Severed Knot by Cryssa Bazos: Guest Post, Excerpt, and Giveaway
Severed Knot by Cryssa Bazos
Publication Date: June 7, 2019
W.M. Jackson Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
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 slavery. 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.
Creating the Characters of Severed Knot
I have a passion for secondary characters, especially the ones that charge onto the page nearly fully formed. I don’t have to worry about making them perfect or hero/heroine worthy. They can do and act as they please. But eventually, they endear themselves to me and capture my heart, imperfections and all, and their story begins to take shape in my mind. This is how Iain Johnstone came to be the hero of Severed Knot.
Iain got his start in the first draft of my first novel, Traitor’s Knot, long before he was even a Johnstone. At the time he was a Highlander, but in subsequent drafts as the needs of the story morphed, he became the canny, confrontational border Scot he is today.
He was never easy, I’ll give him that. Through Iain, I discovered how absolutely fascinating Scottish history is, in particular during the mid-seventeenth century. As a side character in my first novel, he led me down several beguiling rabbit warrens and I had to read the riot act to him and (sadly) scale his parts back—but not before promising him his own story to romp around in.
Even then, I nearly didn’t write his story, but the fate of the Scottish Prisoners of War after King Charles II’s defeat at the Battle of Worcester kept whispering to me. Iain was one of those prisoners—I kept visualizing him and the others in a dank, dismal cell plagued with gaol fever and poor rations. Iain Johnstone refused to let me off the hook. When he first walked onto my page, he was a man in his element and on his own turf. In Severed Knot, all that was taken from him and a strong, capable man was reduced to forced servitude while struggling to maintain his pride. Throughout Severed Knot, I dove deeper into his psyche and got to know what made him furious, what made him melancholy and what he needed the most.
The heroine of Severed Knot, Mairead O’Coneill, walked on the stage in my mind with her violin while I was listening to local musicians play at a spring festival gathering. I don’t remember very much about the band because while they were playing, I kept envisioning a slight slip of a woman playing a fiddle while a jaded Scotsman looked on in amazement. Through his eyes, I imagined an unassuming woman transform through her music into someone special. Those two were well ahead of me, and I had to scramble to get the ideas down on a napkin as I didn’t have either a notebook or a phone at hand. It wasn’t long before I realized that she was what he most needed.
As I wrote and developed both Iain and Mairead in Severed Knot, I relied on music to further inspire me and their stories. It’s part of my writing process to create a soundtrack for the book, and at this time I discovered the works of Scottish musician Dougie McLean and Irish singer Cara Dillon. If you are interested in hearing some of the tunes that inspired me, check out my Severed Knot playlist on Spotify.
The song ended, and Iain watched Alastair as he entered the crushing mill. He disappeared for a moment, and when he reappeared, he cradled a violin in the crook of his arm.
Iain couldn’t sit there any longer. Passing by the keg, he dropped the cup on top and manoeuvred through the crowd to head back to his hut.
Tam stopped him. “Where are you off to, Scotsman? You’re truly sour, man.”
“I’ve had enough.” Iain patted the man on the shoulder and attempted to move past him. Before he did, he glanced to the crushing mill in time to see Alastair handing the violin to Mairead. The rapt expression on her face made Iain pause. She handled the instrument reverently, as carefully as a woman cradling her bairn. Iain had never seen her eyes so round, her normally wary expression soft.
Mairead lifted the violin to her collarbone and adjusted her grip. She tried a few tentative plucks and adjusted the tuning until the chord sounded right. She lifted the bow against the strings and started to play.
The sound that came from her violin was low, wistful and with a melody that stirred long-buried hopes. Both light and dark notes rounded each other out as she pushed the tune farther along. A low drumbeat joined in, and she adjusted her rhythm slightly to hit the rising notes with the downbeat.
Then the main melody started.
Iain knew this song. An old Scottish ballad, one of his favourites. It called to mind the longing of home. It had been the song that he had sung to himself during the gruelling journey from England.
How was it that she stood there playing that very song?
The melody had always stirred him, providing comfort during all those times he had been away on campaign, far from home. But Mairead’s rendition added layers he had never heard. The mournful tone of the violin spoke of the wind in the firs and smoky twilight clinging to the mountains. A flight of swallows darting in a cold twilight sky and the cry of terns riding a lonely sea breeze. It called to memory swiftly flowing burns bordered with purple heather, and the hope of love reunited.
As she played, the lyrics flowed through his mind: An’ what will be the love-tokens that ye will send wi me . . . A kiss, aye, will I twae an’ ever she come to fair Scotland . . . I the red gold she sall gae . . .
Iain felt it deep in his bones. Each note ripped through his defences, stone and mortar. Everything melted away. He forgot the crowd, forgot his situation and the harshness of the sugarcane fields. Only Mairead and her song remained.
He moved closer to the platform. Mairead stood several feet away, her eyes closed and head tilted sideways. Her lashes fanned her flushed cheeks, and her mouth was slightly parted. At times, a smile flitted across her lips, while at others her brow puckered into a frown, but always her expression remained enraptured. He watched, fascinated, as the bow danced over the strings, directed by nimble fingers.
Iain hung on every note as though it were the last. Good, sweet Lord, he didn’t want it to end.
The song finally ended, and Mairead drew her last pass with the bow. Her hand stilled, and her shoulders went limp. A single tear traced down her cheek. When she opened her eyes, her unfocused gaze found his, and the look shot right through him.
Around Iain, men whistled and clapped, not realising that the earth had just shifted.
About the Author
Cryssa’s debut novel, Traitor’s Knot, a romantic tale of adventure set during the English Civil War. Traitor’s Knot is the first in a series of adventures spanning from the ECW to the Restoration and is now available from Endeavour Press. The second book in the series, Severed Knot, will be released in June 2019.
For more information visit Cryssa’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Blog Tour Schedule
Thursday, June 20
Review at Gwendalyn Books
Monday, June 24
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Tuesday, June 25
Feature at Comet Readings
Friday, June 28
Review at Cennin's Book Review
Monday, July 1
Review at Just a Girl and Her Books
Tuesday, July 2
Excerpt at Let Them Read Books
Wednesday, July 3
Review at Passages to the Past
Friday, July 5
Guest Post & Excerpt at To Read, Or Not to Read
Monday, July 8
Review at Just One More Chapter
Guest Post at Historical Fiction with Spirit
GiveawayDuring the Blog Tour, we are giving away a paperback copy of Severed Knot by Cryssa Bazos! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on July 8th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
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– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.