I’m delighted today to be joining the blog tour for A Shape on the Air by Julia Ibbotson, published by Endeavour Press on 28th July. I’m really frustrated that I wasn’t able to read it for the tour – you all know how much I love time-slip, don’t you? – but it’s a book I really want to catch up on as soon as I emerge from beneath my book mountain. Doesn’t this look wonderful?
Two women 1500 years apart. One need: to save the world they know. Can they help each other to achieve their greatest desire? And what if that world they want is not the one that’s best for them?
University lecturer in medieval studies, Dr Viv Dulac, is devastated when her partner walks out (and with her best friend too!) and threatens her home. Drunk and desperate, her world quite literally turns upside down and she finds herself in the body of the fifth century Lady Vivianne, who is struggling with the shifting values of the Dark Ages and her forced betrothal to the brutish Sir Pelleas who is implicated in the death of her parents.
Haunted by both Lady Vivianne and by Viv’s own parents’ death and legacy, can Viv unravel the web of mystery that surrounds and connects their two lives, and bring peace to them both? A haunting story of lives intertwining across the ages, of the triumph of the human spirit and of dreams lost and found.
You’ll be able to read a full-length extract on some of the other stops on the tour, but let me share a short taster…
God, why did it all have to happen now, when she needed to be on top form. Oh, why did it have to happen at all. Everything in her life was crumbling away. Pete, what have you done to us …
Again, a movement behind her, a parting of the rushes. The sense of a dark figure at her back. She swung round. Nothing. Then she turned back to the mere. A shadow on the water. She stared at the ripples but the image diffused and disappeared. Hardly daring to look she glanced round again. Nobody. She was alone.
Viv shuddered, her eyes fixed on the water in front of her. She must get out of here, get safely home, but somehow she couldn’t move. She was transfixed and held against her will, as if her body was bound with invisible ropes. The mere and the world around her juddered, swept away and then returned, misty and echoing in her head.
She felt herself cry out. But it was a cry, not for help, but of despair.
Then a hand planted firmly on her back, pushing her. She staggered but felt the inexorable push towards the dark murky water. As she fell, she had the odd sensation of someone breathing on her neck, falling with her. Her hand reached out to save herself, to grasp anything that might halt her tumble. She scrabbled wildly at the undergrowth but felt the branches break as she tried to clutch hold of them.
The cold water rose to meet her and there was no longer firm ground beneath her. She flailed about but it was hopeless; the cold stole her breath and her strength. Something was pulling her downwards, sucking her into the murky depths of the mere.
My little Lady Vivianne.
She was sinking, as if there was someone below her who was grasping her ankles and pulling her down. The water covered her head and, even at the last, when she managed to struggle her head above the surface she saw that she was much further away from the bank than she had imagined. She could no longer fight, and with that realisation, the water covered her head for the last time.
It has “me” written all over it, doesn’t it?! And I’m really delighted to welcome Julia Ibbotson to Being Anne to tell us more about writing a time-slip novel…
Writing a time-slip novel? Well, all you have to do is tell the story of someone from the present day finding herself in a different time, easy, right? Wrong! In fact it’s very difficult. There are all sorts of issues you have to work out. Why would this person suddenly fall into another period? How would she do it? What would be the trigger? If she could do it, why couldn’t everyone else? What makes her have this unique ability?
I love reading time-slip; I’m especially keen on Pamela Hartshorne’s novels of time-slip into the Tudor age in York (Time’s Echo, House of Shadows). They’re intriguing and exciting. I’m fascinated by theories of time and the whole concept of what time actually means? All these weird and wonderful theories: quantum mechanics, the Einstein-Bridge theory of portals and worm-holes!
I’ve wanted to write a time-slip story of my own for a long time, but in my case one set in the early medieval times because that’s the period I know best and am most interested in. But working it all out resulted in many a restless night, loss of hair and bitten fingernails! I wanted the tone and atmosphere to be a little spooky but still feel realistic and convincing (which isn’t easy if you’re writing about what we normally think of as ghosts). In the end I found writing the ghostly parts the easiest and the mechanics of the time-slip the most difficult.
It seemed to me that my main character, Viv, needed to be someone that anybody could identify with, someone pretty ‘normal’, but make her have a traumatic event in her life which might make her vulnerable and more susceptible to the paranormal. I made her an academic who deals with facts not fantasies, and gave her an awful partner in Pete who announces that he’s leaving her for her best friend – goodness, that would send anyone off balance! – and made her lovely home and the life she knew be at risk. I also made her drink rather a lot of red wine (understandable in the circumstances!) and go for a walk beside a lake!
I then had to make someone in a responsible job commanding authority and respect, empathise and become involved with her strange experience. Who might believe her? Someone whose job is connected with other-worldly things but could be a ‘pillar of society’? It had to be a vicar. So Rev Rory was born. And so was the love interest.
Although it would have been easier for the time-slip trigger to be the lake that started it all off, I didn’t want it to be that obvious, so I had to create a whole back-history for Viv, involving her parents, especially her mother, and their untimely death. Gradually it was coming together like a jigsaw. I can’t explain any more because it would give away the secrets of the book. You’ll just have to read it and find out! I hope you feel intrigued enough to do that, and I hope you enjoy the story. I certainly enjoyed writing it – and guess what? I’m writing another time-slip …
Great news Julia, and thank you – I’m really looking forward to reading this one…
With thanks to the author and to tour organiser Brook Cottage Books, I’m delighted to offer the opportunity to win an e-copy of either The Old Rectory or Drumbeats (outside UK) or paperback (UK only) if you sign up to the newsletter mailing list on Julia’s website. Here’s the rafflecopter for entry:
About Julia Ibbotson
Award winning author Julia Ibbotson lives with her second husband in the heart of England in a renovated Victorian rectory, and, their four children having grown up, she is now suffering from empty nest syndrome. She is obsessed with the medieval world and concepts of time travel (and chocolate) (and cakes …). She read English at Keele University (after a turbulent but exciting gap year in Ghana) specialising in medieval studies. She wrote her first novel at 10 years of age, but life (and later the need to earn a living as a single mother) intruded and she became a school teacher, and then, on gaining her PhD as a (very) mature student, a university lecturer.
Julia has written a memoir The Old Rectory: escape to a Country Kitchen (with recipes) and a children’s book S.C.A.R.S (a fantasy medieval time slip), before embarking on her Drumbeats trilogy (which begins in Ghana). Her latest novel, A Shape on the Air, is a historical (medieval) time slip romance. Clearly, she is obsessed … Apart from insatiable reading, she loves travelling the world, singing in choirs, swimming, yoga, baking, and walking in the English countryside.