Another tour with Brook Cottage Books today, and featuring a book that I really wish I could have fitted in because it looks really excellent. Never on Saturday by Sue Barnard was published by Crooked Cat Books in February 2017, and is available via Amazon in paperback and for kindle. The description of “paranormal romance” could have had me running for the hills, but this looks like a book I’d really enjoy – it’s been on my kindle since it was first released and took my fancy, so why not add it to yours too? Or maybe you can win a signed paperback in the giveaway (more details below)?
Two stories, two heartbreaks: one past, one present…
Leaving her native France and arriving in North Wales as a postgraduate student of History and Folklore, Mel is cautiously optimistic that she can escape from her troubled past and begin a new and happier life. She settles into her student accommodation and begins work on her thesis, concentrating particularly on one fascinating manuscript: a compelling and tragic tale of a cursed medieval princess.
Then she meets Ray – charming, down-to-earth and devastatingly handsome. Within days, Mel’s entire world has transformed from lonely and frustrated to loving and fulfilled. Despite her failure with previous relationships, she allows herself to hope that this time, at last, she can make it work.
But Mel’s dreams of happiness are under constant threat. She is hiding a dark and terrible secret, which Ray – or indeed anybody else – must never ever discover…
Mmm, that really does look like one I’ll enjoy… I’m delighted to welcome Sue Barnard to Being Anne, to tell us more about playing with time…
Writing a book which is based on an existing story is by no means a new phenomenon. Even the mighty Shakespeare borrowed and adapted a lot of ideas from earlier sources, and modern writers are often prompted to produce updated versions of traditional fairy tales.
Never on Saturday is one such story, and is based on an old French legend. Unfortunately I can’t say any more about that here, as it would give away far too much. I can however reveal that (for reasons which become apparent in the book) the heroine has to hide herself away every Saturday.
I first came across the legend by chance a few years ago, when visiting the area of western France where it’s set. It was a few months after that initial trip that I first had the idea of turning the legend into a modern story. I started thinking about how it might work, and soon realised that the best format would be timeslip, with the action switching backwards and forwards between the past and the present.
Writing a timeslip novel presents some interesting challenges – not least of which is keeping the past and present stories distinct from each other. To keep my mind focussed on the flow of the individual narratives, I started out by writing the two stories as completely separate manuscripts.
First of all, I needed to find out as much as I could about the original legend. Fortunately a lot of information about it is available online, so I printed off some articles and kept them handy as I was writing. These background pieces formed the basis of the historical section of the book. In cases where individual details of the tale differed, I chose the version which fittest best with the story I was telling.
I wrote the historical section first, as one continuous piece, then worked out where the section breaks needed to go – always keeping in mind that as far as possible each section needed to end with a cliffhanger. In some cases, this involved breaking a scene in the middle of a conversation, which was resumed a few pages later. Then I turned my attention to the modern tale. For this, in addition to the storyline I also needed a strong sense of place, so I chose a setting which I know quite well: the Isle of Anglesey, off the north-west coast of Wales, an area which is steeped in history and folklore of its own. I then wrote the present-day section, also as a continuous piece, and then divided it into chapters as before.
Next came the biggest challenge of all: merging the two into one manuscript, whilst keeping the action of both stories running in parallel as far as possible. This needed a fair amount of rearrangement, both on screen and on paper, before I was happy with it.
Researching the book was a fascinating exercise, and after finishing the novel I subsequently wrote a short afterword, summarising the background to the story and its place in history and folklore as a whole. Meanwhile, my husband (as intrigued by the story as I was) also did some research of his own, and came up with a fascinating suggestion: that the main character of the legend might well have been confused with a real-life historical figure with a very similar-sounding name.
This person, a twelfth-century Queen of Jerusalem, was the wife of a French count who went on to become a wealthy and prominent crusader and latterly a strong supporter of the Knights Templar. All of which raises a fascinating question: could it be that this lady’s huge secret, and the reason why she was never seen on Saturdays, was that she was in fact Jewish?
One can only speculate…
Fascinating, Sue! And let’s have a look at an extract:
From Chapter 3 (Sunday)
“Here you are!” Ray had appeared at her side, clutching two large white bread rolls, each wrapped round with a paper serviette. “Hang on to these for a moment, would you? I need to go back for the coffees.”
Mel laid aside the binoculars before lifting up the top of one of the bread rolls and peering cautiously inside. The bread itself was feather-light, and the filling consisted of two steaming slices of dark-pink meat, each edged with a strip of crisp golden-brown fat. Her mouth watered at the bewitching aroma, but she forced herself to wait until Ray had rejoined her and placed two paper cups on the table in front of them.
“So, this is a bacon bap?” she asked, as she handed one back to him.
“It is indeed!” He pulled the paper serviette aside and took a large bite from the roll, chewed for a moment, then closed his eyes as if in rapture. On opening them again, he noticed that her roll still remained untouched.
“Come on,” he urged, “don’t let it go cold!”
Mel picked up her roll and took a cautious nibble. The flavour was quite unlike anything she had ever experienced; smoky, savoury, salty and sweet, all at the same time.
“Mmm, this is divine!” she murmured. “I can’t believe I’ve lived for so long without tasting this.”
Ray grinned. “And you come from France – the spiritual home of good food?”
Mel nodded as she prepared to take another bite. “I’d always thought it was. But I suppose this must prove that there’s still room to learn more!”
They finished their rolls in companionable silence. As they sipped their coffee, Mel took up the binoculars and focussed on the tops of the pine trees.
“What are you looking at?” Ray asked.
“Those birds up there. What are they?”
Ray picked up his own binoculars and followed her gaze. “Oh, they’re crossbills. They feed on the seeds from the pine-cones. Can you see the shape of their beaks?”
“Cross-bills? Oh, yes, I see now. In France, we call them becs-croisés. I didn’t realise you had them round here. That’s probably why I didn’t recognise them.” She sighed.
“What’s the matter?”
Mel forced a smile. “The last time I saw any of them was in the pine forests in the Vendée. They reminded me a little of home.”
Feeling a tear pricking the corner of her eye, she quickly turned her head away and focussed even more intently on the birds. Why did such a seemingly trivial thing as the sight of a flock of crossbills make her so upset? But she would not cry – not here, not anywhere. She would enjoy the day. Whatever else might be troubling her, she would enjoy the day.
In fact, she had another six days before she needed to trouble herself about anything at all.
Yes, she told herself firmly. She would enjoy the day.
Fancy winning a signed copy of the paperback? There are ten runner-up prizes of a signed Never on Saturday postcard too (open internationally). Here’s the rafflecopter for entry:
About Sue Barnard
Sue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet whose family background is far stranger than any work of fiction. She would write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.
Sue was born in North Wales but has spent most of her life in and around Manchester. She speaks French like a Belgian, German like a schoolgirl, and Italian and Portuguese like an Englishwoman abroad.
Her mind is so warped that she has appeared on BBC TV’s Only Connect quiz show, and she has also compiled questions for BBC Radio 4’s fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as “professionally weird”. The label has stuck.
Sue joined the editorial team of Crooked Cat Books in 2013. Her first novel, The Ghostly Father (a new take on the traditional story of Romeo & Juliet) was officially released on St Valentine’s Day 2014. Since then she has produced three more novels: Nice Girls Don’t (2014), The Unkindest Cut of All (2015) and Never on Saturday (2017) – all published by Crooked Cat.
Sue lives in Cheshire with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.