A Conversation with
Historical Fiction author,
Hi Cryssa, welcome back to Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots… Before we please tell us a little about yourself?
Hi, everyone! I’m Cryssa Bazos, and I’m a historical fiction author who is (somewhat) obsessed with 17th century England, particularly the time of the English Civil War. It’s an era of significant change in society, literacy, science, technology and exploration. I can’t think of a more fascinating century to write about.
I adored your book, Traitor’s Knot, and it was actually named The Coffee Pot Book Club Book Of The Year in 2017, so if you have not read it yet then you really need to check it out!
What inspired you to write Severed Knot?
After nine years of conflict, the final battle of the civil war played out at Worcester between Charles Stuart (future Charles II) and Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarian forces. I featured that event in my first novel, Traitor’s Knot, and in Severed Knot I wanted to show the aftermath of war. Most didn’t actually die on the battlefield, instead, many died of their wounds or from poor conditions during their imprisonment. Thousands of Scottish prisoners of war faced transportation to the colonies, including Barbados. Those who survived the gruelling eight-week journey, found themselves indentured to sugar plantations. I was fascinated by how their lives would have been irrevocably changed. They went from fighting for their king, proud men all, to being reduced to bondsmen, forced to serve several years far from home. Many never returned.
|The Battle of Worcester, published by Machell Stace.|
Severed Knot sounds fabulous! What were the challenges you faced in researching this period of history?
Scottish PoWs were sent to the New England Colonies and Barbados. There were good records for hundreds of prisoners who ended up in New England thanks to ship’s logs, but we don’t have the same rich information about the men who ended up in Barbados. I had to rely on the account of a German mercenary who had been one of the POWs sent to Barbados as well and tap into contemporary accounts of life on a plantation to build my story world.
There are many books about the Stuart Age. Can you tell us three things that set your novels apart?
Severed Knot is uniquely set in colonial Barbados and focuses on a chapter of history rarely touched upon—PoW’s being transported to the West Indies to work as indentured servants in the sugarcane fields. Barbados is a relatively new English colony at that time and sugar was just being established as a major cash crop.
Although I’m a history geek, I’m equally a romance nut. For me, a satisfying story includes romance, even if it is only a minor sub-plot. There’s very little historical romance set during the 17th century—the majority is still set during the Regency. Severed Knot has been described as historical romantic suspense. I’ve challenged my lovers by throwing them into a life and death situation, while their relationship matures and evolves against this backdrop.
The 17th century is starting to gain traction in historical fiction, and I’m delighted to see more and more set during this era. The Restoration is a favourite setting for many novels of this era, but I love the messy, uncertain time that preceded it when England became a fledgling Commonwealth. The Royalists spent these several years plotting and planning to reinstate the monarchy while the Parliamentarian victors moved further away from the ideals that propelled them to rebel against the king.
Thank you so much for taking the time out of you day to chat with us. Before you go, can you tell us what are you currently working on?
I’m working on a third book which will feature one of my favourite side characters—Nathaniel Lewis, barrister of Lincoln’s Inn, a morally ambiguous character who is an agent of the exiled Charles Stuart. He’s an absolute delight to write and has scores of secrets. His story will involve spies, intrigue and political expediency.
Scroll down to be in with a chance to win a paperback copy of Severed Knot.
By Cryssa Bazos
Barbados 1652. In the aftermath of the English Civil War, the vanquished are uprooted and scattered to the ends of the earth.
When marauding English soldiers descend on Mairead O’Coneill’s family farm, she is sold into indentured servitude. After surviving a harrowing voyage, the young Irish woman is auctioned off to a Barbados sugar plantation where she is thrust into a hostile world of depravation and heartbreak. Though stripped of her freedom, Mairead refuses to surrender her dignity.
Scottish prisoner of war Iain Johnstone has descended into hell. Under a blazing sun thousands of miles from home, he endures forced indentured labour in the unforgiving cane fields. As Iain plots his escape to save his men, his loyalties are tested by his yearning for Mairead and his desire to protect her.
With their future stolen, Mairead and Iain discover passion and freedom in each other’s arms. Until one fateful night, a dramatic chain of events turns them into fugitives.
Together they fight to survive; together they are determined to escape.
Sunlight sparkled on the water. A slight breeze rippled the otherwise still water. Another splash. At first, Mairead didn't see anything, then someone surfaced. A man, skimming across the pond, arms and legs slicing through the water. Even before he turned, she knew who it was. Johnstone.
Mairead knew she should back away and leave before he caught her watching—he’d be insufferable otherwise. That, or bark her head off as any self-respecting ogre. And yet something pinned her to the spot.
He dove into the water, his body curving with a flash of his naked buttocks.
Mairead’s eyes widened, and she edged closer. When he split the surface of the lake, he caused a spray of water drops to splatter. He stood facing her direction, eyes closed. Raising his hands to his head, he slicked back his dark blond hair.
Mairead didn’t dare move. She watched how the muscles in his arms flexed. Her eyes travelled across his broad chest with its light mat of hair. A trail of darkish hair ran down from chest to stomach until it disappeared below the pond’s surface. Mairead craned her head to peer into the pond, but the water was murky and brownish-green.
Johnstone dove under again. Mairead sat back on her heels and nibbled her fingertip, considering her options. She really should leave. A smile played at the corner of her mouth as she made herself more comfortable.
Johnstone surfaced and began to paddle lazily in the water. His head was tipped backwards, his face presented to the sun. His skin had become tanned and gleamed against the lapping water.
Mairead watched, captivated. He seemed at one with the water. She didn’t know too many who could swim, and none so well. Her own brothers had enjoyed a quick barrelling leap into the river back home, splashing like mad puppies and thrashing in the water. They had taught her to float, but swimming across the water as this Scotsman was now doing, with strong, purposeful strokes, was an art, and one she admired greatly. So she told herself.
After a few moments, prudence whispered that she had stayed long enough. Mairead rose from her crouch, careful not to rustle a leaf, but just as she moved Johnstone finished his swim and headed back to the bank. Mairead dropped to the ground again so he wouldn’t notice her.
Johnstone slowly waded out of the water, all glorious and dripping. Mairead’s breath locked in her throat. She took in that expanse of chest, the tapered waist then . . . Blessed Mother of Jesus.
She made a slight choking sound, and Johnstone stopped to look around.
“Who’s there?” he called out in her direction.
Mairead’s face flooded. He would never let her live this down. She had to get away from here without him seeing her.
No time for discretion.
Mairead darted for the trail. She risked a glance over her shoulder to catch a glimpse of Johnstone yanking on his breeches. And that was her downfall. Literally. A root hooked her foot, and she crashed to the ground with a cry. Then she heard him thrashing through the brush behind her. Mairead scrambled to her feet and managed to take a few more strides before he caught up with her, grabbing a fistful of her petticoat in his hand.
Mairead twisted around and found herself face-to-face with Iain Locharbaidh Johnstone. It was one thing to gawk at the man from a distance but to be this close to his still-wet chest squeezed the breath from her lungs. She averted her eyes, not sure where she could safely look, and her gaze landed on his unlaced breeches. More wet skin. Heat flooded her cheeks.
Johnstone released her and swore under his breath while he laced up his breeches. “What were you doing, woman?”
“Nothing! I . . . I came down for a wash.”
“Do you always hide in the shrubs when taking a wash?” His eyes narrowed, causing her to squirm. “Here’s a tip, lass, the water works far better. Not sure what they do in Ireland, but that’s how it’s done in Scotland.”
“I was not hiding in the shrubs.” Mairead hid her crossed fingers in the folds of her petticoat and searched lamely for an adequate rebuttal. “I had only reached the shrubs when you starting crashing around like a mad man. And don’t you dare disparage my homeland with your poor attempt of humour.”
“How long were you watching me?”
Mairead felt her face blaze. “I was not watching you, to be sure. Have you not heard a thing I’ve said?”
He folded his arms across his chest and quirked his brow. “Building a nest in the shrubs, then, like a wee mouse?”
“Stop calling me a mouse,” Mairead said, now with true outrage. Small and insignificant—was she always to be thought this way? No one ever compared Ciara to a mouse. Not even Bronagh—a shrew, perhaps, but never a mouse.
The corners of his mouth lifted slightly. “Aye, you were watching.”
She knew it—she knew he’d be insufferable! “I didn’t know who was in the pond and the moment . . . the moment I discovered who it was . . . For certain, it could have been anyone . . . even . . . even Masterton the Younger.”
Johnstone quirked a brow, amusement playing across his features. Mairead’s gaze latched on to his deepening smile, and she only now noticed the firmness of his jaw and how the droplets of water clung to his blond whiskers.
Mairead tore her eyes away and forced herself to meet his eyes. “What? What do you find so amusing?”
“Not sure where to start.” Was that laughter in his voice?
Mairead’s inner voice sat her down and delivered a stern lecture. Concede the field, Mairead. Retreat now. No shame in admitting defeat. And yet she dashed the voice of reason and found herself saying, “Make an effort. Explain it to me.”
“You thought you were ogling Masterton?”
Mairead’s jaw dropped. “I never said—”
Johnstone’s teeth flashed in a smile. “He’ll be flattered, lass, but
I’d steer clear of his wife, were I you. She’ll not think twice to chase you off the croft with a broom.”
“I never said I was ogling him!”
“Oh aye? But you were ogling someone?”
Mairead sucked in her breath. “You. Are. An. Impossible. Man!”
She finally did what her good sense had urged her to do earlier. She whirled around and fled the field.
Giveaway*Giveaway is now closed.
Cryssa Bazos is giving away one paperback copy of “Severed Knot.”
All you need to do is answer this question:
If you had access to the Tardis, what historical period would you want to visit?
Leave your answer in the comments at the bottom of this post.
• Leave your answer in the comments at the bottom of this post.
• Giveaway ends at 11:59pm BST on June 26th.
You must be 18 or older to enter.
• Giveaway is open Internationally.
•Only one entry per household.
Pick up your copy of
Cryssa Bazos is an award-winning historical fiction author and 17th-century enthusiast with a particular interest in the English Civil War. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Romantic Novelist Association and is a co-editor and contributor of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog. Her debut novel, Traitor's Knot, is published by Endeavour Media. Traitor's Knot is the Medalist winner of the 2017 New Apple Award (historical fiction), a finalist for the 2018 EPIC eBook Awards (historical romance) and the RNA Joan Hessayon Award. Her second novel, Severed Knot, was longlisted for the Historical Novel Society 2018 New Novel Award.
As I am a huge fan of Poldark, I would love to visit (not stay mind) Cornwall in the 18th Century!ReplyDelete
It would have been a hard life for sure. Thanks for the comment.Delete
I think I would like to go back to the Tudor era. I would head to the theatre and go to the opening night of one of Shakespeare's plays!! Then I would want to come home.ReplyDelete
That would be thrilling. Thanks for leaving a commentDelete
I would like to visit the 17th c. France, specifically 60s/70s as I am a huge fan of Louis XIV & Philippe d'Orleans :)ReplyDelete
Mid- later 17th century was an exciting time. I can imagine the decadence of that court. Thanks for the comment.ReplyDelete
Comment from twitter user @petmad53:ReplyDelete
I would go back to the 1940’s I think, things were just starting to change, new things being bought out to make jobs easier, would skip the war though. My mum and dad were born in the 1920’s so remember a lot of stories they told me about the time. https://twitter.com/petmad53/status/1140633864848719872?s=20
Elizabethan is my cup of tea. I think it would be very interesting and fun to wear the fashions and participate in the activities of that time.ReplyDelete
Giveaway is now closed. The winner is Beatrice Rivers. Beatrice please send me your address, email@example.comReplyDelete