether that be other writers or readers.
What is the worst thing?
It’s not exactly a steady stream of income and there are no benefits; like healthcare and paid vacation.
What is your single best piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Find a writer’s group to join. Get feedback on your writing.
Why do the events of the past matter to us today? Why do we keep reading about the past?
We learn from the past. Every age has its wisdom and every age has its follies. A recurring theme throughout The Blue Bells Chronicles is the contrast of eras. Niall thinks very little of Shawn or his time–and Shawn has equally negative views of both Niall and his century. But as the story progresses, Niall learns there are some good things to be had in the modern time, while Shawn comes to realize that his society also has its flaws, and that maybe, while we’ve improved many things, we’ve also thrown out some good ideas and some wisdom.
When we read about history, we’re learning–both from what an age did right, and from their mistakes. Apart from that, we’re learning some great stories!
Laura, it has been a pleasure chatting with you. I understand you have an event coming up. Would you share a little about that?
I’ll be doing an ‘author takeover’ on Facebook, March 24 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. I’d love to have you and your readers join me. Here’s the link: Author Takeover with Laura Vosika.
Thank you so much! And thank you for this excerpt from your new book The Battle is O’er. Click here to pre-order the book, and enjoy the excerpt. More of Laura’s links follow.
EXCERPT FROM THE BATTLE IS O’ER
“You know these tunnels?” the chief asked.
“I know them well,” Shawn said tersely.
You’re in your time. That had been Amy, as he led her, too, seven hundred years later, just months ago in July, through these same passages. A chill shot through him, wondering if Niall might be down here. He had seen just a glimpse of him, as he burst into the chapel, just a glimpse of his best friend, his brother, knife raised, looking at Simon, as he faded away. Yes, he, too, would be in these passages, searching for Simon in his own time.
“How do you know them?” Clive asked. His light played over the dirt floor.
“Watch carefully,” Shawn returned. “There’s a side passage opening up. He could be hiding there.”
“How do you know them?” Clive asked again.
“I told you,” Shawn said irritably. “I spent a good part of two years here.”
“You were only gone a year.”
In the close passage, Shawn spun. “Do you not get it? There’s a medieval madman down here—maybe—who will kill you. He’ll have his knife under your ribs and through your heart in the blink of an eye, if you’re not paying attention! Could we maybe have our coffee klatch later?”
In the shadowed light of the labyrinth, Clive’s face remained passive, his eyes dark. He nodded, and spoke to the chief. “Guard the exit. I’ll go with Kleiner.” Before his boss could object, he pushed ahead in the cramped tunnel, saying over his shoulder, “You’re needed at the precinct.”
WEB SITE: www.bluebellschronicles.com
BLOG on MEDIEVAL HISTORY: http://bluebellstrilogy.blogspot.com