Fire & Sword
“Fire & Sword” by Louise Turner
Published on… 19 September 2013
Published as… Historical Fiction
A Chat with… John Sempill of Ellestoun
Bella: What is the name of the book where we’ll find you? Can you tell us a little about it?
John Sempill of Ellestoun: The tale is called ‘Fire and Sword,’ and it was named after the letters of fire and sword issued to me by King James IV of Scots in the summer of 1489. It tells of the violence and unrest that shook Scotland following the death of King James III in battle. The circumstances surrounding the old king’s death were uncertain – I’ve heard it said that he was murdered – and the time which followed proved very difficult for those men who fought in his name and remained loyal to his memory.
Bella: Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you fit into the story? What should we know about you?
John Sempill of Ellestoun: My father, Sir Thomas Sempill of Ellestoun, died defending the king on that fateful night, and my uncle – who was one of the king’s most trusted advisers – fled to England. He was later charged with treason in absentia. I escaped with my life, an untried youth ill-prepared for the trials that followed. I had always assumed that I would inherit my father’s lands and titles and become an officer of the king’s law and a baron. It had been my dream, too, to win renown in the king’s service, and –I hoped – to earn a knighthood. But my father’s premature death left me without allies, and with an aging widowed mother and an unmarried sister to support besides. All the while the wolves were gathering, biding their time and seeking the right moment to strike against me. The story follows my struggle to survive and prosper in a world which had suddenly become a very dangerous and threatening place.
Bella: What do you think of the author? Be honest. We won’t tell.
John Sempill of Ellestoun: Well (hesitates)… I confess that I’m vexed, because this tale is scribed by a woman, and for a woman to presume to see through the eyes of a man is, of course, unheard of. I’m not even sure why she should want to… I suspect, too, that her commitment to God and Holy Church is not what it should be in this day and age – in fact, I suspect she may be something of a pagan… Where we do find common ground is in our devotion to the Muses and to our shared belief in the wisdom of the ancients. Though I do wish she’d make an effort to learn Latin…
Bella: How do you feel about the story you’re in?
John Sempill of Ellestoun: As a child, I was weaned on the epic tales of history, the deeds of men like King Arthur and the Wallace. To be immortalised in this way is a great honour – in truth, I’m unsure why my life should be celebrated when there are others, such as the king himself, who are more valiant and more mighty. Though the writer is quick to remind me that sometimes it takes more courage to turn one’s back on a feud and to pursue a course of peace, particularly when a man finds himself surrounded by those determined to wage war…
Bella: Do you like being a character in the book?
John Sempill of Ellestoun: I’m flattered, certainly, that someone thinks it appropriate to remember my achievements, but… The church is always quick to remind us that to revel in one’s immortality is vanity, and vanity is a sin like any other.
Bella: How do you see your future? Without giving anything away about the story, naturally.
John Sempill of Ellestoun: I hope and pray for all those things held dear by civilized men. I wish to live a good life, to uphold the king’s law and to help maintain peace and prosperity in my beloved country. I hope, too, that I will live to take my place as head of a loyal, loving family and that through my life I can build the fortunes of my household so that when I die, I leave a secure legacy behind me.
Bella: What do you know about your author’s plans? Can we expect to see you in any future stories?
John Sempill of Ellestoun: Yes indeed – I’m told that the intrigues and plots which unfolded during the reign of King James IV were so complicated and engaging that one book alone is not enough to do them justice. In the tale which follows ‘Fire & Sword,’ I am but a supporting player – my associate Hugh, 2nd Lord Montgomerie steps to the fore instead – though for the third installment in the series, I will be resuming the central role.
Bella: Let’s say they make a movie about this book. Who do you want to play you, and why?
John Sempill of Ellestoun: Ah, I’m not best qualified to consider such matters – why, the whole idea seems fanciful! I have, however, been instructed to report that I’m ‘a dead ringer for the young Marcus Gilbert,’ whatever that may mean – I’ve already made my thoughts clear regarding vanity, but I must confess the secret hope that he’s fair to look upon…
About the Book
On the 11th June in 1488, two armies meet in battle at Sauchieburn, near Stirling. One fights for King James the Third of Scotland, the other is loyal to his eldest son, Prince James, Duke of Rothesay.
Soon, James the Third is dead, murdered as he flees the field. His army is routed. Among the dead is Sir Thomas Sempill of Ellestoun, Sheriff of Renfrew, whose son and heir, John, escapes with his life.
Once John’s career as knight and courtier seemed assured. But with the death of his king, his situation is fragile. He’s the only surviving son of the Sempill line and he’s unmarried. If he hopes to survive, John must try and win favour with the new king.
And deal with the ruthless and powerful Lord Montgomerie…
Buy the Book at Amazon US, Amazon US (Print), Amazon UK or Amazon UK (Print)
About the Author
Born in Glasgow, Louise Turner spent her early years in the west of Scotland where she attended the University of Glasgow. After graduating with an MA in Archaeology, she went on to complete a PhD on the Bronze Age metalwork hoards of Essex and Kent. She has since enjoyed a varied career in archaeology and cultural resource management. Writing has always been a major aspect of her life and in 1988, she won the Glasgow Herald/Albacon New Writing in SF competition with her short story Busman’s Holiday. Louise lives with her husband in west Renfrewshire.
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