Posts Tagged ‘Anna Belfrage’
Just back from the 2016 Historical Novel Society (HNS) conference in Oxford where I had a wonderful time, as always!
The venue was superb in a truly beautiful city and I was lucky enough to have time for a quick wander round when I arrived on the Friday afternoon. I had a look at some of the famous colleges – including one with a fierce-looking porter/guard wearing a bowler hat! – and then managed a lightning tour of the Ashmolean Museum. I’ve wanted to see King Alfred’s jewel for ages and although it was a bit smaller than I’d expected, it was lovely. Plus they had a lot of other interesting objects and paintings as well – I will have to go back some day for a longer visit.
Once the conference itself got going there was no time for sight-seeing – we were kept busy with some fantastic talks, panels and workshops, and among the main speakers were Melvyn Bragg and Tracy Chevalier, both excellent.
Of the workshops, I particularly enjoyed the one led by Paula Lofting and her Regia Anglorum friends where we were taught how to build a shield wall when fighting like Anglo-Saxons. This was fascinating stuff and I was really pleased to have a chance to hold a battle axe and a shield, both quite heavy! (Am now also very tempted to shout ‘Ut! Ut! Ut!’ all the time LOL)
The ‘gala’ dinner was great, with a costume pageant and a brilliant after-dinner speech by C W Gortner. And meeting up with old friends and making new ones is always fun and I very much enjoyed chatting to various people, lots of whom had come all the way from the US – so lovely to meet them! My thanks go to the fantastic organising committee who, I know, had worked incredibly hard to put together the programme and they made sure everything was seamless. Huge thanks also to my workshop ‘partner’ and fellow Swede Anna Belfrage who made our own workshop run smoothly and put together our presentation. Can’t wait for the next conference now!
Here are some of the photos I took:-
Most of us love to travel and visit new places and we all have favourites. To celebrate the e-book publication of my new novel The Jade Lioness, I asked some of my fellow authors to tell me what their favourite exotic (or not so exotic?) travel destinations are and to recount some of their travel tales (good or bad!). Today Anna Belfrage reflects on what travelling means to her and where she prefers to end up:-
To travel is to expand your mind. There is a saying that “he who travels has a story to tell” – which is true enough, even if these days places all over the world are becoming depressingly similar in some aspects. No matter where one sets foot on this world of ours, chances are there will be a McDonalds, and I’m not sure this is a good thing. At all.
Through my work I travel a lot. I have the privilege of landing in new places, meeting new people, on a regular basis. And yes, I have fallen in love with some of those places, such as Istanbul, Treviso in Italy, Chicago and Taipei. My first loves, however, remain the same: London and home.
For some people, “home” is a defined place on Earth. For me, due to an itinerant childhood, “home” has been something I have constantly been looking for, a little corner in the world in which to sink my roots. It took me a very long time to find this place, but since some three years back, an old farm in the middle of nowhere has become home – with a capital “h”.
The house is only a century old or so. It nestles into the stony ground on which it is situated, one side facing the lake, the other the surrounding woods. The farm as such is even older – the ancient foundations of the barn, the impressive stone walls, date back to the 17th century when this part of Sweden was Danish. It gives me a strong sensation of continuity to run my hand along these walls, touch timbers so old each individual adze-stroke is easily discernible. My adopted place. Home.
So when I am out travelling, it is always the inbound journey that fills me with joy and expectation. It is when we turn down the last little lane that I can’t stop myself from grinning, all of me filling with warmth at the sight of the yellow house, the two huge red barns. I imagine my protagonist in The Graham Saga, Alex Graham, feels the same whenever she sees her 17th century homestead rise out of the Maryland woods – a house built in larch that snuggles into the protective hillside beyond. In fact, I know she feels the same way, and over the divide of time and imagination, she meets my eyes and smiles. Home – the best place on Earth.
Thank you, Anna, it does sound like a heavenly place indeed!
Anna Belfrage is the author of the successful and acclaimed series, The Graham Saga. Set in 17th century Scotland, Virginia and Maryland, The Graham Saga is the story of two people who should never have met, not when she was born three centuries after him. But as Anna says, “there you are, sometimes impossible things happen, and had they not, Alex would never have met the man fated from the very beginning to be her other half, her companion through life.” For more information about Anna and her books, why not visit her website, her blog, or her Amazon page.
Today I welcome my Swedish friend Anna Belfrage to my blog – we met quite by chance at a conference in York some years ago and, as well as being delighted to find a fellow Swede (or half Swede in my case), we also discovered a shared love of time travel stories! She’s here today to talk about the latest instalment of her wonderful series about the Graham family. Over to you, Anna!:-
The other day, one of my sons and I were standing in the supermarket, considering what vegetables to buy.
“April is when most people starved to death in the old days,” he said out of the blue, frowning down at a plump Spanish tomato. Not exactly news to his history nerd of a mother (some interests, it seems, are passed along with the mother’s genes), and we spent a happy half-hour discussing just how exposed the people some generations back were to the vagaries of weather and the resulting famines.
For us, it is difficult to comprehend what it means to starve. We read about people mixing ground bark into the flour to make it last longer, but none of us have ever tasted bark bread. To us, nettle shoots are a delicacy (and they are, let me tell you!), to our great-grandmothers they were a way of ensuring her family survived – one more day. A long, cold spring was a disaster, the depleted winter stores down to the last wrinkled carrot by April. If the crops failed, there was no if about someone in the family dying, it was simply a question of who.
Famine was one of the driving forces behind the mass immigration to America in the 19th century. People fled Ireland and Sweden, dirt-poor Norway and overcrowded Holland, in the hope of making themselves a new life “over there”.
However, famine was not the only reason why people set off across the Atlantic, never to return. There was another, just as forceful reason, and that was the desire to escape religious persecution. From the 17th century on, people left Europe in boatloads for the Colonies, because they were Catholic, or Puritans, or Presbyterians, or Quakers, or Baptists, or … And the colonies received these religious immigrants with open arms – well, more or less.
“Quaker? Pennsylvania for you, m’dear!”
“Puritan? Welcome to Boston!”
“Good Anglican stock? Virginia welcomes you!”
“Catholic? Hmm. Ah, yes – Maryland!”
Life was no easier for the religious immigrants than it was for those fleeing starvation. Setting down roots in a new country is a difficult business, even more so when your allotted farm consisted of virginal forests that had to be cut down before the land could be cleared and planted. It wasn’t as if you could call the nearby logging company and have them come in and do it for you … And yet they came, all those people who could no longer stand living in constant fear because of their faith. Impressive people, in my opinion, which is why my books centre round one such man, Matthew Graham, who had to flee his beloved Scotland in the late 17th century due to his Presbyterian faith.
Fortunately for Matthew, I gave him quite the companion through his very adventurous life. Alex Graham is creative, optimistic and buoyed by a firm belief in the future. Well, she would know all about the future, having been born in 1976 before being thrown three centuries backwards in time to land at Matthew’s feet. In Matthew’s opinion, Alex’s drop through time was an act of God, a divine gift, no less. In Alex’s opinion, it was all a matter of a number of improbable circumstances. Whatever the case, they both agree it was somehow meant to be – she is his woman, he is her man, no matter that they were born three centuries apart!
The latest release in The Graham Saga, Serpents in the Garden, has just been selected Editor’s choice by the Historical Novel Society. It shares that honour with one of the previous instalments, The Prodigal Son, which has also won a B.R.A.G. Medallion and is shortlisted for the 2014 RONE Awards. If you want to find out more about The Graham Saga, please visit Anna’s website, or why not pop over to Amazon US or Amazon UK?
Anna is also a proud member of the RNA New Writers Scheme and is presently in the final editing phase of her manuscript. As all her books, this m/s combines love with gritty historical detail and quite some adventure. And no, they don’t eat nettles – but Alex Graham is a major fan of nettle soup!
It sounds lovely, Anna, thank you for being my guest today! And just to confirm that the threat of starvation wasn’t that long ago in our countries, my Swedish grandmother told me about eating bark bread when she was a little girl (just before World War I) and she also made me nettle soup 🙂