Interview with Laura Vosika: ‘The key is engaging characters about whom the reader cares’
Shawn Kleiner has it all: money, fame, a skyrocketing career as an international musical phenomenon, his beautiful girlfriend Amy, and all the women he wants—until the night Amy has enough and leaves him stranded in a Scottish castle tower.
He wakes up to find himself mistaken for Niall Campbell, medieval Highland warrior. Soon after, he is sent shimmying down a wind-torn castle wall into a dangerous cross country trek with Niall’s tempting, but knife-wielding fiancee. They are pursued by English soldiers and a Scottish traitor who want Niall dead.
Thrown forward in time, Niall learns history’s horrifying account of his own death, and of the Scots’ slaughter at Bannockburn. Undaunted, he navigates the roiled waters of Shawn’s life—pregnant girlfriend, amorous fans, enemies, and gambling debts—seeking a way to leap back across time to save his people, especially his beloved Allene. His growing fondness for Shawn’s life brings him face to face with his own weakness and teaches him the true meaning of faith.
This is the exciting premise of Laura Vosika’s new historical fiction, Blue Bells of Scotland, a historical adventure and a tale of redemption that will be remembered long after the last page has been turned.
We interviewed Laura to find out more about her new book. Enjoy!
Thank you for this interview, Laura. Can we begin by having you tell us what your new book, Blue Bells of Scotland, is all about?
Laura: Blue Bells of Scotland is a time travel and historic adventure, about two men, polar opposites but for their looks and love of music, who are mistaken for one another. Shawn is a modern musical phenomenon, who wears accusations of self-centeredness like a badge of honor. Niall is a devout medieval Highland warrior, the epitome of responsibility. The fate of Scotland rests on his shoulders. When they both spend the night at the top of the same castle tower, they wake up in the wrong centuries, caught in one another’s lives.
Such an interesting title for a book. Can you tell us why you chose it?
Laura: The title has several layers of meaning. It comes from the title of a theme and variations well-known to trombonists, and the story centers in part around Shawn, a professional trombonist, who uses this as his signature piece. The theme and variations is based on an old folk song about streaming banners and noble deeds—just the kind of thing I wanted to weave into any story I wrote.
On the deepest level, Blue Bells of Scotland was composed by Arthur Pryor in the days when the slide trombone (as it was then called) was a novelty instrument and people thought it couldn’t do much. He wrote it to showcase just how much a trombone is capable of. A theme throughout the novel is the belief of Shawn’s girlfriend belief that he is much more than he shows the world.
Your premise is doubly interesting – two men spend the night at the top of the same castle tower, and then wake up in the wrong centuries caught in one another’s lives. What century did they go to sleep in, then what century did they wake up in and what were their first reactions when they woke up?
Laura: Shawn Kleiner is a twenty-first century musician, who wakes up in 1314. Because the castle had historical re-enactors the previous day, he believes he’s among re-enactors. On seeing how serious they are, and the knives in their boots, he considers that he’s been kidnapped to the wilder parts of Scotland, and gladly slips out on Niall’s mission to escape them. He spends the next couple of days in parts of the Highlands and in a monastery, which look much as they do today, so it takes him awhile to understand what has happened. His reaction is deep shock, fear, and panic, as he realizes none of his prestige, power, and previous methods of dealing with people are going to save him.
Niall falls asleep in 1314 and wakes up in the present day. He is suffering from severe infection, and thinks, on waking, that he is suffering delirium. With medical treatment, with having grown up on stories of King Herla disappearing in time, and seeing the changes around him in modern Inverness, he figures it out much more quickly than Shawn. Determined to do his duty for his people, people he loves and cares about, he sets to doing what he needs to, to get back.
In researching castles for your book, which castle did you find the most interesting?
Laura: Each castle I visited has something that could make it the most interesting. Stirling’s Unicorn tapestries, for instance, or Dunvegan’s Fairy Flag. I loved the history of Urquhart and the atmosphere of Tioram, both of which I used as inspirations for Niall’s Castle Glenmirril. Which I found most interesting would probably be a tie between Tioram, and the abandoned ruins of Finlarig, sitting in a clearing of a copse in Killin. Both sit alone, no historical society or guided tours, no entrance fees. Both have a feeling of age and mystery, sitting alone, with few visitors.
You’re a lover of historical sites, aren’t you? Can you tell us a few of the places you have been that really intrigued you?
Laura: What a wonderful question! I grew up in the military, which gave me the opportunity to go to castles in Germany, and the historic sites of the United States, especially on the East Coast and around Washington, D.C. I am especially drawn to anything in the old parts of Boston, to Faneuil Hall, the old cemeteries, and the Old North Church. The history is so rich and fascinating, so full of great stories of character, people risking everything for what they believe in, and great events that impacted the whole world. I love the battlefields at Gettysburg and Little Bighorn. I was struck by the beauty and history of Linlithgow Palace, in Scotland. I would visit it often if I lived there. And I loved Castles Urquhart and Tioram. They have such a powerful sense of age and history, and lives lived and dramatic events.
In your opinion, what is the key ingredient for writing historical fiction that will keep readers turning page after page and not want to put it down?
Laura: The same as any story, I think the key is engaging characters about whom the reader cares. If the character feels like a real person, if they come to feel they know this character, they will want to know what happens, and keep reading.
Finally, I like to ask authors this question…what is your passion? What is it that you’re more passionate about than anything else?
Laura: I was told in college that I needed to focus. I still can’t! The best I can do is narrow it down to my children and writing, with music a close second.
Thanks for coming, Laura! Do you have any final words?
Laura: Thank you so much for having me! It’s been a pleasure! I welcome readers to stop by my site at www.bluebellstrilogy.com or read more about medieval Scotland at www.bluebellstrilogy.com/blog.