Q: Hello, I’m Helen the host of Discovering Diamonds Novel Conversations, please do make yourself comfortable. Would you like a drink? Tea, coffee, wine – something stronger? You’ll find a box of chocolates and a bowl of fruit on the table next to you, please do help yourself. I believe you are a character in Cryssa Bazos’s novel entitled Severed Knot. Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role?
A: My thanks, lass. Would you happen to have a stout ale in the buttery? I’ve had no decent drink since arriving in Barbados. Rather, I’m forced to quench my thirst on mobbie, a bland drink brewed from some infernal vegetable.
Right, to introduce myself, I’m Iain Johnstone from Dumfries, Scotland. You can also call me Locharbaidh, a byname I give only my friends leave to use. I’ve been a soldier in the Scottish army, a moss-trooper, a prisoner of war, and now I’m forced to be an indentured servant on a Barbados sugar plantation—though that won’t be permanent, not if I have anything to say about it. I’m one of the two main characters—settles back in his chair and smiles—though not the bonny one to be sure.
Q: What is the novel about?
A: Well you see, after Charles Stuart attempted to take back his father’s English crown—the Southroners call him the Scottish King, but he’s as much theirs as he was ours, even if you don’t care for him—the might of the Scottish army was defeated at Worcester. Those who hadn’t died on the field became prisoners of war. The greedy English transported us to their colonies in the New World and the West Indies. I, and my men, found ourselves in Barbados where we were sold to a sugar plantation. There were others there too, including Mairead O’Coneill, a lass from Ireland who had no business being taken from her home. I’ve been hatching plans with my men for all of us to escape this infernal island, aye, though it’s not as easy as you might think.
Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goodie’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)
A: Depends who you ask. There’s a slimy hanger-on named Dunsmore who gives me no end of grief, but we’re stuck with him for now. I didn’t make a good impression on Mairead the first time we met either. Barked at her like a deranged ogre—not my best moment, aye. That’s what she calls me sometimes—ogre. But underneath my bluster and occasional foul language, I’m a good man. If you’re one of mine, I’ll nae forsake you.
Q: Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe your arch enemy!
A: Aye my lass, Mairead. She’s my best friend, my lover and partner in this hellish place, though not in the beginning. I chaffed at the extra burden of trying to keep her safe—not an easy task, aye. After being forced to work together, I grew a fondness for the woman and then eventually discovered deeper feelings. I still like to tease her, get her gander up by calling her Mouse, being such a wee thing that she is. But although she looks like she might blow away like fluff on a light breeze, the lass has a spine forged of steel. She’s kept up with the best of them, though she does have a tender heart. Did I mention her musical talent? She’s brilliant with the violin. I could listen to her play all day.
Q: Is this the only novel you have appeared in, or are there others in a series?
A: I showed up in Traitor’s Knot after my moss-troopers tried to steal horses from James Hart’s company late one night. We only managed a few beasties, but in the end we came to an understanding and I agreed to lead him and his men safely to Stirling. Hart’s a good lad and enjoys a fine adventure. My part would have been greater in that novel, but our author gave us a right scolding over our side adventures through South Lanarkshire—blamed me for it, if you can credit that—and forced us back on the road to Stirling. We had a good time while it lasted.
Q: What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in?
A: Barbados was a cruel, hard place, and I hated having to take orders from the overseer Potts when he deserved to be put in his place, nose ground into the dirt. But even more, I hated that moment when I realized that for Mairead and me to get what we both want—to return home—we’d have to give up what we most needed—each other.
Q: And your favourite scene?
A: Hearing Mairead play her violin for the first time. You should have seen her, my lass, taking her place at the crushing mill with a violin and bow. Her music tore through the layers of gristle I’ve wrapped around myself over the years. Reminded me of better days, her tune did. That was the moment when I realized that I loved her. Nothing was ever the same after that.
Q: Tell me a little about your author. Has she written any other books?
A: Aye, just one—Traitor’s Knot. She always bemoans that she’s a slow writer, but we don’t make it easy for her either, insisting as we do that she throw us into the thick of a turbulent era. But I ask you, lass, can you see me lounging without occupation in a drawing room? Nay, I’d rather be riding out into the teeth of a storm. Our author has no shortage of ideas to write about, but the lass keeps begging for Hermoine Granger’s Time Turner. I’ve no ken who Mistress Granger is, but Mairead believes she must be a witch if she can freeze time.
Q: Is your author working on anything else at the moment?
A: Aye, a third book, this time featuring the morally ambiguous barrister named Nathaniel Lewis who appeared in both Hart’s story and mine. Nathaniel Lewis is a crafty, pompous dandy, and I don’t trust him beyond my nose. But he is a genius at greasing the right wheels, aye, though his methods may be questionable. His story is bound to be full of spying and political shenanigans, if you care for that shifty nonsense. Our author has promised to crack open that nut and expose his darkest secrets. Good on him, I say.
Q: How do you think authors, such as your author, can be helped or supported by readers or groups?
A: Forget my author—all her characters are a vain lot and we want to hear how much we’re loved by readers. All right, don’t forget her, she created us after all. Readers, leave a review wherever you prefer, on the retailer’s site where you bought the book or on Goodreads, or both to let the world know who we are. My author writes for the love of the story, and hearing from readers who have enjoyed her stories makes her do a happy dance.
Thank you Iain Johnstone it was a pleasure talking to you. Would your author like to add a short excerpt?
And while she is doing that… chatting is thirsty work, would you like a refill of that drink…
A. Aye, you’re an angel, lass!
Iain’s muscles screamed. Forced to kneel into the hard-packed dirt, his shoulders ached and his thighs burned. The moment when any of them stirred to adjust their position, one of the guards descended upon them like ravenous midges. Dunsmore got the latest cuff to the head, but Iain couldn’t even take satisfaction in that.
A sizeable crowd gathered in the merchant’s yard for the auction. People continued to pour into the sunbaked square, some riding braying donkeys while others arrived on foot. English men and women in light-coloured clothing exchanged greetings and cast speculative glances at the first ten men on the block. Iain avoided their stares. Contempt was a sour taste in his mouth. He wanted to spit at them, spew them with the fury churning his gut. Instead, he fixed his gaze at the warehouses in the distance.
A bell clanged, dampening the chatter but heightening the anticipation. The auctioneer swaggered across the stage, his rounded belly hanging over his breeches. He lifted a hand to greet the crowd before motioning to one of his assistants. “I’ll start with that one,” he said, indicating Iain.
“Get up,” the factor said, nudging him with his boot.
Iain didn’t move. Damned if he was going to make their job easier.
“Look lively.” This time the factor gave him a swift kick.
Iain stayed where he was. “Bugger off,” he growled.
He heard a movement behind him, but before he could react, the rope that was looped around his neck jerked tight. Iain’s hands flew to his neck. The rope pressed against his throat, choking his breath.
“In five minutes, you’ll be someone else’s problem,” the factor hissed in his ear. “But right now you’re my concern and damned if I let a stubborn Scotsman bleed my commission.” He yanked on the rope, forcing Iain to scramble to his feet. “I’ll strangle you first.”
“Go ahead.” Iain’s words came out in a harsh rasp. He didn’t much care what happened to him anymore.
The factor smiled grimly, showing a crooked row of teeth. His breath reeked of grog. “Rather die, would you? Play nice or I’ll remove you from the block and off-load you privately. I’ll sell you to one of the worst devils in the West Indies; then you’ll really plead for death.” The smile was brittle and hard. “Do we have an accord?”
Iain knew when someone was bluffing, and there wasn’t one scrap of a lie showing in the man’s rheumy eyes. “Aye.”
The factor studied him a moment longer before nodding. He slackened the pressure on the rope. “Wouldn’t want to lower your price. The good plantation owners don’t like cheek in their servants,” he said before shoving Iain towards the auctioneer.
With bitter bile, Iain climbed the block and stood there on display.
CONNECT WITH Cryssa Bazos through her Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon Author Page. Severed Knot is available through all online retailers. For Amazon, click HERE; for Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Google Books, or Angus & Robertson, click HERE.
2nd June Annie Whitehead and her character, King Penda
3rd June JJ Toner and his character, Ruth
4th June Richard Dee and his character, Andora Pett
5th June Richard Tearle and his character, Ulfus
6th June Anna Belfrage and her character, Jason
7th June Cryssa Bazos and her character, Iain Johnstone
8th June Susan Appleyard and her character, King Richard III
9th June Alison Morton and her character Conradus Mitelus
Novel Conversations, in conjunction with Indie BRAG appears on Helen Hollick's Blog Let Us Talk of Many Things on the first Friday of every month, showcasing a variety of Indie authors and their characters