Back in the Old Country
I’m delighted to do this interview today because my good friend and fellow-Crooked Cat author Jennifer Wilson has invited me to meet her in Edinburgh, which is where my mother’s family come from.
I put Lily-dog’s warm coat on and bundled myself in a load of hand-knits and we took the magic carpet over the water from France.
So here we are, trotting up the Royal Mile…Oh! A piper. I’m just going to stand here and grin inanely at him. I adore the pipes.
Hello, Jennifer! Sorry I was filling up there. How are you? Let’s get out of this wind and go for a nice cup of tea somewhere.
Hi Ailsa! Lovely to see you. And I’m the same – could spend hours listening to a piper. The solo-playing at the end of the Tattoo always turns me to mush.
Where can we go for a cuppa? I’m parched.
Well, as it’s such a lovely day, and we have Lily with us, I thought we’d enjoy the sunshine, and go al fresco with a cuppa from the kiosk in Princes Street Gardens, if that works for you? You mentioned a transporter? It’ll only take a moment, and we can pop back up for more wanderings later.
Now, Lady, you have another book coming out which is why we are here. It is set in Edinburgh, isn’t it?
I do, it’s released today, and it is indeed set in this fair city. Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile explores the spirit (and spirits) of the Mile, with particular focus on Mary, Queen of Scots, but there are plenty of other characters to get to know up here. I’m having an online launch today on Facebook, and I’d love to see you and your readers there (click here for info and to join in the fun – there are prizes up for grabs!).
Can you show me any of the places that feature in the book (I’ve got a pocket transporter to get to places quickly and unseen)
It’s a bit of a trek, but with that transporter, we can do both ends of the Mile, and take in two of my favourite historical sites: Edinburgh Castle, and Holyrood Palace. Shall we start with the Castle? It was built first, after all, so seems logical. There’s evidence it was first fortified in the Iron Age, and was either a fortress, royal palace or barracks until fairly recently. It’s still one of the most iconic images of Scotland, and is easily one of my favourite castles. Well, I say castle, it’s more a collection of buildings behind a wall, but either way, it has such an amazing history (an estimated 26 sieges, no less!), and of course, these amazing views. The café’s not bad either…
Once we’re done up here, we’ll head to the opposite end of the Mile, to Holyrood Palace. This is by far the more luxurious of the two, and is still used as a royal residence today, when the Queen or other royals are on official visits to the capital. The Palace itself is great, especially the final room, which is a proper ‘old-fashioned’ museum room, stocked full of great items like locks of hair, Queen Mary’s sewing, and more. But for me, I love the Abbey. There’s always something about a ruin which is just inspiring, don’t you think? You’ll spot a theme here – the café does great scones!
So without giving too much away, what’s it about?
It’s the same premise as Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, eavesdropping on the ‘lives’ of the Royal Mile’s ghostly residents, getting to know them, their friendships and their feuds. We meet Mary, Queen of Scots trying to deal with her father’s melancholy, as well as her (in my opinion) wastrel of a second husband, Lord Darnley, famously murdered not too far from where we are now. But as well as that, we have Sir William Kirkcaldy, one of Scotland’s last great knights, and Janet Douglas, Lady Glamis, who was executed by Mary’s father. It’s a complex life, being a ghost!
How did you come up with this story?
I’ve been trying to write about Mary, Queen of Scots for years. She’s such a great character, and far more complex than people realise. I really enjoyed writing Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, and realised that this was my way to finally, satisfactorily write about Mary. I know she’s buried in Westminster, but the Royal Mile seemed a better ‘fit’ for her to be hanging out. Once I had my lead, and my location, it was great fun reading more about Edinburgh, and the ghosts which might be loitering about. Bringing in characters and locations I had been fascinated since childhood meant it was once again a lot of fun to write, and I hope people enjoy reading it just as much!
Are you going to stick around in Edinburgh for a bit longer Ailsa? If you’re up for it, I’ll be heading to Frankenstein’s later for a celebratory cocktail, and a spot of dancing!
About Jennifer C. Wilson
Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who spent much of her childhood stalking Mary, Queen of Scots (initially accidentally, but then with intention). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consulting since graduating. Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to develop her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. She is also part of The Next Page, running workshops and other literary events in North Tyneside.
Jennifer’s debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, was released by Crooked Cat Books in October 2015, and Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile is released today! She can be found online at her website, on Twitter and Facebook, as well as at The Next Page’s website.