Set in the the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and the Bear , by Scottish Author Ailish Sinclair – out now in paperback and Kindle – is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.
Now I know what you’re thinking – well that sounds terrific Wee Lassie, I would really like to read that! But why are you talking about it? Well, never fear my Wee Readers , I shall explain all. Recently I’ve received some very exciting news – fellow Author, Ailish Sinclair, has had her book – The Mermaid and the Bear – published. I was very excited anyway, as I am when any fellow writing Lassie gets her book published – especially when they mention me in the acknowledgements ( buy it and check it out, I’m mentioned under my birth name Charlotte) – and then something occurred to me. Ho, ho, I said, this is something my Wee Readers should know about, after all by your very nature you are readers. So thus, with the idea in place I approached Ailish herself, and formed a plan.
The basic idea for this post was an interview, which is kind of what we ended up with, but with a bit of twist. As we already knew each other, the questions didn’t have to be quite so formal, they could be…down right impertinent even. Okay, let’s start with a Wee Introduction: Ailish Sinclair is an author from the north of Scotland – like yours truly – who was trained as a dancer in London; before returning back up North, where she taught ballet and met her husband. She now lives beside a loch with said husband and two children, surrounded by castles and stone circles, where she writes and dances (yes, still) and apparently eats a lot of cake.
Her book is refreshingly also set up North in the region of Aberdeenshire, in the late sixteenth century – during a period of our history that’s not often talked about by the wider world, or indeed Scotland itself: the Aberdeen Witchcraft panic of 1597. There’s a real feeling of authenticity when it comes to Sinclair’s writing: from the clear amount of research that has gone into every aspect of late sixteenth century life, right down to the accurate Scottish dialect that many of the characters speak in. I’m not going to harp on too long about this, since it’s neither the focus of the book nor this post , but it’s very rare to find Doric in a modern book – which if you’re like me and live in a place where that’s just how people talk , it’s nice to not be left out for once. Another inclusive detail in Ailish’s novel is the fact that her heroine – Isobell – is a plus sized women, and this is never treated like a problem, or something about her that needs to be fixed, by the narrative. All body type inclusion, yeah!
Alright, enough with the introductions already, on with the impertinent questions.
7. As a fellow Writing Lassie from up here in Scotland, would you say your book has something more, or deeper, to say about Scottish culture than can be found in other books?
I live in Aberdeenshire, where the book is set, and have done so for most of my life. I hope my deep love for the countryside comes across in the narrative, and that I’ve captured the way people speak and behave towards one another here. I had to tone down the local language somewhat to make it easier to understand. ‘Ken fit like?’
6. You’ve mentioned before in other interviews that you become quite intense with your research when you’re writing a Historical Novel. So, my question is, what’s the maddest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?
Eating primroses? Sliding down dangerous cliff sides in bare feet? Cross examining the poor wardens in St Nicholas Kirk? I’m not really sure about the maddest. The hardest part was knowing when to stop. When is enough information enough? Research could go on forever, but once the story has formed firmly round it, and you know what sort of underwear everyone was wearing, it’s probably time to write the book.
5. Now that you’re getting published, and you can look back on your career with a clinical eye – what would you say was the first moment you felt like a real writer?
I actually think the most precious writing time is well before publication is even being considered. It’s that first draft. Anything is possible then. Fall in love with your story and your characters and they will lead you to all sorts of places you never imagined possible. So, to answer your question: when I was working on the first draft, and wanting to write it ALL the time, rushing home to get back to it, thinking about it ALL the time… that’s when I felt like a real writer.
4. As a confessed recovering Chocoholic, was it terribly difficult to leave the substance out of The Mermaid and the Bear?
Well, I felt deeply sorry for my poor characters that they couldn’t have any chocolate of course, but not so sorry that I withheld it from myself. I have to confess that I am, in fact, not in recovery, and have no intention of ever being so!
3. Your new novel – The Mermaid and the Bear – deals with the long-forgotten Aberdeen witchcraft panic of 1597. By choosing this subject you have brought the voices of women unjustly forgotten by history into the public eye again. What I want to ask is, is there a feminist undertone to your choice of subject matter; and if not, is there some other reason you were drawn to that particular area of Scottish history?
Given that 85% of those accused of witchcraft in Scotland were women, yes, there is definitely a feminist side to the novel. Women supporting each other, standing strong against misogyny, and believing they have the right to aspects of life that were the dominion of men at the time, and even now, do come into the story.
2.Okay, let’s dig a little deeper. If you were put on the spot, like I’m doing to you now, and you were forced to choose a person or persons (plural), that you really admired in that part of history. Who would it be?
Anyone who stood up to oppression and abuse. These people rarely make it into the recorded history of the time, so historical fiction provides scope to write about bravery, love and heroic acts as they might have happened. When bad events occur there are always those who stand strong and true, often among those who are persecuted themselves.
1. Alright final question, and then I’ll let you go. Would you say that the romantic hero of The Mermaid and the Bear – The Laird – resembles anyone you know in real life?
While aspects of his character were inspired by a local historical Laird, my fictional Laird is a little bit like my own husband. I am lucky to be married to a man who accepts people as they are, doesn’t judge anyone on outward appearance, and has an open heart and mind, just like Thomas Manteith!
I love that final answer, it always make me well up – especially if you’ve read her mention of him in the acknowledgments.
If you’ve enjoyed these impertinent questions to the emerging Author Ailish Sinclair, remember to follow my wee blog if you haven’t already, and check me out on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and my Tumblr account – or sign up to the Wee Mailing List. However if you’ve also enjoyed the long suffering answers of Ailish herself, remember to follow her wee blog here and sign up to her Mailing List here. Also check her out on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest , Facebook and Goodreads. And don’t forget to check out the The Mermaid and the Bear, now out on Kindle and Paperback where all decent books are sold. Until next time my Wee Readers, have a bonny day.