Thursday, December 9, 2010

Terrific Thursday with Linda Acaster

Welcome! Please introduce yourself and tell us about your latest release.

Thanks, Molly; great to be here! Hello everyone. Are you ready for Christmas? No, me neither.

My name is Linda Acaster and I live in England on the windswept, and very snowy, Yorkshire coast about an hour’s drive from mediaeval York, and Roman Brough, and half an hour from three elegant Regency halls standing in their own parklands. So which novel am I spotlighting today? Beneath The Shining Mountains, a historical romantic suspense set among the Apsaroke people of the North American plains c1830. LOL. Let me explain…

Have you incorporated actual events from your own life into your books?

Sort of. From an early age (around four, from what my mother says) I’ve been fascinated by the everyday lives of the First Peoples of North America, I guess the way some people from across the Pond are about the Celtic heritage of the islands of my birth. After many years collecting books on aspects of their lives I found that the UK has various re-enactment societies and I joined one of equally barmy… ahem, dedicated… people. Living in a tipi for summer holidays gives a great insight into the practicalities of day-to-day living. I might not have gone hunting buffalo like my characters, but I could use a bow fire-maker, tan hides and decorate clothing with porcupine quillwork, even if the quills had to be shipped in; we don’t have porcupines in the UK. It all distilled into my writing.

How much research do you do? Do you research first and then write, or do you write first, then research as needed?

Masses. I’ve written four novels, including a mediaeval, Hostage of the Heart, set on the Welsh borders in 1066, and a thriller Torc of Moonlight which time-slips between the contemporary and the Romano-British periods. I’ve also dabbled in the Crusades and the 18th century Reivers on the borderlands of England and Scotland. Everything from dress to food to living to transport needs to be researched before I can start, because it is amazing how slight bits of information can make a period come alive for the reader. My fiction TBR might be in haphazard piles, but my research books are firmly labeled and grouped together by period.

Have you ever had an idea for a story which scared you after you began writing it?

Not for a novel but I have for my short fiction. The Lake in my collection Contribution to Mankind & other stories of the Dark, came to me as a fully formed nightmare that actually woke me up in a cold sweat. I still get goosebumps thinking about it. The title story unnerved me, too, not for its content, but for the fact that I could actually write in such a voice. People who have read my romances and then read that story have turned very quiet, as if wondering if I’ve got a bloodied axe hidden in my underwear.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? And have you ever had a story take on a life of its own?

I’m a slow pantser. I start with a premise, a couple of crises and an idea of the ending, then do the basic overall research, build my characters in detail from that, and when they are following me muttering I’ll make a start, and work fairly organically from there, filling in more research detail as the need arises. It isn’t so much the story taking on a life of its own, but the characters burgeoning as I write which feeds into subplots or, in the case of Torc of Moonlight, turns the reasoning behind the premise on its head. It makes it interesting to write and a multi-level read for fans.

Is there any message you want readers to take from reading your work?

That there is no right and wrong, only mitigating circumstances. Just as we are products of our upbringing, so are our characters. It’s the way we, and they, make the leap beyond what is dealt that makes the difference, one way or the other. There’s a character in Beneath The Shining Mountains who lets an unintentional slight fester into jealousy and then… but I’m not giving the storyline away here.

How long did it take for you to be published?

I started to write in my early teens as a hobby, and it wasn’t until I won a short story contest in my early 20s that I looked upon my writing as anything more. Although I’d always written long, I targeted paying magazines which needed short, and so learned my craft before returning to longer works. There is no such thing as an overnight success.

If you could go back and tell yourself anything when you first began your writing career, what would you say?

Find a mentor, or a writing buddy, or join a good writers’ group where critiques pull no punches. When I had my first short story published I marked up my submission against the magazine’s edits - a fantastic learning curve – and I’ve done that ever since.

Laptop or pen and ink? What are your ‘must-haves’ when writing?

Laptop. I have a notebook & pen I carry about, but it’s used more for jotting down research notes than actual writing. The one true must-have while creating is…. CHOCOLATE!!!

Who are your favorite authors? Who would you say influenced you the most?

British and American thriller writers, which may seem a bit odd, but I’m an odd sort of woman. Rosemary Sutcliff influenced the historical side of my writing, the way she didn’t tell, but dragged her readers in for the experience.

What would your readers be surprised to learn about you?

That I write in such a wide spread of genres. My short fiction covers Literary, Women’s, Romance, Historical, Crime, Fantasy, SF and Horror. And I love maps. They are covered in variations of X marks the spot, stories every one. I’d love to go orienteering but have never made the time. Never say never.

For Fun:

Favorite Christmas memory?

Although I live on the coast we have an inland lake outside of town called The Mere, and it is a town tradition that those who can don warm clothes and walk round it on New Year’s Day. There’s a tiny almost unused mediaeval church en route – it doesn’t have electric lighting but does have the most wonderful carved tombstones from the 14/15th century. So my favourite memory is sitting in the back pews with a flask of coffee laced with rum and eating Christmas cake and mince pies with other walkers while experiencing the ambiance.

Have you written any Christmas-themed stories or woven the holiday into any of your books?

Not in my novels, but I did when writing for women’s magazines. Trying to come up with winter themes for a deadline in a sweltering August was quite a laugh. I learned to write them during the true season and file them away ready for submission.

Best Gift ever received?

If I’m going to be sentimental, I’ll say my son, even if I wished he’d clean his bedroom more often. If I’m going to be practical it’s this year’s prezzie, in situ even before we’ve got a tree or written a card, because I know it’s going to change my reading life. I’ll give you a clue, it begins with K.

Ah-ha! I bet I know what that is:) Let me know how you like it!

Thank you for being here today! Please tell us where we can find your books.

Thanks for having me. I’ve really enjoyed sharing with you. I’ll be in and out, so if anyone has any observations or questions I’ll be happy to answer them.

To read an excerpt from Beneath The Shining Mountains take a look at

For all my novels my author pages are:

Amazon USA Kindle

Amazon UK Kindle

Nook, I-Pad, Sony, Kobo, pdf, etc

To contact me, or for further info /

Book blurb for Beneath The Shining Mountains: Moonhawk yearns for Winter Man, but why would a man with so many lovers want to take a wife? Her wry challenge to his virility captures Winter Man's attention and starts a game of spar and tease that leads to devastating consequences for her family. A story of honour among rival warrior societies, and one woman's determination to wed the man of her dreams.


Did you throw that?’

Moon Hawk swallowed her fear and lifted her chin and her gaze to Winter Man, sitting tall and poised on his horse.

‘I didn’t mean to hit you,’ she said. ‘My throw was wild.’

‘Wild? No woman’s throw can be that wild!’

Moon Hawk flashed her eyes at him to give her words more vehemence. ‘I slipped,’ she said, and pointed behind her to an imaginary obstacle in the grass. ‘Do you think I would waste a hit on you?’

She glanced across to the young people disporting themselves in the sunshine. As she knew he would, Winter Man followed her gaze. She looked back at him in time to see his face registering utter disbelief that any young woman would prefer someone of no account to him.

‘I am Winter Man!’ he bellowed. ‘I am a Good Young Man.’

Moon Hawk gave a casual shrug of her shoulders. ‘I know that.’

Her reply seemed to cut him to the quick. She took a step towards her friends.

‘Ha!’ Winter Man spat after her. ‘Your lover seems to have deserted you. No boy waits for you that I can see.’

Moon Hawk’s heart sang. He’d drawn on the bait as her mother said he would. She swallowed her smile of excitement and turned back to him with a look of disdain.

‘Lover? I have no lover! I am chaste. There’s not a man alive who can entice me.’


Linda Acaster said...

Hi Molly! Been out all day tramping through the snow to my mother's. Even got the car stuck on the ice! Hope it's better where you are.

Thanks for inviting me on your blog, and if any readers have any questions I'll be popping back regularly through our evening to answer them.

Enjoy the read!

Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi Molly! Hi Linda! Happy Christmas season to you both! Super blog, Molly, and fascinating article, Linda - wow, you do write a wide range! I like the cover of your dark stories, very atmospheric.
Sorry to hear about the snow - we've got some, too, here where I live in the pennines, but not so much, I think, as in the Vale of York.

My question is - Have you a favourite genre? Or is it the genre which you are writing at that moment?

Linda Acaster said...

You're right, Lindsay. It is whatever genre I am working in - which I guess it has to be, otherwise I couldn't put across the depth of emotion necessary. I guess that is what ties all my writing together, the depth of emotion, light or dark.

Thanks for dropping by, Lindsay, it's appreciated.

Toni V.S. said...

I can testify to Linda's story-telling ability! And to what a great story Beneath the Shining Mountains is. Chocolate is definitely the thing to have around--in solid and liquid form--when writing. It'll get you through the most difficult passages!

Linda Acaster said...

Hi Toni, great to hear from you, and that you remember Beneath The Shining Mountains so well.

Yeah... chocooolaaaate.

Gosh, sound like Homer Simpson (doh!)

Molly Daniels said...

Hiya Lindsay:) It's been a while since I've chatted with you! How've you been?

Toni, I agree: BTSM sounds like a great read:)

Linda, thanks so much for being with me today:)

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Linda,
Great blog. Ooh with all that snow and ice you must be freezing. You live in a wild and beautiful section of England,in my opinion. perfect for historicals.



Linda Acaster said...

It's been a balmy 3C today. We are all going 'phew!' and shedding cardies. It has meant that the packed snow has thawed a bit, and then re-frozen. I was yelled at by a cyclist for walking on the road. "It's dangerous walking on the road!" Then he cackled over his shoulder and yelled back, "But it's more dangerous on the path!"

Now there trolls a bloke just itching to come to a sticky end in a story...

"...You live in a wild and beautiful section of England,in my opinion. perfect for historicals...." Yeah, and for Horror novels [cue evil laugh]