Anna Belfrage - Love me, love my character

annna-belfrageToday’s lovely guest is historical fiction writer, Anna Belfrage. Had she been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna is the author of the acclaimed time-slip series The Graham Saga, winner of multiple awards, including the HNS Indie Award 2015. Her new series is set in the 1320s and features Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures during Roger Mortimer’s rise to power.

Welcome, Anna! Now tell us why you wrote A Rip in the Veil.
That question in itself could result in a novel, but to keep it brief it’s all my husband’s fault. I met him on a sunny September day quite some years ago, and other than finding him cute, I also found his family history fascinating. (But just to clarify: I did NOT marry him because of his ancestors. They were just a nice little extra)

You see, my husband’s family had fled to Sweden from Scotland to escape religious persecution in the early 17th century. A rather sad story, with Mama Joneta arriving in Gothenburg with her only son, while left behind in Scotland was her husband who was supposed to come after. He never did, and it still a bit vague just what happened to Joneta’s fiery minister husband. Her son, John, grew up more Swedish than Scottish, called himself Hans (an abbreviation of Johannes), went on to become the mayor of a mid-size Swedish town, have over a dozen of children, and, as the final icing on his particular cake, was registered as being part of the Swedish nobility. As it should be, Hans Belfrage would have said, seeing as he could boast Scottish noble blood – his mother was a Stuart.

Anyway… all this family history had me digging into Scottish history in the early 17th century. The more I read, the more fascinated I became, and soon enough Matthew Graham began to take shape in my head – albeit that I moved him forward in time so as to be able to depict the turmoil that followed upon the death of Oliver Cromwell.

I thought I was going to write a pretty straightforward historical novel featuring a devout Covenanter. I had not counted on the sudden appearance of Alex Lind, a most reluctant time traveller who plummeted through time to land at the feet of an intrigued Matthew. Nor did I have any idea that Matthew and Alex would take me by the hand and drag me off on a sequence of adventures, all the way from Scotland to Virginia, back to Scotland, over to Maryland, down to Barbados…

So there you have it: why I decided to write A Rip in the Veil, albeit that the end product had nothing to do with the original idea. Plus, the end product was not a book, it was a whole series, The Graham Saga.


Why do you think your main character is like he is?

Matthew Graham is a man raised within the Scottish Kirk by a devout and somewhat rigid father. Since childhood, he has been encouraged to develop a personal relationship with God – albeit within the framework offered by the kirk – and he has been told over and over again that the men of the kirk answer to the kirk and God, not to the king.

When Charles I decided to forcibly bring the Scottish Kirk into the welcoming arms of the Anglican Church, he seriously underestimated the enraged protests this would cause. Some years later, Charles I was fighting a civil war, in which the Scottish Covenanters joined the Parliamentarians. This happened as Matthew was growing up, and his father made sure Matthew always remembered who was the enemy: the king, and his determination to foist Popish rituals (as per the Scots, the Anglican Church was borderline Papist) on the good people of Scotland. All this passion for the cause left Matthew a boy of strong convictions, and as a teenager he joined the New Model Army. A sobering experience, which left him somewhat disenchanted with his fiery co-religionists – but this was not something he could admit to anyone, least of all himself.

Other than all this religion, our Matthew has also suffered a betrayal of the heart. His first wife, Margaret, grew up as his father’s ward, the constant companion to Matthew’s younger brother Luke. When Luke was thrown out of the family home for spouting royalist beliefs (and for bedding Margaret in the barn, and she only fifteen or so) Margaret turned to Matthew for comfort. A beautiful young woman, a somewhat older but not that much more experienced young man, and Matthew fell in love. They married – and then Luke returned…Let’s just say being cuckolded is not a nice experience, even less so when Luke also managed to have Matthew jailed on trumped up accusations of treason.

So when Matthew Graham meets Alex Lind, he is a wary man. He still a devout man, he is still a man of convictions, but he doesn’t trust easily, and this strange and injured woman has him torn in two between a desire to run away from her and take care of her. Fortunately, compassion wins out.


A Scottish hillside

What does Matthew think he is like?
“Hmm.” Matthew frowns as he reads through the previous answer. “A jilted husband? Aye, I suppose I was – and aye, it hurt. A lot. Margaret was…” He swallows down the rest, casting a look in the direction of Alex, who has somehow materialised from nowhere to sit beside him.
“Beautiful,” Alex fills in. She slips her arm in under his.
“But she wasn’t really your type.”
“She wasn’t?” He chuckles, vivid hazel eyes gleaming in the sun that filters in from the small window.
“Nope. I am your type. Best remember that.” A soft kiss and she is gone, leaving Matthew smiling. He settles down on the bench and extends his long legs towards the hearth.
“A man of convictions – aye, I believe I am one of those fools who find it difficult to compromise on certain issues. After all, some things are worth dying for.”
“Like what?”
“God. The Kirk.” His face softens. “My wife and bairns.”
“You’re not much use to them if you’re dead.”
“Which is why I do my best to stay alive,” he retorts. “And keeping her, that firebrand of a wife you’ve given me, alive as well.” His face darkens. “Not always the easiest of tasks.”
“We’re not here to talk about her. We’re here to talk about you.”
“Not all that interesting, is it?” Matthew fiddles with his belt. “I am merely a man, like any other man. Aye, I am devout, I believe in standing up for what I think is right, but sometimes I do so and swallow in fear – because I don’t want to die, not yet, and riling the King and his soldiers is dangerous business. But it must be done – we cannot allow that restored twat with hair down to his waist to dictate how we, the men of the Scottish Kirk, should worship and pray.” He pauses, takes a couple of breaths. “Yon Charles II is no friend of his Presbyterian subjects. He may be inclined to tolerance elsewhere, but here…”
“And you? Are you tolerant?”
He purses his lips. “It used to be I wasn’t, convinced only me and mine held to the true faith. But now… I am a man wed to an impossibility, a woman from the future. That broadens the mind, like. Especially when that woman is opinionated and given to questioning everything I perceive as truths.” Matthew smiles. “My mother would have liked her. Where Da only saw the rainclouds, Mam saw the rainbow. Where he saw the world in black or white, Mam filled the world with colour – like Alex does.” His chest expands on a deep breath. “Once, I was all about convictions and duty, about adhering to my faith and hating anyone who disagreed with me. Half a man, truth be told, even more so after that matter with Margaret. With Alex, the sun re-entered my life.” He gives me a sharp look. “No need to tell her that, mind.”
I smile. “I think she already knows.” I nod at Alex who has mysteriously reappeared (my brain is very roomy)
“Aye, of course she does.” Matthew beckons his wife towards him, surprising both her and me when he pulls her down to sit on his lap. He doesn’t do stuff like that in public. “I tell her every day.”
Well: not only a man of convictions and faith, but also a romantic at heart. Lucky Alex, I’d say. Very, very lucky Alex. Matthew meets my eyes and winks, one large hand travelling up and down Alex’s back. I take that as my cue to leave.

(And I think we should also close the door and give them some privacy. 😉 )

Thank you so much, Anna! Now, about your book…
9781781321676-Cover.inddOn a muggy August day in 2002 Alexandra Lind is inexplicably thrown several centuries backwards in time to 1658. Life will never be the same for Alex.

Alex lands at the feet of Matthew Graham – an escaped convict making his way home to Scotland. She gawks at this tall gaunt man with hazel eyes, dressed in what looks like rags. At first she thinks he might be some sort of hermit, an oddball, but she quickly realises that she is the odd one out, not him.

Catapulted from a life of modern comfort, Alex grapples with her frightening new existence. Potential compensation for this brutal shift in fate comes in the shape of Matthew – a man she should never have met, not when she was born three centuries after him. But Matthew comes with baggage of his own, and at times it seems his past will see them killed.

How will she ever get back? And more importantly, does she want to?

***A Rip in the Veil has been awarded the prestigious BRAG Medallion.***

Buy links: Amazon    Barnes & Noble    Kobo

Connect with Anna: Website  Blog   Facebook  Twitter @abelfrageauthor  Amazon author page


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO and AURELIA. The fifth in the series, INSURRECTIO, was published in April 2016.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines…

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