Time Travel in the UK: Blue Bells of Scotland - Sarah Woodbury

Time Travel in the UK: Blue Bells of Scotland

Welcome to Laura Vosika, this week’s Inspiration Award winner and guest poster.   She is the author of a time travel fantasy set in Scotland.  I’ll let her tell you the rest. . . .


I am usually asked if I’m Scottish, or if I was inspired by Diana Gabaldon, when I tell people about Blue Bells of Scotland, a story of time travel set in—you guessed it—Scotland. I am Dutch, Czech, and German—no Scottish at all that I know of—and although I like the Outlander series, especially Jamie, I only heard of the books when people started asking me the question. Strangely enough, my Scottish time travel trilogy springs from a children’s novel and a trombone solo. Not two things often associated with philandering time travelers!

By luck perhaps, Scotland happens to be central to both the novel I read in the 70’s and the song I met in the 80’s. In the Keep of Time is the story of four siblings who go into a Scottish keep and come out in a different century. Blue Bells of Scotland is a theme and variations arranged around an old Scottish folk song, singing of streaming banners and noble deeds. The time-switching castle and the noble deeds swirled together like a Scottish mist, with a dash of an image of a man gambling away his livelihood and conning his girlfriend out of her heirloom ring to save the situation, and from that came The Blue Bells Trilogy.

Of course, ideas are a far cry from an actual, finished book. In my early 20’s, I completed a novel, but with a growing family (I have 9 children!), I set writing aside to focus on music. Fifteen years later, it was time to get back to writing. I joined National Novel Writing Month and in 24 days wrote the story of Shawn Kleiner, an arrogant, selfish, womanizing musician who disappears into a world he can’t control. I could have just stayed with Shawn’s experiences. Or I could have written the other half of the story around Shawn’s disappearance from the twenty-first century. But in researching castles from which Shawn might make his leap through time, I had such a strong image of Niall waking up in ruins, that he was born in that instant and walked right into the story on his own. At his insistence, I instead took the route of What if…? What if no one noticed Shawn was missing because someone was there in his place? Niall, although he is nothing like Shawn, has a strong personality in his own right, and bit by bit, he claimed more pages, until the trilogy became his story as much as Shawn’s.

Apart from inspirations and flashes of the muse, a novel typically includes plenty of research. Thanks to that children’s novel and trombone solo, a whole new world opened to me, as I searched Scottish history for a time that might involve streaming banners and noble deeds. I soon discovered Edward I’s attempt to usurp the Scottish crown, the Battle of Bannockburn, and the great lives of Robert the Bruce, James Douglas, and their loyal and courageous companions who defied the might of England. I’ve collected links to hundreds of web sources and forums, and several shelves full of books and DVD’s on Scotland, medieval history, Bruce, Douglas, even the Gaelic language.

In addition, I was lucky enough to be able to visit Scotland. Before going, I laid out a careful itinerary of all the locations in the book. In two weeks, I traveled to Inverness, where Shawn’s orchestra plays, and Stirling and Bannockburn, where the battle takes place. I drove as far into the Monadhliath Mountains as the roads go to photograph the area that Shawn hikes with Allene, and, not having four days to actually follow that path, found a hill in Killin which I climbed in something very like the boots Shawn would have worn in 1314. It was a thrill to meet people. Judith very kindly took me backstage at Eden Court Theatre, where Shawn’s orchestra plays. Joe spent an hour with me at the Bannockburn Heritage Centre showing me the grounds, telling me about the annual re-enactment and answering my questions. An older man at a hostel told me at length about his rescue work in the mountains, which became fodder for a character in The Minstrel Boy, book 2 of the Trilogy.

I’m not Scottish, and when I started writing, I had read very little Scottish fiction. But life likes to take us along the scenic route if we let it, and somehow, a children’s novel and a trombone solo led me to this place.


http://tinyurl.com/bluebellstrilogy (link to e-book at amazon)


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