I am a writer, broadcaster, blogger and vlogger, wife, mother, granny and carer. We live in the Highlands of Scotland and London.
My first book, The Last Highlander: Scotland’s Most Notorious Clan Chief, Rebel, and Double Agent (HarperCollins, 2012) won the Saltire Prize for First Book of the Year. It went into the New York Times ebook Bestseller List, after the hit TV series, Outlander, brought the clans back into vogue. (In it, the hero, Jamie Fraser, is the illegitimate grandson of Lovat of the ’45, The Last Highlander.) My next book comes out on 4 May – The Prince Who Would be King: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart (WilliamCollins 2017). It’s the untold story of perhaps the greatest king we never had, at the dawn of a century of transformation for these islands. A celebrity across Europe at his death, Henry Stuart, Prince of Wales was the oldest son of James VI and I, and grandson of Mary, Queens of Scots.
Before I came north over 30 years ago, I’d only been to Scotland once. My parents took us on holiday to a small town near Dundee – home of a distinctive fruit cake, and the Dandy comic. I was 10, my brothers 9, 8, and 2. We gazed from under the hoods of our matching blue anoraks, bare knees wet and mottled with cold. We wore shorts, in case it cheered up later. It didn’t – it rained through 12 of the 14 days. Mum and dad argued over our heads. We chewed wet sandwiches, watching the other holiday makers, and wondered whether we could return to our Guest House in time for ‘Animal Magic’. The town bustled with grannies and grandpas. Pac-a-macked ladies flowed from cafes to coaches. Their men, in camel slacks and windcheaters, followed in their wake, heads bowed against the wind. I loved to watch them. They reminded me of my grandma and granddad.
I returned to Scotland to marry into clan Fraser of Lovat (twice), give birth to 4 more of the tribe, and write about yet another, the most notorious clan Fraser chief: Lovat of the ’45, ‘the Old Fox’. We educated the children through the medium of Gaelic. I began to learn the language, and wrote a PhD on obscene Gaelic poetry (I probably knew more than nearly anyone else in the world about it when I finished.)
A huge part of my life now revolves around the fact I’ve been a carer for the last five years – one of the growing army world wide. My beautiful new husband woke on November 17, 2011, stood up and, … well, sort of left. He left himself, left me, left our old world. He’d suffered a major, life-changing stroke. The disabled and their carers do heroes’ work. They build a new world in the ruins of the old, trying to avoid disturbing the ghosts of the past. All this feeds into my writing.
What I talk about when I talk about history…
I talk about love/hate, hope/fear, power/weakness, wealth/poverty, peace/war, tribe/aliens, friendship/enmity, affinity/aversion …
The conversation between my personal, contemporary history and past lives is what gets me onto my laptop every day. I like Martin Luther King’s idea that ‘We are not the makers of history. We are made by history.’
So, what I’m talking about when I blog and vlog about long dead characters and game changing events, is about what makes us who, and why, and where, and what we are. For sure, the past is another country. And they do things differently there. But they had to answer many of the same questions as we do. They bequeathed us our world, and perhaps our very selves.
So, I want to give gripping scenes that hint at links between them and us, without selling out either side. Making an imaginative connection with them and then, can make the light refract between their situation and ours, to illuminate both from a deeper human angle. It helps make the past accessible. This is legitimate activity for a historian, I think. Imagination is partly the ability to see things from another point of view – to imagine the other. Yes, it is where history drifts towards fiction, yet is still history. That is what will be in the posts and in the books.
Please contact me through the website. Follow me on Twitter @sarah_fraseruk. And on Facebook.