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Novice Threads

Author Nancy Jardine brings 19th-century Scotland to vivid life


Novice Threads

Today I’m happy to welcome Scottish novelist Nancy Jardine to the blog in celebration of her fabulous new historical novel, Novice Threads. Read on for all the juicy details about the book plus a behind-the-scenes interview with the author.

Novice Threads

A thirst for education.  Shattered dreams. Fragile relations.

1840s Scotland

Being sent to school is the most exhilarating thing that’s ever happened to young Margaret Law. She sharpens her newly-acquired education on her best friend, Jessie Morison, till Jessie is spirited away to become a scullery maid. But how can Margaret fulfil her visions of becoming a schoolteacher when her parents’ tailoring and drapery business suddenly collapses and she must find a job?

Salvation from domestic drudgery – or never-ending seamstress work – comes via Jessie whose employer seeks a tutor for his daughter. Free time exploring Edinburgh with Jessie is great fun, but increasing tension in the household claws at Margaret’s nerves. 

Margaret also worries about her parents’ estrangement, and the mystery of Jessie’s unknown father.

When tragedy befalls the household in Edinburgh, Margaret must forge a new pathway for the future – though where will that be?

Where to buy the book:

This title is available to read on #Kindle Unlimited.

Universal Buy Link:

Author Interview:

Welcome, Nancy! What’s the tagline or ‘elevator pitch’ for your book?

The tagline would be “Growing up brings heartache.”

How did you come up with the idea for your book?

More than a decade ago I began ancestry research, keen to find out more about my forebears. In the process of dipping a toe into the slightly murky water of my paternal line, I realized there were aspects of Victorian life that were more commonly experienced than I had thought. Scottish records of births and deaths officially began in 1856 and each entry is well-detailed. Illegitimate written on a birth certificate was more common than you might think. Another heartbreaker was the reason for death e.g. cholera; dysentery; tuberculosis.

What inspired you to write about that particular era or character?

My female protagonist, Margaret, experiences common hazards of the Victorian era. Finding work, even when well-educated, was rarely satisfactory. In Scotland, in the early 1850s, most people had had some schooling and were literate to some degree. That often meant they coped with basic reading sufficient to read pamphlets and newspapers, though writing skills often lagged. My character, Margaret, is unable to fulfil her dreams of being a schoolteacher but I’ve given her a background in seamstress / tailoring work which will prove useful to her in Books 2 & 3 of the series.

How did you create a realistic setting for your story?

I think thorough research is always the key. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of thinking you know what life was like. An early example was sending my five-year-old Margaret to school in a tiny town in rural Scotland. Were there schools in Milnathort in 1844 who would accept a girl into a class? Research provided the authenticity. Don’t assume – check the facts!

What surprised you in the course of your research?

Lots of things! A good chunk of Novice Threads is set in Edinburgh in the early1850s. Many of the impressive city centre buildings and monuments that tourists of today see were already built. However, ‘The Royal Mile’ is a relatively new tourist term post 1901 for the approximate mile between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyrood House. In 1855, Margaret would have walked down 5 / 6 different sections of that ‘mile’ and referred to them as such e.g. Edinburgh Castle and Esplanade; Lawnmarket; Canongate. Simple things have been surprising.

Name three historical facts or events that helped bring your main character to life.

The Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace, London, in 1851 – Margaret experiences a little of it via her employer’s stories. The Great Disruption of the Churches in Scotland in 1843 is relevant to the strict religious adherence of Margaret’s parents. The new railway lines in Central Scotland by 1855 mean it’s easier for Margaret to travel fairly quickly to a relative’s house at the end of the book.

Do you completely plan out your cast of characters before writing, or do you sometimes add new characters as you go along? What are some of the reason you’ve added new characters to a story?

I’m essentially a ‘pantser’. I have a basic idea and a rough plot/ timeline. I begin with a couple of characters but others appear as I write who extend or enhance the scenes. That means I do a lot of checking at the end of a novel, during my self-editing stages, to ensure all threads are tied up!

Do you have any tips for other writers about keeping track of your historical fiction research?

Sadly none. I’m a messy note taker and I’m an avid researcher which means I easily get sidetracked. I do make notes of URLs for useful sites but rap my own knuckles for not being tidier and more consistent.

Do you prefer to write in silence or with background music? If music, what kind and why?

I can sometimes write to low classical music that I know well in the background but generally I do best in the quiet.

What do you have planned for your next writing project?

I’m working on Book 2 of the series and then it’ll be Book 3 – unless I have a brainwave and want to return to my Roman Scotland era and add more to my Celtic Fervour Series set in the late 1st Century AD/CE.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

I’m a fair-weather gardener and love it for the work involved, the actual exercise, and the fresh air. Otherwise settling down with a good novel and a glass of red wine is a lovely diversion. And sometimes I binge watch new-to-me Period Dramas, though since I rarely watch TV, I don’t have access to the popular ‘on-demand’ sites.

About the Author:

Nancy writes historical and contemporary fiction. 1st Century Roman Britain is the setting of her Celtic Fervour Series. Victorian and Edwardian history has sneaked into two of her ancestry-based contemporary mysteries, and her current Silver Sampler Series is set in Victorian Scotland.

Her novels have achieved Finalist status in UK book competitions (People’s Book Prize; Scottish Association of Writers) and have received prestigious Online Book Awards.

Published with Ocelot Press, writing memberships include – Historical Novel Society; Romantic Novelists Association; Scottish Association of Writers; Federation of Writers Scotland; Alliance of Independent Authors.

Author Links:








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  1. Nancy Jardine says:

    Thank you for inviting me today, Amy, and for asking your really neat questions! I’ve enjoyed visiting very much.

    1. Amy Maroney says:

      It was a pleasure, Nancy!

  2. Cathie Dunn says:

    Thank you so much for featuring Nancy Jardine with Novice Threads on your lovely blog today.

    Take care,
    Cathie xo
    The Coffee Pot Book Club

    1. Amy Maroney says:

      Always a pleasure, Cathie!

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