2 April 2021

Special Guest Interview with V E H Masters, Author of The Castilians: A story of the siege of St Andrews Castle


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Scotland 1546, and a preacher is burned at the stake. In revenge, a group of lairds infiltrate St Andrews Castle and murder the instigator, Cardinal Beaton. For a sister and brother – spirited Bethia, living outside the castle in St Andrews, and Will among the rebels inside the castle – the long siege becomes a fight for survival. But it’s also a struggle over loyalties and the choices they each must make: whether to save their family, or follow their hearts…

I'm pleased to welcome author VEH Masters to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

The novel closely follows the actual events of the siege of St Andrews Castle, and its dramatic re-taking. The title comes from the name the rebels called themselves The Castilians (how perfect is that!). Although the story features famous people caught up in the siege, including John Knox, I was interested in what it would’ve been like for the citizens of St Andrews. 

They were trapped between the rebels in the castle running amok, and the government troops flooding the town. It’s told from the perspective of a merchant’s family. The son, who believes fervently in the Protestant cause, is inside the castle. His sister outside, is being forced into a marriage to save the family from losing all, because of her brother’s actions. And you can still go down the siege tunnel, dug in 1546, today.

What is your preferred writing routine?

My first novel took me years of fiddling about and I have several others in various stages of completion. I’ve now learned to set myself a target of 1200 words a day, 5 days a week. How long that takes me to do each day depends on how much displacement activity I engage in ….checking social media, checking my reviews, seeing how many books I’ve sold yesterday, reading the news – you get the picture. I also try to spend some time each day on marketing, which I’m finding much more interesting than I expected.

What advice do you have for new writers?

There’s a wonderful quote I heard from the singer Ed Sheeran when he was being interviewed. The interviewer said, of course your success is down to your talent, and Sheeran came right back saying, ‘perseverance is more important than talent, perseverance and work’. I have it on my desk to remind me every day to keep going. And invest in an editor.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

My novel is set in St Andrews, Scotland which is a town that many people have a strong connection with (and not only golfers). I managed to get features in the local press and that started the ball rolling. So word of mouth has helped, including among the Scottish diaspora. I also reach out to bloggers, many of whom I’ve found to be very welcoming to a newbie. My daughter in law is great on social media and she’s helped me a lot with that. And I’m experimenting with Ads on various platforms.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

There was so much it’s hard to choose – here’s a wee selection about St Andrews:

  • In the 1500s young men were banned from playing golf in the streets, after complaints from householders, and a rabbit farm was permitted on the Old Course — as long as it didn’t interfere with golf or archery
  • The town itself was built on a greenfield site in the 12th century – so the wide streets are an early example of the town planning, necessary then for holy day processions.
  • Lots of young cats were found buried under one street. They’d been skinned for their pelts, and and the soft fur used for collars and cuffs
What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

It wasn’t a scene so much as the blurb. I spent about 3 weeks on it, got loads of feedback, and I still don’t think it’s right (I messed with it yet again for this guest post). They are notoriously difficult to do well – so frustrating!

What are you planning to write next?

I’ve just finished the first draft of the sequel, which will be out by St Andrews Day (30 Nov) this year – provided the editing goes well. It picks up where the Castilians left off, almost to the hour. I’m also planning to work in tandem on finishing a novel set during WW2. I’ll no doubt soon discover if I’m being over-ambitious…

V E H Masters

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About the Author

VEH Masters was born and brought up on a farm a few miles outside St Andrews. The first time she was ever inside St Andrews Castle was aged 12, when her history teacher took the class on a visit. She was fascinated as they crept down the siege tunnel and peered into the bottle dungeon, where Cardinal Beaton's body was said to have been kept, pickled in salt. She had a sixth sense, even then, that one day she might write about the siege. Find out more at Vicki’s website https://vehmasters.com/ and find her on Facebook and Twitter at @VickiMasters9

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Tony, for the opportunity to guest post. It was fun.

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