January 25, 1759-July 21, 1796
Once again, it’s time for a Burns Supper celebration. This year my special guest is all the way from Edinburgh, author, Janice Cairns.
Welcome to Celtic Connexions, Janice! Do sit down and make yourself comfortable.
Let’s start by getting to know you better. Can you tell us about yourself?
Born in Ayrshire and educated at Ayr academy, I’ve had an assortment of jobs – child care, law, insurance, media and creative writing. I live in Edinburgh now; the city has been my home for the last thirty years. It is here, my dream of becoming a published author, has come true.
My life could be described as a happy mix of marketing for my first book, and writing her sequel. I find time in my busy schedule to enjoy walks at the Botanic gardens, or by the sea, or in the beautiful city of Edinburgh. I’ve always considered my walks as importantr, as I think these activate my creative thoughts and actually inspire me to write.
I didn’t realize you’re an Ayrshire girl – born and raised in Burns Country. Have you been to Canada?
No, I haven’t, but it is a country I would love to visit.
Can I get you a drink? I have a small selection of whiskies if you’d like a dram before we eat. Or we can always have something else.
Well, while we wait for our meal to be ready, Janice, let’s chat about your writing. Forgiving Nancy was your debut novel, if I’m not mistaken. Can you tell us what it is about?
Yes, indeed, Forgiving Nancy is my debut novel. It is love story, which is set in Edinburgh, in the 1980s. The story opens with Nancy Campbell, down in her luck. She meets a wealthy bachelor, Maxwell Elliot, and soon becomes married to him. It is an unlikely marriage, which crosses the barriers, of age, culture, and class. Within a short time, the marriage is crumbling, and Nancy, who is young and beautiful, is enticed away from her slightly eccentric, millionaire husband. She becomes involved with Callum Macduff, who is obsessed, with running his circus, and who is only interested in sex. This affair does not last either as Maxwell finds out. The story then turns into a journey, both poignant and heartbreaking, for Nancy. After a lot of soul-searching, she finds herself in a homeless shelter, but then she finds her way back to Maxwell, who eventually forgives, the mistakes she has made. Through the main plot is also weaved the story of Stella Golding’s unreciprocated love. At one time Stella, had been Maxwell’s housekeeper, and had hoped to marry him. Nevertheless, it all turns out okay, for Stella too. This fashion conscious lady, of a certain, age goes on to find true love, unexpectedly, after experiencing heartache over Maxwell.
The novel’s backdrop, is the beautiful city of Edinburgh, and in many of the chapters, real streets are referred to, so a reader can get a real feel, for what the city is all about, even if they have not been there before.
My chef, Donald, announces the meal is ready.
We’ll start with The Selkirk Grace.
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some would eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
My cock-a-leekie soup isn’t made in the traditional way. I’m not a fan of prunes so I leave them out.
I hope you’re enjoying your virtual “Canadian” Robbie Burns night, Janice.
I understand you’ve completed the sequel to Forgiving Nancy. Can you tell us anything about it?
I am so excited about the sequel, and first I’d like to say, the atmosphere and the mood of All the way from America, is so different from Forgiving Nancy, yet, I am still writing about so many of the original characters. In the sequel, Maxwell Elliot, has reinvented himself, and is launching into a new creative life. He sets out to become an artist, but it is not plain sailing for him. Maxwell’s past creeps in, and causes havoc for him, as he begins to receive, letters from a former love, in America. Also, he gets entangled in an afternoon of erotic pleasure with a friend’s daughter. The afternoon becomes his guilty secret, as he returns to the straight and narrow path of his creative goals. In the sequel, Nancy Elliot inhabits a different world too. She takes up the opportunity of becoming a model in a fashion show. However, what should have been a wonderful and fun evening, for Nancy, is also thwarted by shadows of the past. The main characters of Nancy and Maxwell, are putting their best foot forward, but destiny is determined to spoil their plans. Yet, in the end, everything turns out fine for the Elliot’s, as it does for Stella, who decides the best thing for her, is to return to London, after her marriage to Vincent did not turn out, as hoped. The only similarity the sequel has to Forgiving Nancy is that Callum Macduff, is in the same place as he was before, he does not seem to grow with further experiences of love.
What made you choose the titles for your two novels?
As far as Forgiving Nancy is concerned, way back, I had thought of calling it An Edinburgh Love Story, but as time went on, I began to think, this was too general a title, and not specific enough. So, I then thought West End Intrigue, would be a good title, as much of the setting was at the West End of Edinburgh, and because there was a lot of intrigue, in the book. But, then, I thought more deeply about it, and it occurred to me, one of main themes in the book, ‘forgiveness’, could be used in the title. Since Nancy was the main female character in the book, I then felt absolutely certain, I should call the book Forgiving Nancy.
At the moment, the working title, for the sequel is All the way from America. The reason I have chosen this is because it describes one of the most poignant moments, of the sequel; that moment, when Favia comes all the way from America, with high hopes of rekindling love with Maxwell, only to find Maxwell has no romantic interest in her. After all those years, coming all the way on the plane, only to be disappointed.
I’ve been to Edinburgh a few times. I love the photographs you share of the city on Facebook. Do you have a favourite place you like to go to?
Yes, Melanie, I love to go up to Edinburgh Castle, I love spending time there. Often, I will take myself there and spend a few hours exploring. There are always lots of visitors up there too, no matter the time of year, and I love mingling with the visitors. It’s also a great place to take photos of Edinburgh. Wonderful views of the city, can be seen from the castle. I love to saunter all the way down The Royal Mile too, after being at the castle. I love all the wonderful closes of The Royal Mile, I love to take photos of the closes, which have so much history, attached to them. I am so fascinated by The Royal Mile and the closes, actually, that these aspects of the city are mentioned in the sequel. I know your question asks me to mention one favourite place, Melanie, but loving Edinburgh, as I do, I have to say, there are a great many favourite places that are so very special to me – the Grassmarket, for example and the lovely Victoria Street, then places like Cockburn Street. I love nothing nicer than having lunch in Cockburn street on a summer’s day. Then, of course, there is being by Duddingston loch in the summer, and having a picnic there. I love watching the swans on the river there.
Do you have any more writing projects in the works? Another WIP perhaps?
Yes, I am delighted to say, I have more writing projects up my sleeve, rather than in the works. I am beginning to formulate ideas, for the writing of a third book, but this book will be worlds away, from the first two, with completely different characters, and themes. A new stage is being set, as it were. So far, I have been filling notebooks, with ideas for a third book. As yet, I have not considered the plot, and who the characters will be, in it. All I can say, so far, is this is a book I must write.
We have trifle for dessert. I hope you like it.
When we’re finished eating, we’ll take our coffee and some shortbread into the lounge and listen to some Scottish music and talk a bit more.
Where can you purchase copies of Forgiving Nancy?
And your author links? Where can folks find you?
Thank you so much, Melanie, for inviting me here, for the Robbie Burns Celebration.
Thank you for coming, Janice. It’s been a pleasure hosting you here at Celtic Connexions and I’ve enjoyed getting to know you better.