Posted on January 31, 2022 at 8:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Today we're interviewing historical fiction author Margaret Skea.
Skea is a multi-award-winning author of five historical novels and a collection of short stories.
Growing up during "The Troubles" in Ulster, it was perhaps inevitable that much of her writing focuses on living within conflict in one form or another.
Her primary aim is to provide an authentic "you are there" experience for the reader.
SADYE: Tell us something about your writing process that is unusual.
MARGARET: Despite the luxury of a study, I am hopeless at writing at home and so have found various other places to work in. These have included:
A semi-derelict cottage in the middle of nowhere, with holes in the floor and a small rusty garden table, a chair, a portable gas heater and a kettle.
An un-heated seventeenth-century castle.
A large greenhouse.
In the cottage I wore a hat, coat, fingerless gloves, and wrapped a rug around me and used one and half large canisters of gas in the first six weeks.
In the castle I turned the room into a "cave" by covering the windows and fireplace with double layers of heavy cardboard and worked in almost dark (thank goodness for a backlit keyboard), with a portable heater and my flask of coffee.
In the greenhouse, although it was February, it was sunny for about four hours per day, and I moved around with the sun, but still needed my rug, flask and a hot water bottle on my knee.
Perhaps less unusual, wherever I am the essential ingredient to my writing process is chocolate (lots of it.)
SADYE: What have been the most surprising, rewarding and challenging parts of your writing career?
MARGARET: I spent many years writing short stories and almost never included any dialogue because I didn‘t feel confident writing it.
What surprised me most when I began writing my novels was both the amount of dialogue I use and how easy it was to write when I just let my characters speak for themselves.
The most rewarding thing has definitely been the lovely, positive feedback I’ve received from readers, whether male or female and from audiences at both large-scale events such as book festivals as well as visiting small groups such as book groups.
The most challenging aspect is undoubtedly the marketing, for like many authors I’d much rather be writing, but it is something that every author now has to do.
SADYE: What historical character would you most like to meet and why?
MARGARET: I would love to meet Richard III.
I’ve never been convinced that he killed the princes in the tower, especially since my first reading of Josephine Tey’s book Daughter of Time, so I’d love the opportunity to get to know him and finally settle the issue, in my own mind at least.
SADYE: What has been the most touching or memorable piece of reader feedback you’ve received?
MARGARET: This opening to a review of Katharina Deliverance, on the Discovering Diamonds review site. It is exactly the reaction I strive for.
"When this book arrived in my inbox, my heart rather sunk a bit for it is not a period that I am particularly well-versed, or even interested, in.
"However, any misgivings I may have had were dispelled completely by the time I had reached the second page. The quality and style — written in the first person and the present tense — didn't so much grab me as to physically haul me back through the centuries and wouldn't let me go until I had read every single word."
SADYE: What experience in your past or general aspect of your life has most affected your writing?
MARGARET: Growing up in Ulster through the period of conflict known euphemistically as "The Troubles," I experienced at first hand the impact of tribalism, division, diverse loyalties and an ever-present danger.
My normality was to go out each day expecting to come home, but always with the thought in the back of my mind that today might be the day I didn’t.
It was what prompted me to write my Scottish trilogy, which focuses on a real life, long-running feud called the "Ayrshire Vendetta."
People in sixteenth-century Scotland lived in a very similar atmosphere, facing the same problems, pressures and dangers.
On an emotional level I understood what it must have been like for them, which allowed me to write what I knew, even though I was separated from my characters by four hundred years.
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Categories: Author Interview