I am thrilled today to have with me on the Fall Fantasy Author Series author Melanie Robertson-King, whose debut novel A Shadow In the Past comes out this month.
[SK] Your book A Shadow in the Past is about a 19-year-old traveling to another time. What did you do to try and get into the nineteen-year-old mindset when you were writing for this character?
I read a lot of YA books, the first being Forever by Judy Blume; I also read a lot of Lois Duncan’s books – I Know What You Did Last Summer, Daughters of Eve, Ransom, and Killing Mr. Griffin. When I didn’t have my face stuck in books reading about teenage girls, I recalled my own teen years and my daughter’s. Basically, I tossed everything into a ‘food processor’ and the result was Sarah Shand.
[SK] Did you have to/not have to do extensive research on the period for the book? How did go about this?
As far as the location where I set my novel, I had visited that part of Scotland many times (it was my Dad’s birthplace) so I knew the area well. And when I travel, I take tons of photos so I was able to refer back to them when the memory was a bit murky. Also, from those trips abroad, I had a collection of Ordnance Survey maps, too. I also bought a few Victorian Ordnance Survey maps of the area, too, so that I had a “then” and “now” picture of the communities. My biggest challenge when it came to research was geographic. I set my novel in Scotland (present day and Victorian era) and I live in Canada.
I wrote many e-mails to people asking for help (Aberdeen and North East Scotland Family History Society, the central branch of the Aberdeen Library, and a couple of railway buffs who maintain websites on the subject). Everyone was brilliant! I got train schedules and fares, the library sent me city maps and copies of pages from the city directories for 1886 – at no charge! And not once did any of them think my questions were daft (or if they did, they never let on).
Loving Scotland and all things Scottish, I’ve amassed a collection of books on Scotland which proved indispensable. While there are many books written about the Victorians, not many are dedicated to strictly Scotland, so having these other books has helped, along with books of men’s and women’s fashions, hardware and other gadgets.
[SK] It sounds like your book is more YA-driven but with crossover appeal. Or is it the other way around? Tell us about the potential audiences for your book and why they might enjoy it.
I thought long and hard about where my novel best fit. Originally, I thought adult fiction but decided with my protagonist only being nineteen, it was a better YA fit. Believe it or not, I didn’t even know about crossover until I attended a Brian Henry workshop on Writing for Children and Young Adults. And when I heard that the bells and whistles went off in my mind! I immediately knew that’s where my novel belonged – anyone thirteen to twenty-five years of age and those of us who are older than that but still young at heart.
[SK] The editing process for this book was fairly lengthy. Can you describe the experience for us?
Lengthy doesn’t begin to describe it. When my editor first read the book, she suggested changes. The most drastic was moving something that happened later in the book forward. That took the longest because by doing it, many plot bunnies were unleashed and a lot of the subsequent edits were to eliminate them.
The process was actually quite simple. All of the edits were done via e-mail – sending the document back and forth and putting any additional comments in the body of the e-mail. When I got an edit back, I would make the corrections/changes noted or explain why something had to stay. Track changes is a wonderful tool. As the process continued back and forth, there were fewer and fewer changes and sometimes, they were just minor fiddly things but it was best to get them out of the way as the work progressed.
Once my editor and I were finished, a clean copy was sent off to the editor-in-chief who went over it and we read it again and noted things that needed to be fixed and when that was done, the manuscript moved on to be formatted for print. Again, we all had the chance to read it again and find any errors that had been missed.
And if I hadn’t read it often enough, I got the final .pdf proof back to read and approve and if there were errors, note them and pending the corrections, approve it.
[SK] In one word, how does it feel to see a published novel with your name on it?
A Shadow in the Past
When a contemporary teen is transported back through time to the Victorian era, she becomes A Shadow in the Past…
When nineteen year old Sarah Shand finds herself in Victorian Era Aberdeenshire, Scotland, she has no idea how she got there. Her last memory is of being at the stone circle on the family farm in the year 2010.
Despite having difficulty coming to terms with her situation, Sarah quickly learns she must keep her true identity a secret.
Still, she feels stifled by the Victorians’ confining social practices, including arranged marriages between wealthy and influential families, confronts them head on and suffers the consequences.
When Sarah realizes she has fallen in love with the handsome Laird of Weetshill, she faces an agonizing decision. Does she try to find her way back to 2010 or remain in the past with the man she loves?
Buy the Book
About the Author
In addition to writing, her interests include genealogy, photography and travel. On one of her trips to Scotland, she had the honor of meeting The Princess Royal.
Melanie is a member of Romance Writers of America and their Ottawa Chapter.
She lives in Brockville, Ontario, Canada along the shore of the majestic St. Lawrence River with her husband, son, and oldest grandson.
A Shadow in the Past is her first novel.
The Fall Fantasy Author Series is still going on, so that means you can still win the give-away! Check out the info below for how to enter!