Sunday, September 12, 2010

Guest blogger Christina Courtenay

We're delighted to welcome Christina Courtenay to the blog. She's talking to us about her latest book, Trade Winds, published by Choc Lit. Over to you, Christina!

Thank you, it's good to be here!

Trade Winds is the story of handsome Scotsman Killian Kinross, who goes to Sweden in the hope of making his fortune. There he meets strong-willed Jess van Sandt, a merchant’s daughter who believes she’s being swindled out of her inheritance by her step-father. They join forces for mutual benefit and enter into a marriage of convenience, but then Killian is offered the chance of a lifetime with the Swedish East India Company. He sets sail for China, but the journey doesn’t turn out quite as he expected ...

Although I love most periods of history, strangely enough I had never considered setting a novel in Georgian times. I much preferred the Regency, Civil War or even the Viking era, which seemed to me to be a lot more exciting somehow. When I had the idea of basing a novel on the first journey of the Swedish East India Company, however, I was forced to change my mind. First of all, I had no choice as to the date obviously, if I wanted to stick to the historical facts. And once I began to read up on the period, I realised that the scope for romance was just as great during the 1730’s as later on. I’m not even sure why I’d ever doubted it!

Despite being half Swedish, it had never occurred to me to set a historical in that country either, unless it was to do with the Vikings. It’s such a long time since I studied Swedish history, I’d forgotten that they were actually quite a powerful nation at one time. They held sway over large parts of northern Europe, as well as the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Trade between Sweden and Scotland had also been on-going for centuries (if not millennia!) and I was thrilled to be able to combine characters from these two countries. I’ve always loved Scottish heroes (who can fail to fall for a man in a kilt and with that wonderful accent ...??) and I felt sure a Swedish heroine would be the perfect match for him.

It wasn’t until I went to Gothenburg to do some research, however, that I realised just how much influence the Scots and other foreigners had had on this city. It was built largely by Dutchmen since it involved the creation of canals. Clearly, they were the acknowledged experts at building those. But as soon as trade started up, the Scotsmen weren’t far behind. The city became quite a melting pot, which was perfect for my purposes, and I discovered a wealth of material at the Gothenburg City Museum.

Most of the canals are gone nowadays, but the main one still remains. It was fascinating to walk around the centre of the town, which is small enough to be easily traversed on foot. The houses have changed, of course, since the 1730’s – back then they were mostly made of wood – but I could still close my eyes and imagine what it would have been like. As for the biting wind from the sea, that must have been almost unbearable without the protection of modern clothing (I was there in February)! Invaluable for me though, as my story was set in winter.

I’m very pleased that I was able to combine my own Swedish heritage with my love of the Far East.

Thanks, Christina, the book looks fascinating and what a beautiful cover! Trade Winds is published by Choc Lit, (ISBN no. 978-1-906931-23-0) and it's out this month. The official release date is 30th September, but Amazon and The Book Depository are sending copies out already so what are you waiting for?!!


Elizabeth Hawksley said...

It sounds terrific, Christina.

I'm really looking forward to 'Trade Winds' book launch on the 22nd September.

Can't wait to read it!

Amanda said...

Christina, it's good to see a book with such a different background for a change. I'm looking forward to this one.


Christina Courtenay said...

Thanks, Elizabeth and Amanda! It will be interesting to see what readers make of the setting too - I'm looking forward to comments and reviews (with some trepidation of course!)