Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 1 year ago

S1E13 Mary Alice Monroe and Patti Callahan Henry with Rebecca Bruff and Signe Pike

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Writing About a Real Person. Mary Alice Monroe and Patti Callahan Henry have a fascintating discussion with Rebecca Bruff about her debut novel Trouble the Water and with Signe PIke about the second book in her Lost Queen Trilogy, The Forgotten Kingdom. Both women wrote about very real people in different centures.  

Welcome to Friends and Fiction. Five best selling authors and the stories novelist mary Kay andrews. Kristen Harmel, Christie Woodson, harvey patty Callahan, Henry and mary, Alice Munro are five longtime friends With more than 80 published books to their credit In 2020 they created friends and fiction to provide author interviews and fascinating insider talk about publishing and writing and to highlight independent bookstores. These friends discuss the books, they have written the books they're reading now and the art of storytelling. If you love books and you're curious about the writing world, you're in the right place. Mhm France and fiction is sponsored by Mama Geraldine's bodacious Foods, the company that makes Mama Geraldine's cheese straws which come in six varieties and are the best selling cheese straws in the United States. Founded by former radio executive Cathy Cunningham and named for her mother. They have melt in your mouth cookies to delicious treats and a woman owned empire. Now that is something that Friends and fiction can really get behind try them. You'll be so glad you did get 20% off on your online order at mama Geraldine's dot com with the code. Fab five snack on. Y'all. Welcome to the Friends and fiction podcast. Today we are talking about writing about true stories and people. We will be talking to a debut author of Trouble, the Water Rebecca Dwight Rough, a meticulously researched history of robert Smalls, a freedom seeker, civil war hero and the first black U. S. Congressman. Rebecca is a PhD methodist pastor and was inspired to research the life of robert Smalls here in the low country and we'll also be talking to the author of both The Lost Queen and the Forgotten Kingdom Signee pipe. She is a graduate of Cornell University, Signee has worked as an acquisitions editor at Random House and then at penguin before leaving to write her first book, fairy Tale. one woman search for enchantment in a modern world, Pike has spent the past 10 years researching and writing about Celtic history, myth, folklore and tradition. I am Patty Callahan and I am mary Alice Munro. And first on this episode, we welcome Rebecca. Hey, Rebecca. It's good to see you both. It is, it really is. It's been too long, loves the book and to hear each other. Right? Yes, so good. So Rebecca. I know this novel is about robert smalls, but can you tell us a bit more about him and about the book for you? Not the back flap for you. What is this book about? And then we'll dig into the wise of the novel. Okay, great, great way to jump in. So for me, the book is about honoring a story acknowledging and honoring and under told almost untold story. And you know, it's not the only under told story that's not the only unacknowledged story, but it's a story of an extraordinary man with an extraordinary legacy that most of us don't know about. And when I discovered this story, I was stunned that I've never heard the name, but I didn't know the history. And then of course, as I began researching, I was stunned to discover why we don't know the story and stories like this, that um, it says a lot about how we do and don't handle history and how we do and don't acknowledge and honor really important stories. So that's kind of what the book is about. Um, as it is about this amazing man. He truly was an amazing man. I have to just jump in and say that he, I was blown away myself by how much I did not know about robert Smalls until I read your book. I knew who he was. I'm from south Carolina and he is known here, but not to the breath we should know him and what an impact he had for our state, but also for our nation. So I'm so thrilled you wrote it and you were called to do it. Well let me just jump in also and say, it's so good to see you again, Patty and I met you at a writer's workshop a couple of years back. It seems like such a long time. It doesn't, it seems like a lifetime ago. You, it is really because...

...look, all you've done, you had not yet published trouble the water. So, um, that's a big shift in your career in your life because you have a PhD in theology, which is quite impressive. And you served as a pastor of a methodist church in texas. So the first question I have to ask is what compelled you to switch. Here's moved to south Carolina and write a novel. It was rubber smalls. We were leaving in trouble, a perfect nickname, isn't it? We were living and working in Dallas in the United Methodist church. We are appointed to varieties of churches over time. So I'd served several there and I was working in this wonderful, huge church because they're huge. They're with a great staff, great senior leadership, wonderful congregation. My parents were at that church but we took a brief trip to the Carolinas. Our youngest graduated at Chapel hill and then we came to Beaufort for like three days and I never days I changed but I've never been in the low country and so we, we were fascinated by the place and and the beauty. I, you know, I'm a west texas girl. I grew up in the panhandle of texas. So to see water and trees and all this was really marvelous. But we jumped on a carriage tour and that's when I first heard the name robert Smalls. And first heard the story and these little bits of the story, not even the entire story, but I was, I was so taken by his story and so like I said earlier, just stunned that I've never heard the name, you know, read an awful lot, a lot of degrees on the wall, but I've never heard the name. And so when we got off the carriage tour, we went straight to the bookstore I hear on Bay Street in Beaufort and I picked up several books and we flew back to Dallas and for the next three years or so I was kind of reading and Googling and trying to fill in the blanks because there's there are a couple of good biographies, there's some stuff online that some of it's accurate and some of us not I've discovered but there there's not, there are a lot of gaps in the story. We know enough of the historical record to know his legacy is contributions. But my goodness, there's so many things that are missing. We don't know where his last name came from. Yeah. I have a feeling that just popped up in my mind. Yeah. His last name, who his father was, how I met his wives and of course my background in education and theology. I am curious about the interior lives of people and relationships and the the influence of religion and social constructs and all those sorts of things and I just couldn't find any of that. And you know, I kept reading and I kept making notes and and began sort of, his curiosity became sort of a intrigue. And then that sort of turned into a little bit of a compulsion. And after after about three years of that, I felt like like it was a story that needed to be told. Yeah. And I had heard someone say, you know, when you can't find the book, you want to read, just write it. And I thought that sounded fun and Challenger and intriguing. And so we had this conversation about moving to beaufort for a few months to research and to write. And so in early 2017, we loaded up the dog and some stuff came to to Beaufort for what we thought was a four month sabbatical. And after two or three months, I was very clear that I couldn't do this in four months or six months. Um and we discovered that we loved Beaufort and we love the low country. So we made the decision to make it home and now we're here. That is a big, so I I tell people frequently, you know, robert smalls changed a lot of lives and still is, but he changed mine and I never saw that coming. That's nice. I like that. Well, it's always so interesting for all of us to hear the origin stories of books like what set off the spark this and yeah and a carriage ride, you know and hearing his name and the next thing, you know, your entire life is different and you know, we've both written about real people and I know that feeling where all of a sudden that past matters right there lives matter. And the stories that were told incorrectly or from other people's point of view, start to bother you, and you want to tell it from your point of view. So I know that feeling. So tell me, why does...

...this story about this man That happened over 150 years ago, matter now? Why this one? Why this one? So this man his contributions? Let me, let me be really specific about just one of those incredible contributions. And for people who are listening, you know, it may not know, kind of the fullness of his story. The smallest was born enslaved. Which meant that he was prohibited from learning to read and write. It was against the law to teach an enslaved person to read, or to write When he was 12 or 13 years old. He was sent to Charleston. He was hired out in Charleston, which of course meant that he worked. And the wages he would have earned were sent back to his owner in Beaufort. And he had several jobs. He worked as a lamplighter. He worked in a restaurant at the hotel. But when he was around 18 or 20 years old, he was working on a cotton steamer in the Charleston Harbor. It was called the planter. And And in 1861, he was just what, 22 years old? The Civil war began. And boats like the one he was working on became confederate gunboats and confederate troop boats. So at that point, he was, he was enslaved on a boat that was keeping him enslaved. Which is something to make us pause and think about. And um, so he was, you know, he was working on behalf of his own enslavement. And I can I have two sons. I can only imagine the rage and the and the frustration um, in In his heart and with his crewmates. But on the night of May 13 in 1862, after about a year of that, he had the opportunity to come and do that boat. And he took it very quietly from the Southern Worf on charleston Harbor, which you both know to the northern. He picked up the woman he loved and their Children and the women and Children of some of the crew mates, and they slipped very quietly right under the nose of the confederates out of charleston Harbor. And the next morning, just before dawn, they delivered that boat to the Union Navy and they were all liberated. And and he was shortly thereafter, he was made the captain of that boat on behalf of the Union and he piloted it very heroically through the rest of the war. But when the war was over, he came back to Beaufort, lots of things happened. He was elected to local leadership and then the state legislature before he was a congressman in the U. S. Congress. And when he was a state legislator, he co authored the very first legislation that ensured education insured literacy for all the Children of south Carolina. And it was among the first of its it was the first of its kind in the country. I mean it was it was the model for that and this from a man who had been prohibited from reading and writing. And so bad alone. I think just, you know, puts him in the in all the record books and he should be in all the textbooks. Every child in every school should know that part of his story, if not the whole story. So, so that I think is the thing that that really captured me. There's so much about him that was that was endearing his courage, his strength, his constant fortitude. He was always looking forward. He was a relationship builder and a bridge builder. But the four side to to ensure education, you know, I know, but see you're talking when I hear you talk now, I hear you describing the facts of who this man was. But when I listened to the I listened to the narration and read the book and it's a very different feel. It's, you know, it's not a presentation of facts. You are in the head of robert smalls. And I think what was particularly important in the major theme of the whole book was surprisingly, it wasn't just about becoming a freed man, which was obviously important. It was reading and writing. And for me, what brought the book alive was robert Smalls says the young boy, and you spent quite a bit of time in that area. He was innocent. He was precocious. He was curious and his name. Trouble said it all, he wasn't. He never was a kind of child who got in trouble, but his curiosity put him in awkward situations. And also he was beloved by Mr Mckee, his master and therefore there was always a question of who his father was. But the language was always so interesting. You did such a beautiful job with all the language of that slave era and which is tough and risky. And you were really clear in a child's language about how much he wanted to learn to read and write, that his inability to read and write was his true enslavement. And it was expressed...

...so emotionally Through this child's voice that by the time he was an adult, you caught the tinge of anger in his language as well. So that changed. So let's talk language. You definitely use the lingo of the black slaves in the 1850s. In fact, hearing the rich baritone of Gerald C. Rivers for the audio book was a true joy. His performance was one of the best I've ever heard for an audio book. So let me just start that you've done good, you really Charlton and Geraldine, but your use of the language you gave him the words to speak. So here's my question. Were you concerned about getting the language correct? And also, were you worried about any repercussions? Social repercussions here today about writing a black person's voice as a white woman? Yes, all of that was very concerned. Um, so to the, to the language and the sort of dialect. So, you know, I'm not from here originally of texas's southern, but it's not south Carolina, Southern. And in a way, I think that actually was a benefit to me because I was hearing, I was hearing in ways that weren't familiar and I had the wonderful good fortune of making some acquaintances here on ST Helena island at the pin center and that sort of thing. Some, some good friends with deep roots that could give me some guidance and I wanted in the book and in the, in the audio both to evoke that just the lyricism of the gullah sound without going into caricature and a very fine line, so hard, so hard and so, so I did that with a pretty light hand. I didn't use it a lot. I tried to use it very carefully. Um, I put it in the mouth of people like his mother, you know, sharing her stories and jailed tales George those sorts of things. So I tried to do that extremely carefully. Um, your second question is huge and you know the issues of representation and and whose story is this for a giant. So as I was as I began, I sort of naturally began writing in the first person. I like reading first person patty. I know you do a lot of that. It seems real natural. All seems seems very intimate. I love reading things that are written first person because I feel like I'm you know, looking over someone's shoulder reading their letters or their diaries. So I, so I just naturally began doing that. And then it occurred to me that you know, here I am 60s something white privileged woman in this century trying to put language in the mouth of a young enslaved african american. Um, young man from a long time ago, the, the distances to cross suddenly seemed impossible. You know, not not only race but gender and time and geography and all those things just seemed ridiculously difficult. And I really struggled with the question who, who am I to tell the story? You know, that's and if I can have, but I'd I also recognize that well, two things my own background, but also you all know this the beauty of fiction is that it invites us into another person's experience. And that's how we learn and experience things that aren't our own experiences, how we cultivate empathy and compassion. And so I was kind of committed to finding a way into that. And, and then my own experience as a pastor, people tell me everything you know, and, and uh, my own life experience. But hearing the experiences of others, I feel like I've, I've been privileged to hear and learn so much about dreams and hopes and hurts and losses and betrayal and all the stuff of life. And that's a pretty deep well to, to reach into when we're exploring someone else's hopes like this young man and then then the other sort of piece of all that was the, the growing awareness of the importance of telling and honoring this story. And so it all sort of overtime sort of shifted from who am I to tell the story to who am I to not tell the story. You know, the story has to be told people that look like me. It looked like us kept the story pretty suppressed for a long time. Um, and it's it's a story to be honored. And so that kind of shifted and it kind of, I think it gave me the confidence to just push through. But I will tell...

...you when, when the manuscript was ready and was in Marley's hands and she began, you know, shopping it around the the big publishers wrote the most beautiful rejections, a great story beautifully written. But we're, you know, it's the story of a black man written by a white woman and we don't want to do that. And and we were very fortunate that she um I found a home for the story with a small press that said, yeah, this story needs to be told and they didn't fabulous, courageous, really. It's very courageous. And you know, you just think a difference of five years might have made all the difference. I think it very well well, may have. And, you know, I knew, I mean, when we moved across the country, that was risky and I knew trying to tell the story this way was risky. But it's nothing like the risk that this young man, you know, I mean, think about I think about what I would risk my life for and there are things I would risk my life for, but he risked the life of the people he loved and the families of his friend, I mean, he risked all of it, all of it, and I knew that this might not be a successful venture for me to write the story, but you know, no one was going to blow up and no one was gonna land on the bottom of the atlantic where we're gonna be okay, and you got the story out and the story is that and it's and people are talking about it and people are having conversations that are really, really relevant right now, and I didn't see that coming. I, you know, I've kind of got this platform to to have some of these tough conversations that that that really mattered. I think that the stories that want to get told as desperately as it feels like his story wanted to be told, the vessel doesn't matter. You give into it, you let the story come and the judgment of other people is to be put aside when you feel as if the story is coming through you. Well, I just have to jump in and say listening to you both of you talking because both of you have written a book that you were called to tell. It's really beautiful to hear for me to hear you both speak. Thank you. Thank you. So, as we round this out, that was very kind, very as you write stories, you're called to write to. I do. But this is two people each of you, you had joy and you had robert and you both knew no matter what I'm writing, no matter what I have to cannot do it. They do not do it. They don't leave you alone. And I think we'll see it in the second half today. You know, when, when a character story comes knocking you, you ignore it at your own peril. So I would love to round out our talk today real quick about the research you did for jane mckee, not just robert because I know for me doing the research, you know, for joy, I had modern day letters, I had, even for the pulaski that, you know, 18 38 there were accountings. Did you find anything, a diary or letters or anything from her? So a little kind of crude, really fond of her early on. You know, I recognized that she was this young mother sort of bewildered by the world that she was trying to make sense of. Um and I didn't have anything about her, but I did discover the mary chestnut diaries, y'all are probably familiar with. Those mary chestnut was the life of a confederate lieutenant and she kept this giant journal and she was so observant and she was very sharp and, and so she gave me some of the sort of language of the time and sensibilities a little bit. But I also, I sort of drew on my relationship with my mother and you know, because I was watching Mrs Mckee and her daughter move into sort of a new world through all of this and and my mom and I have this wonderful relationship, but we see some things kind of differently and we we share that in thoughtful and careful ways, but we navigate the world differently in some ways. And so I drew a lot on that. I um I'm shocked. I can't believe you didn't have letters and diaries door. I didn't and you know, and originally the original manuscript, the original manuscript, I had her keeping a diary and writing letters back and forth with the daughter and then with the editor, nail that too. I have to say that was so much fun. That was so much fun. I just, you know, most of my, most of my professional career, I've written a lot, but I didn't get to just make things up. So being able to be really imaginative and and really, you know, I tried to get into the hearts and the heads of these these...

...women who, you know, they were privileged, they had they had a lot, a lot of material stuff, but they didn't have the right to vote. They didn't have much say in anything. They were struggling with, not the same issues, but they were struggling and trying to make sense of a world that was really changing. And we've been there right. I am. I'm just curious about your resources because you didn't have a lot for her. And as robert Smalls is a boy, did you? Where did you draw all that information from? How much was available to you? So, I had the extraordinary good fortune of meeting robert Smalls, great great grandson, Michael. But we're more was in charleston. He's building that wonderful international african american museum there on the side of Gazans Worf. He was in Buford to speak about Smalls at the Penn Center just a few months after we moved here. Uh so I went to listen to him. And it was, it was before Covid he was greeting everyone and I told him how excited I was to meet him. But I was too starstruck and too intimidated to tell him. I was trying to write a book and his great great grandfather father. I just said, you know, I love your great great grandfather. Um, but that, that opened up kind of a door to, to learn a little bit more and to, you know, get into some of the, some of the details of some of the biographies. I didn't want, I wanted to be careful that I didn't ask for family stories because I think those belong to the family, but things that were in public domain and in the biographies. Yeah. Have fun with, you know, embellished. Well, Rebecca, we are so honored and pleased that you came to talk to us today about robert Smalls. This is a truly amazing book and it sounds like it was the story that would not leave you alone. So, thank you for joining us on the friends and fiction podcast. Thank you both so much. It was wonderful, so much. Great information. Thank you. It's just delightful to be able to talk with you. And um you know, we all love sharing our stories, don't we? And this was a wonderful one. And I think that we hope it spreads the word because this is the book that everyone should read. I hope, okay, everybody run out there, double the water bubbles of water and it's on audio now. So listeners people that read that with. Yeah. And I highly highly recommend the audiobook because it's one of the best I've ever heard and people know I love my audiobooks. So thank you Rebecca, Thank you so much. Thank you Patty mary Alice. Great, great to be with you. Thanks so much. Bye bye now, let's welcome Signee pipe to talk about the Forgotten Kingdom. The second book in her the Lost Queen trilogy. It is just now out on june 8th in paperback. Welcome signee. Hello, signee. Hello, wonderful to be here. Well, I just have to say you know, we're all friends and so it's especially nice to see you here. And also interestingly enough, we just spoke to Rebecca Rough and Signee was one of the teachers at the writer's conference that are referenced earlier when we met Rebecca. So is in the serendipity now onto your magnificent historical, which we love. This is actually booked two of the series, the Forgotten Kingdom. And this book picks up where the lost Queen left off. We learned that lang gora the powerful and until now tragically forgotten thing of sixth century Scotland is the twin sister of the man who inspired the legend of Merlin. So Signee, where are we in this book? So the Forgotten Kingdom as you said, it picks up right where the end of the loss queen commenced, which was with this, with this battle. It's an actual historical battle that took place in sixth century Scotland. And lingering, our queen had people she loved on both sides of the battle. And so um the beginning of the Forgotten Kingdom, we begin to learn more about who's lived and who's died as this battle and in the aftermath scatters all of these characters to the wind. And of course many of these people were actual historical figures which is always so stunning to realize they've forgotten and yet they were real and and they not only were forgotten, but they inspired legends. I want to think that you have found thousands of years from now that your story would inspire actual legends. So, one of my favorite things about any novel and particularly with you because I know it is the origin story. So where...

...did you get the spark of the idea for the Lost Queen trilogy? Where did it really begin? I know you wrote fairy tale and you were in Scotland and you have an interest in Arthurian legends. And then I was in the whole book store. Um and I picked up a book that was nonfiction about the origins of Merlin and it was written by a Glasgow lawyer who claimed that Merlin was based on an actual historical figure named lilac. In and the whole book lays out his his theory, which now has become much more scholarly accepted. And basically that was the first time I ever read about languorous. Um Although Merlin is a wizard and has been consigned to the world of myth, the fact that this this man lilac and had a twin sister languorous who is an actual historical queen, was mind blowing to me. And then as I read add a marjorie is the name of the author. As I read his book, I read about all the events that took place during the life of this brother and the sister and it just started to turn in me what a terrible injustice this has been. That languorous life has been forgotten, given all that she lived through and what an important figure she was and that she had been deliberately brushed under the rug by her enemies at the time. Um And their and their censorship of her life. And there Degradation of her brother's name has been successful enough to stamp out her memory. But of course, thanks to the Arthurian legend, we still have some echoes of Merlin and the life of Merlin 1500 years later. Did you when you first saw that book? Right. If we're talking about the spark of this fire that became this amazing story when you first picked up the book and saw it in the bookstore, signee, did you think to yourself, oh this should be a novel or were you just interested? And then you took it from there? I don't think I thought that it could be a story or a novel until I started roiling with all those emotions reading the book. And that's when I realized, you know, I have a background as an editor um working at at some of the big five publishing houses in acquisitions. And one of the things that I learned as an editor is that a lot of times, um, in order for a really important story or really important change to take place, it has to be popularized by fiction, which is strength and it seems counterintuitive, but a lot of times until we can really live the story in someone else's skin, it doesn't affect us in the way that I really felt it should. Yeah. So it occurred to me that the only way to really resurrect, languorous and to give lilac in back his life. Because, you know, while some of us believe in magic, there's really no such thing as wizards in the way that, that he's been portrayed, religion and belief is another topic. But so I felt like they had been robbed of their lives and I wanted to turn that to them. And so I thought, well, the only way to really do this is to popularize it and to make it into fiction, which is a really good segue into the question that I have because we've talked about this a lot and how do we categorize your work, its historical fiction and the facts are there? It's based on real people. And yet you always do delve into something else that mystical and the unknown. And a lot of that's the true and faith, I think. And in your book has been referred to as Outlander needs Camelot, which is actually a pretty great tag if I do say so. However, we don't want people to not recognize that this is true historic fiction. So the bottom line, your research is meticulous and scholarly and you managed to take that and bring all that knowledge to life in a truly authentic, vibrant story world. So how would you describe this series? And are your challenge? Is balancing scholarship and compelling fiction? Absolutely. There's always that challenge, especially just given the topic, the fact that I'm writing about the legend of Merlin, someone who inspired the legend that causes a lot of, of mis labeling and the books are often labeled as fantasy, um, uh, understandable. So that's why I worked so hard to right about the historical events that happened. We know the...

...battles that took place. We know Children who are descended from language with, I focus on going to the historical sites. We know a lot of these old fortresses you can actually go visit today. Um, well I go visit those sites and um, that's, that's the way to really, we've in the actual historical background. It is a challenge. But the more I immersed myself in the facts, the easier it becomes to stay focused on that. And I really try to also just wear complete blinders when it comes to any sort of our three in books, television shows or anything like that, because as far as I'm concerned, you know, those are fantasy and what I'm doing is founded and based solely on fact, so that does help keep it straight. But you know, you you mentioned about the, the beautiful elements of the druid IQ religion, the pre christian religion, and that's a really important element to and I'm trying to show readers that, you know, just because sixth century people believed in the power of curses or believed in the power of prayer and ritual, that doesn't make it fantasy. People go to church every sunday in this country or synagogue or the mosque and that doesn't make what they're doing fantasy. Does it try to bring that question up to my readers as well? You know, just because I'm writing about a pre christian religion, um doesn't make it fantastical. It was just as real to them as as any sort of prayer anyone could murmur today. Mm hmm. When I read Fairy tale, which is your first book and a memoir, that same thing came up over and over this idea that just because it was Celtic doesn't mean it's fantasy. It is what they believed. And so let's talk about the research. Yes, let's because sixth century Scotland tell us about that kind of research. You have discovered so many fascinating things from secrets to landscapes, to mistakes made in history books. And the travel. You've got to tell us about the travel you even visited languorous childhood home. That was one of the most amazing experiences was I had to write the first couple of chapters of the book without ever having gone to the place where she grew up, which is today, a park that anyone can visit. It's called Shadow Hero Country Park and it's looking um just outside the village of Hamilton in central Scotland outside of Glasgow ish. And you can go there today. And I had to write about going down to the river was the first scene that came into my mind when I was writing the book. It was really eerie when I went to the location finally and I was walking down the trail to the water and it looked exactly as I had written it, but well, I've never been there before. So there were weird things like that that would happen that were very mystical. Um, but at the same time it's enormously helpful to be able to talk to, you know, the grounds managers and say, well, where would they afforded the river? And you can see what color the rocks are and you can see what color the water is. And is it shallow or deep? You know what? They've been able to put a boat through here? Or where did they, where did they try to catch salmon? Where were the salmon traps? And you can find out all of those things by visiting these sites and just walking the grounds and seeing the flora and the fauna. And um, so that's the kind of research that I started to do. And that's when the characters really came to life for me was being in those places. I could almost feel them in the land. Still. It was sort of like a memory lived in the land and that was a really, really beautiful experience. And so since then for every book, I have gone back to Scotland to go to the sites because there's always interesting new places that crop up or new people that I want to write about Also. Um you asked about writing about the 6th century. It's really tough. It is a maddening lover to write about the 6th century. There's so little archaeologically. Um mostly the britons who are the people that I write about linguine with was a briton. They built out of timber. So wood rots away all we have left or post holes. So you have holes where houses used to be and huts. And um we don't even really know certain things about, you know, like did they have windows we don't really know. Um so there's been almost nothing that's been found. We we know what came before and we know it came after, but the sixth century is maddeningly, I bet I can legend. Well, you know, speaking of all those trips to Scotland, you promised me and Patty a trip to Scotland and Darren Covid put a halt to our plans. But we're holding you to it. So I'm just going to start right there. Your scenes are so vividly...

...described. They're really beautiful and the pageantry, the wildlife, even the clothing is just everything was so much brought to life and in case anyone out there doesn't know this series was option for a television series. So we're all holding our breath to watch it live and maybe you have an update. And the other thing I'm curious to know is, and all this research that you've done. Can you tell us one thing? That was one of the most surprising things that popped up? Mm. Well, yeah, as far as the our trip to Scotland um was wrapped by Covid and we will go. The other thing was of course postponed by Covid was the development of the television series which is everything is backlogged. So we are still backlog but the show is still in development and just really exciting. Right. Right. Yes. And soon we'll be looking for a network for our, for our show. So that'll be really oh my gosh, I can't wait. No, it's a really, I couldn't ask for more incredible team. It's you know bruna Papandrea from made up stories and they've done Uh nine perfect strangers and they're coming out, they're coming out nearly every week. It seems like with a new show based on a book. So they are the perfect people to be working with. Great. Yes. And tell us about the surprise, most surprising thing. The most, one of the most surprising things, there's always weird little synchronicities that happened that patty and mary Alice and I delight in talking about. Um but one of the strangest things when I was researching the Forgotten Kingdom was that I went to. So we talked about this big battle that took place at the end of the Last Queen. And it's what opens the second book, there is a legend in southern Scotland that when Merlin he survived the battle, most people think thankfully for my books, that's what I've also I've also talked about the heart that was good. And so he fled to southern Scotland to this little town um called Moffitt. And he's thought to have lived at the bottom of the mountain there. And a lot of other nonfiction writers who have studied the idea of Merlin and tried to prove the existence of Merlin have put forth the idea that he lived. It says in some of the old texts that he lived at a spring. You know, they had this really beautiful freshwater spring halfway up this mountain and that that's where Merlin lived and he was up to his thighs and snow and survived there for seven years. Well, I went to go visit the site with a friend of mine who's a mountain guide and he was teaching me about orienteering about mapping and we had an OS map and as we were looking at the map, one of the things that I discovered was that there was a little sign for a burnt mound. Um wow, it's something that the ancient Celtics used to use to do laundry and they would sort of do sweat lodges, they would use it to clean themselves to cook and right by it. There was also a hut circle that had been forgotten and I thought why would a Lord Merlin was Madrid and a politician and a warrior, why would he be thigh deep in snow up at this? Well, I went to go see the spring and there was nothing, there was nothing there but a little overhang of rock. There's no way one could survive up there. But here at the base of the mountain, you had a hut with a way to cook in a way to take a bath in the free world of winter. And so it could very likely be the place where Merlin and the other warriors who survived uh lived in exile after the battle of artery. With, wow, so fascinating. I mean, I loved every time you came back from a trip and posted your photos and for those of you listening, if you go to Sydney S I G N E pikes P I K E S instagram, you will be awarded with the most gorgeous photos of Scotland and the views that she got to see. So Sydney speaking of Scotland and enchantment, I once read this whole list of random facts about the forgotten kingdom. And I want you to tell us a few of those because I think they drive home the gist of this novel. Yeah, I'm always loved doing the lists of facts. So, so I'll give you guys my top three that I think are interesting. The first, the first fact is that lilac in or slash merlin as he's known in in legend, wasn't a wizard. He was a warrior as I mentioned and he was a politician. He was a nobleman and he was a druid. And the reason he's confused and thought to be a wizard was because he was a member of your injury. That pre christian religion and Jared's weren't wizards, although some of them were involved with sacrifices and the...

...religious aspects of the life druids were actually just the non christian intellectual cast of Ireland gaul and Britain. So well, so we did with priestly duties. Others, they were the doctors, the teachers and the lawgivers of the ancient Celtic world. That's what um, and of course there were some that were priests, but there were many who weren't. So that's really, isn't it just real quick, Isn't it amazing how through the centuries that one word shifts for what we think it means versus what it really does mean for these very real people in this very real time. Yes. And it was done with a very real purpose which was to denigrate the legitimacy of people like lilac in who used to have a lot of power. Um, when you relegate some of you to, to fairy tales and to the nursery, you're, you're stripping away their power although their memories kept alive. But any sort of sense of real power or impact become finished. Yeah, diminished. Exactly. Okay. So fact number two, is that a lot of people think we talk about Scotland that it was inhabited by the Scots? And what's really interesting about my time period is that during the sixth century, there were actually four different peoples that were living in ancient Scotland. And primary among those were the britons. They controlled almost all of central Scotland. The picks who lived up north of the Clyde line, the Scots who are actually from Ireland and they were interlopers and they lived only over in the west of the country and then the angles with anglo saxons and they were coming over and trying to take over land to the east. They were the invaders from across the sea. We had four different people all my life and talk about a melted but it's really exactly And then the last one is that um this is when I found out researching the forgotten kingdom and moving into book three, which I'm writing now is that people in the early medieval time period believed in the power of curses and prayers. I mentioned this earlier. No. Um but christians and pagans alike believed in that ability. Um and both christians and pagans thought that they had there were certain people who had the ability to influence the weather. So there's yeah, there's stories of Saint columba being called upon by some of his followers to summon a fair wind so that ships could sail. And he does this through prayer and I know through reading texts and digging up ancient lore that we've certainly got pre christian people or non christian people who work believed to be able to do the same thing. So these are people who really truly felt they could influence the weather that they could influence crops through the power of their own prayer. Which goes back to what you said at the very beginning, which is that christian pre christian they really are. It's all about the message is the same. It's prayer. What they believed in is very real. It's historic, not fantasy. Exactly. Exactly. So those are only three of my facts. But I often do things like I've got a list about 10 things you're really learning about history when you watch game of Thrones. Um so he's trying to strip the magic out of things. You know your your your call you because you were a book called fairy tale. But the magic of that book was that with this patty said its enchantment. It does it's very it's very alluring to know that there's something that's real that is also mystical and that is sort of my life's mission is realizing that the world we live in right now is no more or less magical than the world of Merlin and Arthur and languorous with forgot to tune into that. Oh beautiful Signee, beautiful big data and uh that was perfect signee Before we go real quick tell everyone where they can find you on the webs, where the social media channels where can people find all this amazing information about you, You can find me on instagram under signee pike, I'm also on twitter right now. I'm not on facebook and then of course my website has information about all of my books. Um little videos, you can read an excerpt from the novels and keep up on news about the tv development and all that fun stuff too. Thank you so much. We're so honored you came to talk to us and we loved The Forgotten Kingdom and we also loved the Law Screen, which is a prequel to the prequel before it. And we are so pleased about having you on Friends and...

...fiction. It's always so fun. We get to talk about stories together. Thanks signee. Oh thank you so much. It's been great. Thanks so much for having me. Thank you for tuning in, Join us every week on Facebook or YouTube where our live show airs every Wednesday night at seven p.m. eastern time and please subscribe to our podcast and follow us on instagram. We're so glad you're here.

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