My author friend and 17th century fellow enthusiast, Francine Howarth, has tagged me in an on-going blog hop, Meet my Main Characters. The idea for the bloghop as such is the brainchild of the tireless Debbie Brown, who started it all off by introducing Evangeline, her heroine in the beautifully named For the Skylark.
I should have posted my contribution already on the 17th, but due to a very nasty flu my brain has been an uncooperative mush this last weeks or so – well, more of a mush than it normally is.
Now, when thinking main characters, I have quite a number of WIPs cluttering up my computer – and brain – space, ergo there are a number of main characters I could introduce you to. Some are such close acquaintances by now I can tell you everything about them. Some remain somewhat enigmatic, having chosen to not fully reveal themselves in all their human glory. For the purpose of this exercise, I’ve chosen to go with Matthew and Alex Graham, my fictional protagonist couple in The Graham Saga.
Thereby, I have already replied to the first question, which simply requires me to name my character(s), and can bound onwards to the next question.
When and where is the story set?
The Graham Saga spans the years 1658 to 1690. Due to a series of circumstances, Matthew and Alex will do quite some globe-trotting, parts of it most involuntary (such as when Matthew is carried over the seas and sold as indentured labour in Virginia), others unavoidable (like when Matthew accepts he can no longer stay in Scotland due to religious persecution and thereby takes his entire family with him to Maryland). So, a story that starts out in Scotland ends up spending a lot of time in Maryland before returning to Scotland via a short detour in Seville. Matthew, of course, remains a hunk of Scottish granite no matter where he is set down – one of his more likeable qualities, if you ask me. As to Alex, well, she’s quite the complicated kettle of fish, but let’s get back to her a bit later.
What should we know about the main characters?
Matthew is a devout member of the Scottish Kirk, a man who has seen service in the Commonwealth armies and believes that man should rule himself, without the yoke of kings (or bishops). He is loyal and determined, will risk a lot for causes he believes in, and loves his wife to the point of distraction. Brave when he has to be, Matthew is no superhero, and is afflicted by fear and despair as much as anyone else would be in some of the scarier situation life puts him through. And when things turn truly black for him, it is the thought of his Alex that keeps him alive, a faint light in the tunnel that requires of him to go on breathing, go on living, when most of all he just wants to give up and die.
Alex is a child of mixed heritages, her mother being a Spanish medieval witch, her father a Swedish botanist. To further complicate things, Alex was born in 1976, so all this 17th century drama is at times a bit too much for her, the unfortunate consequence of that most unexpected fall from time she experienced as a twenty-six-year-old. Still; agnostic, hard-nosed Alex does her best to adapt to her new life, ably helped along by Matthew, who despite having certain reservations as to how she ended up in his life, has no intention of ever letting her go. A good thing, in Alex’s book, as she isn’t about to relinquish her hold on the man of her life either, no matter just how many adventures and obstacles life throws in her way.
What is the main conflict?
Each book in The Graham Saga has its own conflicts, but one recurring theme is of course Alex’s take on life in her new time. She does find it difficult to comply with expectations as to how she should behave, and at times the sheer amount of work involved in living in the 17th century threatens to drown her. Plus, of course, she lives in constant fear that one day time will reclaim her and drag her back by force to a life she no longer wants – this fear further strengthened every time she comes across one of those small, painted time portals her witch mother Mercedes has littered the world with, this in Mercedes’ desperate attempts to get back to her original time… Very complicated, let me tell you!
In the first few books, tension is caused by Matthew’s more than infected relationship with his younger brother Luke (very infected; Luke is a volatile character that at one point in time severely beats Alex. In retaliation, Matthew slices Luke’s nose off, and then Luke… well; they get at each other, those two brothers). Further tension is supplied by the prevalent persecution of die-hard Covenanters (such as Matthew) after the restoration of Charles II.
Being sold into slavery causes quite some tension for Matthew, and the harsh reality of coping with life as settlers in Maryland is not exactly a walk in the park either, particularly not when some rather nasty individuals from Matthew’s past pop up, accompanied by the brothers from hell, the Burley Brothers.
Plus there is all the tension that arises out of Alex’s interaction with some of the more narrow-minded ministers they encounter, tension that has Matthew rolling his eyes while Alex spits like an angered cat. Matthew stops rolling his eyes and becomes a tad more grim the day one of those ministers accuses Alex of being a witch, let me tell you….
All in all, life is at times too adventurous – at least for Alex’s liking
To satisfy the amateur historian in me, several of the books have historical peoplein cameo roles, such as Sir William Berkley, Governor of Virginia, or Alexander Peden, renegade minister in the Scottish Lowlands. Likewise, I have woven in real historical events in my books – something I very much enjoy doing!
What is the personal goal of the characters?
“Retirement”, Alex would tell you with a groan. “No more adventures, please.” Fat chance…
On a more serious note, both Matthew and Alex want to keep their children safe and happy. Not always the easiest of aims to achieve, and Matthew and Alex live through considerable heartache because of this.
Matthew wants to build a prosperous farm for his family, Alex wants to ensure her children are somewhat more broadminded than average in the 17th century. And they both want to forget – or at least bury – Alex’s unorthodox background. But sometimes the past just won’t stay buried, will it?
Is there a working title for the novel, and where can we read more about it?
Five of the books in The Graham Saga have already been published – and if you want to read more about them, why not pop over to my website? The sixth book in the series, Revenge and Retribution, is due out on July 1 this year. In total, there will be eight books – let me tell you I am already suffering severe separation angst…
Excerpt – Revenge and Retribution
I thought I’d share a little excerpt from the sixth book in The Graham Saga. In this, you are introduced to Lucy Jones, Matthew’s deaf niece. She will play an important role in this book, because dear little Lucy happens to have one of those magical time portals Mercedes has painted. She shouldn’t have had it; had she been an obedient girl, she would have burned it, as her father told her to. But Lucy is willful and curious, and that little magical picture enthralled her from the moment she saw it. Why? Because when she holds the painting, Lucy can hear.
Lucy wasn’t delighted by the sudden arrival of her aunt and uncle. Ever since Matthew Graham had caught her reading his private correspondence some years ago, something of a chilly truce existed between them. But her mother brightened markedly in the presence of her brother, smiling as he teased her about her latest addition to her hen coop.
“She’s a good layer,” Joan said. “Every day during spring and summer.”
“She’s bald!” Matthew laughed. “You have to knit her something to wear, indecent as she is.”
“Who has ever heard of a hen in clothes?” Joan protested.
“And who has ever heard of a hen with no feathers?” Matthew said.
“It’s only round her rump.” Alex bent down to inspect the said hen.
“Aye, immodest little baggage.” Matthew nodded at the cock. “Not that he much cares, does he?”
“Maybe that’s why, you know, desperate females and all that.” Alex undid her hat, and dropped it onto the table, fiddling with her hair.
“Alex!” Joan eyed her new hen and sighed. “Now I won’t see her without noting her nudity. The pot,” she said, wagging a finger at the hen. “You go into the pot within the week.”
Lucy had only half followed this exchange, utilising the opportunity to study Matthew and Alex in detail. Her uncle was a handsome man, albeit that he was well over fifty: all his teeth, thick hair, and a face that was relatively unlined. At some inches over six feet, he was inordinately tall, as were all his sons, in particular Jacob. Lucy smiled. Of all her cousins, it was Jacob that she truly liked, impressed by how he’d gone to London on his own at only sixteen.
Matthew raised an eyebrow at her intense staring, and Lucy ducked her head. Why was it that he made her feel so transparent, as if all the thoughts that darted back and forth inside her brain stood plain to read upon her face for him? That Alex didn’t much like her was obvious, nor did Alex make much of an effort to hide her opinion, even if she always accorded Lucy the respect of treating her like an adult. Lucy didn’t much like Alex either, and in particular she didn’t like it that the woman looked so radiant, her skin an unlined pink, her dark blue eyes clear and glittering. Her hair was, as always, brushed to a shine, strands of grey highlighting a mass of brown and bronze and chestnut. Mayhap there was some truth in all that posturing around the importance of eating raw greens, Lucy mused, grimacing at remembered meals at Graham’s Garden that consisted of far too much spinach and beets, and far too little gravy and pie.
Lucy produced the little piece of sharpened coal she always carried with her and doodled while she waited for her uncle and aunt to leave. She drew swirls and whirlwinds, a small patch of something that heaved and sucked. She smiled down at her effort: the little picture, albeit muted now that it was all in grey.
Joan placed a hand on her sleeve, making her jerk upright. Her uncle’s face had gone a sickly white, and as to Alex, she was staring at the little drawing with revulsion.
“What is it you’re drawing, daughter?” Joan asked, her grey eyes wide.
Lucy tried to cover the scrap of paper with her hand, but Matthew was quicker, snatching it away to study it closely.
“Oh God!” He crumpled it together.
“Joan?” Alex said. “Has she seen one of those?”
Joan nodded. “We were sent one, three years ago.”
“Sent one?” Alex wet her lips with her tongue. “By whom?”
“We don’t know. It just came, aye? But we burnt it, didn’t we?” She met Lucy’s eyes. “We burnt it.”
Lucy nodded, several times. Of course she’d burnt it.
“Thank the Lord for that!” Matthew slumped in his chair.
“Amen to that,” Alex said, looking as if she were about to faint.
Lucy eyed them both with interest. They were frightened, badly frightened, and once again she found herself wondering what the little painting could possibly do. To ask outright was not going to work, she could see that in all of their faces, and seeing as neither her uncle nor aunt showed any indication of leaving, Lucy chose to cut her visit short. She rose, curtsied politely and left, promising her mother she’d be back on the morrow.
Time for a little confession: those authors that I had planned on tagging have either already participated in this little hop, or were somewhat strapped for time – and as I have spent the last ten days in bed feeling very sorry for myself, I have not worked as hard as I would normally do to replace them.
However; not all is dark in this tunnel, because I do have one taggee, namely the lovely Michelle Shine. Some of you may know Michelle as a homeopath – she has written a number of books related to homeopathy and healing - but she is also the author of a historical fiction novel with the beautiful title Mesmerised, which is set in the late 19th century Paris and stars a homeopath, Dr Paul Gachet. Sounds quite intriguing, and I am sure Michelle will do her own introduction when she delivers her post, on Monday April 28. For more information about Michelle – and for her future post – please visit her blog.