…my dear friend and splendid Authoress, m’Lady, Barbara Spencer, has dipped her foot in the murky waters of my web with her first-ever Guest Post… and she does a terrific job of it… enjoy… here she is, sitting front left in this Interpol snap of a gathering of suspicious-looking writerly characters in London…
I am not quite sure what a guest post entails, having never been asked to do one before. All I know is that Seumas Gallacher, the author of the Jack Calder thrillers, who is also a poet, a bon viveur, and generous to a fault, issued the invitation.
Strangely, it was his novel, Killer City, that began our friendship. For me, it was special because it was the first book I actually downloaded onto Kindle and enjoyed reading. When he flew into London, several authors and I met up with him under the shadow of John Betjeman, the poet Laureate and steam train buff. It was a great day out.
He said to talk about my new novel, The Year the Swans Came, understanding that for me, a children’s novelist for a dozen years with a similar number of books under my belt, it is perhaps the most important novel I have written. Not only is the style very different, I have switched age groups and genres and now write fantasy for adults/top teens, or to be more precise magical realism. It is also the forerunner of a trilogy – something else I’ve never done before.
It is also a mystery, hence my problem. How do I chat about the plot without giving too much away? This review from Catherine Kullmann says it far better than I ever could:
‘As Maidy Bader anxiously awaits her sixteenth birthday, the day on which ‘overnight, girls become adults, eligible to be courted, and to marry’ her thoughts return to the past and most importantly to her elder brother Pieter’s sixteenth birthday, the last he spent with his family. No one speaks of him or why he vanished. Life goes on as it always did in the unnamed country. The unnamed invaders have left and those deportees who could, have returned. Among them are the Bader’s neighbours, the Endelbaums. Their beautiful daughter Ruth, who is Maidy’s best friend, has had to give up her hopes of marrying Pieter. Slightly older than Maidy, Ruth is the belle of the college the girls attend while Maidy stays more in the background.
On Maidy’s birthday, everything changes. Maidy begins to emerge from her chrysalis. Pieter returns as suddenly as he departed, but gives no explanation for his long absence. Ruth immediately claims him, but she is also intrigued by the four strangers, handsome young men, who suddenly appear at the college. She takes their attention and interest as her due but Maidy is surprised to find herself sought out both by gentle Jaan and the strangers’ leader, the charismatic and mysterious Zande. And Pieter is desperate to marry Ruth and complete his apprenticeship with his father, a maker of mirrors.
But all is not as it seems. This is not a college romance. Unimaginable secrets swirl beneath the surface of daily life and all too soon the unwitting Maidy and Ruth are drawn into the vortex of an ancient tragedy that threatens them all anew.
I was blown away by this book, enthralled by the beautiful writing, the slow build-up of the mesmerizing story and the wonderful characters. Magical realism of the highest order’.
Catherine is quite correct, both the country and the invaders remain unnamed. The country is Holland and the city Amsterdam. That is where the idea originated. I took my granddaughter to Amsterdam in 2010, to celebrate the publication of another book.
This is the blurb:
‘Growing up amongst the ruins of war, four siblings use the bridges and cobblestone walkways of the old city as a backdrop for their games. Pieter Bader, the eldest, wants to follow in the footsteps of his family, designers of mirrors for royalty since the 17th century, while Maidy, the youngest, dreams of becoming a writer. Around the smallest bridge in the city, she weaves stories of swashbuckling pirates and princesses, who wear sandals made from the silken thread of a spider web. Her best friend Ruth lives next door. She dreams of marrying Pieter, only for him to vanish from their lives late one night.
Is his disappearance linked to the arrival of the swans, feared as cursed and birds of ill-fortune? What will happen when they return six years later, on the morning of Maidy’s sixteenth birthday?
And who exactly is the charismatic and mysterious Zande?
Follow Ruth and Maidy’s cursed tale of love as they discover what happened to Pieter, and how the appearance of Zande will affect both their lives, unleashing events as tragic and fantastical as one of Maidy’s stories.’
The Year the Swans Came is now on Net Galley and free in the hope of gathering reviews:
…many thanks to m’Lady Barbara, who can be contacted as noted below… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!