The Ride (16): Historical Fiction Rocks. Literally.

I was in Italy for a couple of weeks this month.

What a place Rome is. What a history it has. And it brought home to me, in a whole new way, why I love historical fiction.

I am a particular fan of Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries (, an MG series following a handful of friends in Ostia, Rome’s ancient harbour, through a range of adventures. I visited the site of Ostia Antica with my family and looked at the hard evidence: pieces of rubble in abundance. Lizards – lots of them, to my 11 year-old’s delight. Tiny fragments of mosaic floors, a lot of statues – most with their heads missing.

My boy explores the theatre at Ostia Antica



Did I begin to get an idea what life might have been like there? I think so. Sort of. There were a couple of fairly well preserved floors of some baths, a theatre, a fish shop (archaeologists think), and best of all, a pub. Yes, complete with counter, courtyard and even frescoes of the menu (it was after all a largely illiterate society), all well-preserved enough to start me off. From the higher floors of some of the buildings, it was very easy to get a clear idea of the layout.

Ever seen a gymnastics competition? Vault, for instance?

The facts, the evidence and the ruins serve as the springboard. All the fancy flips and twists and turns in the air – the really impressive stuff, in other words – is done in the imagination.

We need the springboard, of course we do. But I see the evidence as a launch pad – the harder I hit it, the higher I can fly. I can flesh out the details, make ruins run with life, make the crumbling stones reach for the sky. Make the static statues stumble and sprint, sing and fear and love and cry. Make a story fly high.

Like Ostia Antica, the ruins of the clearance village which features in Fir for Luck seem like rubble and wreckage from the road. Tired tourists pull into the layby to inspect the information display, to ensure that they are not missing a vital attraction on the new North500 Route. They scan the sign, cast a cursory look down the hill towards the scattered remnants of homes and lives and fears and hopes and desperate resolve. But they only see rocks.

The place where I imagine my character Janet’s house to be.


It might have been these very rocks which were hurled at the Sheriff Superintendent from Dornoch who came to discipline the rebellious villagers – we’ll never know. But unless our travellers take a run at the springboard by venturing down the Ceannabeinne trail, they will miss this incredible story of courage and rebellion. They miss a chance for a triple twist in the air and a rush to the head. Who knows, the score might even be a personal best.

I really, really hope that, like all good historical fiction, Fir for Luck can be such a springboard.

And, for those interested in current progress, a  quick update:

  • We’re finalising arrangements for the cover reveal
  • The rough cut of the book trailer is awesome and being tweaked as we speak.
  • ARC copies of the book have arrived at Cranachan HQ and will go out soon.
  • I’m finalising the list of bloggers for the blog tour – let me know if you’d like an ARC copy to review or host  an interview or guest blog post – I’d love to hear from you. The more the merrier. Tweet me @scattyscribbler.

The Ride is speeding up and I am starting to get very excited indeed.

2 thoughts on “The Ride (16): Historical Fiction Rocks. Literally.

  1. Great comparison, Barbara. I, too have been in Italy and the Highlands of Scotland this year. Really inspiring for historical novelists. anne stenhouse, Scottish Regency and English post regency.

    Liked by 1 person

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