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The people behind the book: Barbara Henderson's The Siege of Caerlaverock


By Barbara Henderson

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Barbara Henderson with her new book The Siege of Caerlaverock.
Barbara Henderson with her new book The Siege of Caerlaverock.

It takes a village to raise a child, they say.

This week, I have reflected on the literary equivalent of that. How many people does it take to launch a book?

My new book The Siege of Caerlaverock was out last week, a medieval children’s adventure based on real events. Throughout the launch day, there was almost constant interaction with a range of people, all of whom had a part to play.

From the first cry of an idea, to the wobbly steps of an almost finished manuscript, to setting out into the big world on its own. It took a village to raise this book.

The Author: I guess that’s me. I was unexpectedly struck by story potential when visiting a heritage site managed by Historic Environment Scotland: Caerlaverock Castle near Dumfries. I began to spin a tale, just a basic concept at that stage – not much point in pursuing it if my publishers weren’t keen.

The Publisher: Anne Glennie of Cranachan Publishing gave me the green light! The story sounded like it had potential, and more importantly from a business perspective, it had a market. I set to writing and several rounds of edits followed, with Anne and others casting a sharp eye over the narrative. The process involved some difficult but necessary conversations about style, consistency, subtexts and pace – but the story is better for it. Ahead of publication, Anne also designed the beautifully striking cover.

The Illustrator: Black-Isle based artist Sandra McGowan has long been a good friend, and after the success of our collaboration on Black Water, she was the natural choice to create the chapter headings for this one too. Her stunning drawings sprinkle just enough magic into the reader’s minds for them to imagine the rest for themselves. I popped in with a bunch of flowers yesterday – this book is hers as well as mine!

The Collaborators: All projects are stronger if we join with others, and this one is no exception. We obtained permission to use VisitScotland images and The Great Outdoors by Drone Youtube channel allowed us to use their footage of Caerlaverock in the book trailer. Most importantly, we have developed a close partnership with Historic Environment Scotland which looks after Caerlaverock Castle and which has joined with us in creating free teaching resources to download for any teachers studying the Scottish Wars of Independence. Working with such a respected organisation lends us kudos and, hopefully, the book will raise awareness of the castle and encourage people to visit. Win win!

The Filmmaker: I am lucky to have had Inverness filmmaker Ross Wiseman in my corner from the beginning of my writing career. He is such a calm and laid-back presence that creating the book trailer, even in these restricted Covid days, was straightforward. “We’ll just have to source some decent stock footage,” he shrugged, and a few weeks later, it was done. As video tends to get much higher engagement than other formats, a YouTube book trailer was a bit of back wind behind my book.

The Cheerleaders: Any book will need friends – and book bloggers, journalists, reviewers, booktubers and readers make all the difference between emerging on tiptoes with tentative steps – or striding out into the world with pride.

Be on your way, little book. Don’t look back!

Waiting for Lindsay by Moira Forsyth.
Waiting for Lindsay by Moira Forsyth.
  • Look out for: NessBookFest’s Readalong title for August: Waiting for Lindsay by Dingwall-based Moira Forsyth. With October’s festival cancelled, the team are running the year-long schedule for authors who would have appeared: 'On a hot July day, 13-year-old Lindsay Mathieson walked along the shore and out of sight. For ever. Thirty years later, a new crisis draws her family back to that familiar beach, and to memories too long buried.'

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