I was delighted to be invited to be part of a community day at the Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre which took place on Sunday 25th November 2018. The event was aimed at local people for whom entry to the centre throughout the day was free – although non-locals were welcome too.
I was asked to do an author talk about my novel for children – The Silver Locket. It’s a timeslip novel aimed at 9 to 12 year-olds. And, as the main characters are three twenty-first century children who find themselves transported back in time to the aftermath of the battle of Culloden, (it has been described as an Outlander for children) the book was felt to be a good fit for the event.
It also helped that I got the idea for the novel when I visited the centre on a school trip from the Isle of Skye with my Primary 6 (10 & 11 year-olds) pupils.
Background to the book
The children were learning all about the background to the battle of Culloden – about the Jacobites led by Bonnie Prince Charlie and their struggles to remove King George II from the throne and to have the Prince crowned king of Britain. It was hoped the visit to Culloden would bring this period in history to life for the children. And it most certainly did. Not only is the visitor centre – with its information, displays, artefacts, immersion room, and battlefield tours – totally superb, the education staff are second-to-none.
But it wasn’t only the children who were affected by what we saw on the day of our visit. I was too. When the education staff took us out onto the battlefield and we recreated the ‘Highland Charge’ where the Jacobite army (made up mostly but not exclusively of Scottish Highlanders) charged at the British Redcoat army, an idea popped into my head. An idea about three modern-day children finding themselves back… You know the rest.
At the time as well as being a teacher I was also a writer. I was writing – still am – contemporary fiction for adults. But I had no intention of writing for children. Except the idea wouldn’t go away.
And, in the end, I wrote the book and I used the author name of my alter-ego Anne McAlpine in order to keep my two writing identities separate. And in 2015, The Silver Locket was published.
So, it was good to be back at the Culloden Visitor Centre and to be part of their well-attended community event. I never dreamt on the day of the school visit that one day in the future, I’d be back as the author of a children’s book, that the book would be set at Culloden, and that I’d be there doing an author event. And I must say I really enjoyed doing some readings from my novel and sharing the background to the book – back where it all started.
Thank you to the National Trust for Scotland and to Catriona and the staff at the centre for the invitation, the warm welcome, and the opportunity to be part of your event.
You can read more about The Silver Locket below and you can buy it here.
From the back cover of The Silver Locket
The Battle of Culloden, 1746, and Bonnie Prince Charlie is defeated. Can three young friends from the 21st century ensure he escapes and that history stays on track?
A time-travelling mission, a very big adventure. Three twenty-first century friends and an eighteenth-century prince have a date with destiny…
It’s the last week of the school holidays and twelve year old Caitlin Cameron is bored. But when her new childminder turns out to be the eccentric Bella Blawearie, otherwise known as Scary Lady, everything changes.
Scary Lady lives up to her name. She seems able to read Caitlin’s mind. She sees visions in a snow globe and tells the time from a patchwork clock.
And things get even weirder when Caitlin and her two best friends, Lynette and Edward, accidentally open a time portal in an old tree and are hurled back through time to the eighteenth century.
They find themselves caught up in the blood-soaked aftermath of the Jacobite defeat at the battle of Culloden, and discover they’re there for a reason. A reason Scary Lady knows all about.
But all the friends have is questions. What is the significance of the silver locket passed to Caitlin by her grandmother? Can the locket help them ensure Bonnie Prince Charlie makes the right decision about his future?
And if they fail, will Scotland’s history books rewrite themselves, meaning Caitlin and her friends will not even be born?
Join them in their 18th century adventure as they make new friends, encounter great danger and strive to carry out their mission.