OK, let me fangirl over Anna for a few minutes. She’s bright, funny, articulate, passionate, inspirational, curious…oh, and writes FABULOUS historical fiction. I got to know Anna at the Historical Novel Society Conference in England a few years ago, where we stomped around Merton College together seeking Charles and Henrietta and marvelling at the chapel ceiling. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying her fantastic novels, and writing alongside her in a recent anthology – Betrayal. Today, she stops by for a chat. Hoping one day soon it’s tea together in the shadow of a cathedral spire, Anna!
The Whirlpools of Time
By Anna Belfrage
He hoped for a wife. He found a companion through time and beyond.
It is 1715 and for Duncan Melville something fundamental is missing from his life. Despite a flourishing legal practice and several close friends, he is lonely, even more so after the recent death of his father. He needs a wife—a companion through life, someone to hold and be held by. What he wasn’t expecting was to be torn away from everything he knew and find said woman in 2016…
Erin Barnes has a lot of stuff going on in her life. She doesn’t need the additional twist of a stranger in weird outdated clothes, but when he risks his life to save hers, she feels obligated to return the favour. Besides, whoever Duncan may be, she can’t exactly deny the immediate attraction.
The complications in Erin’s life explode. Events are set in motion and to Erin’s horror she and Duncan are thrown back to 1715. Not only does Erin have to cope with a different and intimidating world, soon enough she and Duncan are embroiled in a dangerous quest for Duncan’s uncle, a quest that may very well cost them their lives as they travel through a Scotland poised on the brink of rebellion.
Will they find Duncan’s uncle in time? And is the door to the future permanently closed, or will Erin find a way back?
Trigger Warnings: Sexual Content. Violence.
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Tell us about your life, Anna. Does writing energize or exhaust you and how do you wind down / recharge?
That is an interesting question!
When I started investing serious time in my writing, it served the purpose of being a bolt-hole from an otherwise very hectic professional career. I was the CFO of a multinational group, had long days at work and many, many hours on various flights as I travelled back and forth across the world.
For those that haven’t done it, all that business travel sounds fun. For those of us who do, (and I am sure you can agree with this, Liz) we quickly realise all that travel essentially leads to a surfeit of airport lounges and nothing much else.
Anyway: in all that, my writing became an escape. Instead of reading a book while on an intercontinental flight, I would write my own. Seeing as I never sleep on airplanes (I have this superstitious fear that if I do, the plane will plummet from the skies) I had plenty of hours in which to write and write and write.
So, initially, my writing was sheer escapism, leaving me leaping about as a happy calf in a field full of clover.
Some years later, I rearranged my working-life. After years of working 60 hour weeks, I was now in a position to balance a role as a non-executive director/professional board member with more time for my writing.
Except that it wasn’t, as suddenly my writing became a “must-do”, scheduled to take place in certain time-slots. Inspiration evaporated faster than a spilled glass of water in the Sahara… What had previously left me brimming with energy, was now something of a dragging anchor.
It took me some time to understand why my writing was affected this way. For several months, I simply stopped writing, waiting and waiting for Ms Inspiration to pop back in my head with a new idea or two. She never did—until the day I came up with a compromise: I set aside scheduled time for my writing and if the words weren’t flowing, I busied myself with research or with plotting a general outline. For some odd reason, Ms Inspiration would strike when I was deep in research—along the lines of “yes, yes, you just have to write something about this! Imagine if XX stumbles up someone boiling hemlock roots and hoping to serve them up as parsnips!” Obviously, I had no problems imagining that, and my writing was back on track.
And then came the pandemic.
“Ooooo!” some said. “So much time to write!”
Except I was totally distracted by what was happening in the world around us. Plus, what I write felt so totally irrelevant. Ms Inspiration went mute. My cursor blinked and blinked. Nada. Niente. Nothing.
Time, obviously, for some recharging. I shut down my WIP, downloaded I don’t know how many books (everything from Sci-Fi Romance through dark thrillers to Regency Romance and bits and pieces in between) to my Kindle, and went on a major reading binge. And then, after some months, Ms Inspiration swept back into my life and peeked down at what I was reading.
“Seriously, Anna: a BLUE hero?” (Hey, he’s an Alien, OK? And rather handsome, despite his skin colour)
Ms Inspiration fiddled with her flowing skirts and fixed me with a piercing gaze. “Shouldn’t you be WRITING instead? Like about Noor and her adventures in Castile?”
“Well, you haven’t exactly been around,” I muttered.
“But now I am back—or, as we say in Castile, Aquí estoy.” (Except that they didn’t say that in medieval Castile, but I chose not to correct her. Ms Inspiration can be thin-skinned. . .)
With that, dear peeps, my writing mojo was back—thank God!
I guess the lessons I’ve learned is that sometimes, writing is extremely energizing. Other times, it isn’t, but if I want to write hard enough, sooner or later I find my way back to the light. Sometimes, to do so I must take time out and recharge. Days, weeks, maybe even months (perish the thought!) when I don’t write, but instead concentrate on living. Except, of course, that for an enthusiastic author, life without writing is not much of a life.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal and why?
Hmmm. Clearly, this is something I should have considered in depth ages ago. I rather like the idea of myself as a graceful feline, a sleepy-eyed tiger who watches things happen with a slight flick of the tail, no more.
But if I’m going to be honest, my spirit animal is more industrious than that. No lazing about, no waiting for opportunity to present itself, so I guess I’d go for a squirrel, constantly collecting little tidbits of info, snapshots of human behaviour, snatches of conversation, and sorting them into neat little “good-to-have” piles.
If you have pictures on your writing desk or desktop, what are they and why did you choose them?
I like to have pictures of locations. At present, I am therefore surrounded by pictures of Sevilla, of medieval castles in Spain, of dark little alleys that wind their way through the historical centres in many of Spain’s older cities.
I also like to have pictures of maps, and if I find an image somewhere that reminds me of one of my protagonists, I tend to pin it.
What about your newest release, The Whirlpools of Time. What did you edit out of this book?”
I can go a bit overboard on the intimate scenes at times. I love writing them—mainly because they allow me to show just how close and passionate my leading couple is. The first draft included quite a few such scenes, but during my edit, I was ruthless, cutting out quite a few—this despite how much it hurt to delete all that intensity, all that hot and steamy love. Did this improve the book? Yes. (And now I am considering editing ALL my books as ruthlessly, but an author I know—Helen Hollick—has told me one should not waste energy on already published books, one should focus on the next book)
How do you select the names of your characters?
I agonise for days is the short answer. The somewhat longer answer is that I spend a lot of time poring over name lists relevant to the period. This can be somewhat surprising—like when you stumble upon a “Joyce” – rather modern, right?—in 13th century England. Or a “Felicity”.
In my latest release, The Whirlpools of Time, naming wasn’t much of an issue. My male protagonist, Duncan Melville, had been named as a secondary character in a previous book. And my female protagonist—well, I knew I wanted to name this modern lady after two book reviewers who have been very supportive throughout my writing career. So my Erin is named to honour Erin Davies and Erin Al-Mehairi.
Which scene or chapter in the book is your favourite? Why?
I am very fond of the chapter where Duncan, after having spent 24 hours fearing Erin is forever lost to him, escapes into anger when he sees her. There she is, moderately clean and whole, and he has been struggling with all these images of her hurt and bleeding, and it just becomes too much.
Once he’s ascertained she is well, he explodes, telling her off for being an absolute idiot (he has a point) thereby endangering herself. Of course, the reason why he is so angry is because he cannot envisage a life without her—it would be like living with a bloody hole where his heart is. Awwww…I just love a man who is strong and brave—and vulnerable.
Give a shout out to a writing buddy or fellow author; how did they help you with this book?
They say it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a tribe to boost a writer’s self-confidence—and I am fortunate in having a wonderful tribe, including people like you Liz, like Alison Morton and Helen Hollick (who are marvellously frank while cheering me on) like Annie Whitehead, Char Newcomb and Cryssa Bazos who’ve helped me with my blurb and the cover.
All of you contribute to making me believe in myself and my writing. Thank you for that!
Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England.
Anna has also published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients. Her September 2020 release, His Castilian Hawk, has her returning to medieval times. Set against the complications of Edward I’s invasion of Wales, His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty, integrity—and love. Her most recent release, The Whirlpools of Time, is a time travel romance set against the backdrop of brewing rebellion in the Scottish highlands.
All of Anna’s books have been awarded the IndieBRAG Medallion, she has several Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choices, and one of her books won the HNS Indie Award in 2015. She is also the proud recipient of various Reader’s Favorite medals as well as having won various Gold, Silver and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards.
Find out more about Anna, her books and her eclectic historical blog on her website, www.annabelfrage.com .
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