Published: 17/01/2014 14:21 - Updated: 17/01/2014 15:03

"Any right thinking person would be a Jacobite"

TO her "undying regret" Maggie Craig may have missed out on being an Invernessian, but her holiday visits to the Highland Capital and to Culloden began her life long interest in Jacobite history.

"I remember being invited to spit on the Cumberland Stone — I wasn’t normally encouraged to spit," laughed Craig, whose father had been a Labour councillor.

So no prizes for guessing on which side of the conflict Craig’s sympathies lie?

"I think any right thinking person would side with the Jacobites," Huntly resident Craig said.

"In my view, it wasn’t really a civil war as a lot of people claim. There weren’t many Englishmen on the Jacobite side, but a lot were supporting Scottish independence. There was a sort of rainbow coalition in the Jacobite army because it was the only way they could see of restoring it.

Now, after highly regarded history books about the rebellion such as Damn’ Rebel Bitches and companion volume Bare-Arsed Banditti, along with several novels set in pre-war Scotland to her name, her first published novel about the Jacobite period is released.

However, The Gathering Storm was not her first attempt to write a novel set in the era.

"The book I’m working on, The Captain’s Lady, was first written 25 years ago — and gained me 12 rave rejections," she revealed.

It was researching material for this novel which led to her non-fiction books, and though The Gathering Storm and the books which will follow focus on the fictional couple redcoat officer Robert Catto and Jacobite supporter Christian Rankeillor, they interact with real-life characters, among them one of Craig’s own heroes, Duncan Forbes of Culloden.

As Lord President of the Court of Session, Forbes was the most important lawman in Scotland and a committed supporter of the Hanoverian Government who used his influence to persuade influential Highland chiefs not to side with the Young Pretender.

"Because he is ‘romantically’ on the wrong side, he tends to get forgotten about and he shouldn’t be," Craig said.

"It’s probably not entirely accidental that the battle of Culloden took place where it did. He was such a thorn in the Jacobites’ side of the Jacobites and Culloden is a nice big house to have your headquarters in, so I think there was an element of: ‘We’ll show the Lord President’.

"It is terribly ironic because when you say Culloden you always think of this terrible battle."

The real-life characters who appear in Craig’s novel are familiar from her historical research, but she adds that it can sometimes be dangerous to know too much about a subject.

"With non-fiction, you want every piece of information you get your hands on," she pointed out.

"For fiction, there comes a point where you have to push the history books away and say: I’m making this up.

"But I could never go against historical fact. If someone was in Inverness on a certain date, then I would have to work round that."

Author Maggie Craig
Author Maggie Craig

Balancing the needs of the story with established historical fact might suggest that everything in the book needs to be carefully worked out in advance, but Craig owns up to being "a seat of the pants" plotter.

"You put the characters together and see how it goes. I hate the idea of meticulous planning. It’s just not my thing," she said.

If leading Scottish literary agent Jenny Brown is right, Craig is in a good position with the first book in her Jacobite sequence.

When the two met recently, Brown predicted a boom in Jacobite fiction thanks to forthcoming television fantasy series Outlander.

Based on the bestselling books of US author Diana Galbadon, Outlander’s main character is a 20th century nurse who is transported to the Jacobite era Highlands. The premise caused a moment of worry for Craig, whose novel The Captain’s Lady also involves leaps between the Jacobite period and more recent times.

"I went to the bookshop in Elgin, years and years ago, and picked up her first book, read the blurb and thought: Oh no! She’s done it! There’s no point in doing it any more!" Craig declared.

"However, her books are quite different. They are essentially historical novels where she uses a portal to return to the past. In The Captain’s Lady I go backwards and forwards in time, so I’m quite happy about that. It’s going to be a different sort of book."

The Gathering Storm is published by Alligin Books.

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