Today I have the opportunity to welcome author Margaret Skea to The Maiden’s Court and to introduce her and her work to you all. Her novel, Turn of the Tide was released in November 2012.
Has writing a novel been a long-held goal for you, or something that came on you more recently?
It was always something I wanted to do, but never felt capable of. My comfort zone was 3000 words – just right for short stories. So for many years I concentrated on writing them until, as part of my way of dealing with a difficult situation, I channeled all the emotions of that period into writing Turn of the Tide.
What has been the most difficult aspect of writing / publishing this novel?
The writing itself went very well, though I re-drafted several times, but the most difficult aspect was trying to find an agent to represent me. Eventually after many frustrating months and a growing pile of ‘glowing’ rejections – complimentary about the writing, but questioning the novel’s commerciality, I decided to leap-frog the agent stage and approach publishers direct. As a result I very quickly received two offers to publish and I chose to accept the Scottish publisher’s offer.
What is the significance of the title, Turn of the Tide?
Ah, if I disclosed that, it would be a serious ‘spoiler’ - all I can say is that there is both a metaphorical and a physical turning of the tide in the novel and both are central to the story.
Your book was released at the end of 2012. Did you do anything to celebrate this monumental event?
The timing of the launch was amazing, in that it coincided both with a Scottish history festival called ‘Previously’ and the first Scottish Book Week. As a result, as well as a launch in a major Edinburgh bookshop, I was invited to share a ‘Writing History’ event with an established author in another major bookshop and was a keynote speaker at a Book Week event in a lovely old historic house. All in all an exciting week, but no time to celebrate!
How did the fact that you live in Scotland contribute to how you wrote the setting of your novel?
I‘ve been told that I write weather very well – I’m sure that’s because I experience plenty of it! I also live in a rural area with many tower houses dating from the period of my novel, both complete and ruinous. They and the landscape that surrounds me help to ensure that descriptive details are accurate.
Do you have any future writing plans?
I am part-way through the sequel to Turn of the Tide - the working title of the second book is A House Divided - and although my publisher has an option on it, whether it will be taken up or not depends on how well this current book does.
I also have a ‘bank’ of contemporary short stories, many of which have either won or been listed in competitions and I am hoping that a collection of them will soon be available, initially as an e-book on Kindle.
My first historical short story is to be published by the Historical Novel Society in an anthology of the finalists in their recent short story competition, and following my success there I would like (when I have a moment) to write more historical shorts.
Margaret Skea grew up in Ulster at the height of the ‘Troubles’, but now lives with her husband in the Scottish Borders.
An interest in Scotland’s turbulent history, and in particular the 16th century, combined with PhD research into the Ulster-Scots vernacular, led to the writing of Turn of the Tide. which was the Historical Fiction Winner in the 2011 Harper Collins / Alan Titchmarsh People’s Novelist Competition.
An Hawthornden Fellow and award winning short story writer – her recent credits include, Overall Winner Neil Gunn 2011, Chrysalis Prize 2010, and Winchester Short Story Prize 2009. Shortlisted in the Mslexia Short Story Competition 2012 and long-listed for the Matthew Pritchard Award, Fish Short Story and Fish One Page Prize, she has been published in a range of magazines and anthologies in Britain and the USA.
Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court