Sunday, 1 November 2009
Interview with Yorkshire author Linda Acaster
In keeping with the season of Halloween, I grabbed an interview with renowned Yorkshire author Linda Acaster.
After what was supposed to be a temporary writing gap devoted to helping new and budding writers improve their prose, and with it their chances of being published, Linda found herself inundated with writers looking for the edge and turned the whole enterprise into a business. Her latest novel “Torc of Moonlight”, a paranormal romance set around the University of Hull and on the North York Moors, has just been published by Legend Press and is available from Amazon, Waterstone’s, WH Smith and Barnes & Noble.
“Torc of Moonlight” follows the growing relationship between second year students Nick and Alice who, at first glance, are chalk and cheese. Nick came to Hull’s university to play rugby, drink beer and get laid; Alice to focus her studies, not on the syllabus, but on uncovering the shrine of a Celtic water goddess. Alice knows why universities surround the North York Moors as once did mediaeval seats of learning, that’s why she chose to come to Hull. Nick dismisses her theories as fantasy bordering on the delusional, until the trees crowd in and he realises that his training regime is not to hone his rugby skills.
To whet your appetite the opening extract is available as a pdf from
Q: I am intrigued by the fact that the novel’s prologue deals with what amounts to a Celt being murdered, is “Torc of Moonlight” a timeslip novel?
LA: Not at all. The novel is a contemporary one, set in the city of Hull for the most part, and up on the North York Moors where the remnants of Roman military infrastructure are still highly visible in the landscape. There’s always a lot made of Hull’s fishing past, but sitting in the Hull & East Riding Museum are the most fantastic Romano-British mosaics taken from villas in the region, and a life-size reconstruction of part of a Celtic village. It might not be on the scale of the Jorvik Viking Centre in York, but it is still pretty good.
Q: Can you say something about the paranormal aspect?
LA: It’s the thread of history, and of belief, taken on an extreme timeline. For good or ill we are influenced by our parents and the social mores of their generation. Many of us will have grandparents actively influencing the way we view the world and our place in the family unit. Some families have active great-grandparents, others no more than blurry sepia photographs with no identifying names. But what if, instead of the people of the present looking back along a timeline into the past, it was the past looking forward along its own very long timeline influencing the present?
Q: Tell us about the torc in “Torc of Moonlight”
LA: A torc is a neckring. It was a symbol of status, of aristocracy, usually fashioned by twisting strands of metal, often gold. Some had elaborate end-pieces depicting real or mythic animal heads. The one depicted on the cover of my novel has plain ring end-pieces, but there’s a reason for that, and I’m not giving away any spoilers.
Q: As well as a host of short fiction and non-fiction, you have previously written two historical romances, so you obviously enjoy your history. What piqued your interest?
LA: I was about eleven, and in a new school in Hull – now the site of Wilberforce College. The school was so new the playing fields were still being laid out when I started there and the bulldozers unearthed a group of Celtic roundhouses. I remember watching the excavations from the first floor window of our classroom and wishing I’d been allowed to help the way some of the older pupils were. The art master made a 3-D picture which hung on wall in the school’s entrance right through my years there. I’d often stare at it wondering what the dwellings had been like in reality, and I’d stand on that part of the playing field glowing in the knowledge that Celtic people had lived and worked and walked about on that very spot, so close beneath my feet. That empathy, that link to a past beneath my feet still stays with me. And it’s everywhere we go. We share a timeline with those who went before us, locked into the place, into the earth, sometimes only centimetres beneath the surface.
Q: You’ve been a published author for over 20 years and run a business helping would-be writers to polish their skills. If there was one piece of advice you could give about the writing life, what would it be?
LA: Persevere, and learn your craft – two pieces of advice for the price of one. It’s difficult handling serial rejections but it’s part of the writer’s life. The age of the conglomerate publisher is passing, and with the ascendancy of digital technology once again smaller publishing ventures are becoming viable. Just hang in there.
Q: What’s in the pipeline for your next book?
LA: I have a non-fiction book for budding writers nearing completion, and a series of late Viking era novels for children bubbling on the backburner. But as for the paranormal….there is one, set again in Hull, exploring the psychological aftermath of a fatal road accident. It might sound a bit grim, but several years ago I was half a second from taking the starring role, and that sort of experience tends to leave an indelible mark on a novelist.