Monday, December 19, 2011

Quest Post with Susan Fraser King along with Giveaway

Christmas holidays and music go together, and one of my favorite kinds of music is Celtic harp, so it was a joy to be able to include harp music in Queen Hereafter, which is new in trade paperback from Random House and Broadway Books. The story is about Margaret of Scotland, Malcolm Canmore’s queen, in the 11th century—and it is also the story of a fictional bard, Eva of Moray, a young kinswoman of Lady Macbeth.

Brought to court as court bard and to act as a hostage for the good behavior of Lady Macbeth (who was inclined to misbehave), Eva plays her harp for the Scottish court, and over time befriends Queen Margaret. Both are outcasts of a sort, the wild Celtic bard an unwilling royal captive, and the foreign queen restricted by her many obligations:

I am called Eva the Bard, daughter of a short-lived king. I have been a devoted student of Dermot, once chief bard in Macbeth’s court. He trained me in the ways of a seanchaidh: a thousand songs, a thousand tales, a thousand heroes keenly remembered through ancient ways of diligence, and more. Though I do not know my fate, I know my calling—to tell the old tales and coax melodies from the harp strings to soothe or excite the spirit. Some now accuse me of scheming, but my aim has ever been my craft, and honor. So say I.
While researching the book, I had the pleasant task of researching the history of Celtic harp in medieval Scotland. This wasn’t the first time I had written about a medieval harper (the heroine of one of my earlier novels,
The Angel Knight, was a harper as well), so I had prior research to go on. For the first book, I had the good fortune to meet and host in my home one of the world’s most talented Celtic harpers, who shared some of her wonderful knowledge with me. For the second novel about a harper—Queen Hereafter—I relied on what I had learned earlier and also took lessons in playing Celtic harp. I wanted to know what my character Eva would know, and hands-on research was the best way to do that. I can pluck out a few elementary Celtic tunes now, though I have a long way to go!

Celtic harp differs from traditional concert harp in size and shape, and the smaller the harp, the fewer the strings. In earlier centuries, strings were made of animal gut or sometimes of brass or even gold and silver. The two center strings, sometimes called The Lovers in Celtic lore, could even  have been of gold in a brass-stringed harp, tuned to an identical note, resonating together. 

A true Irish or Celtic harp rests against the harper’s left shoulder, rather
 than the right shoulder position seen with traditional concert harpists. Another interesting detail is that Celtic harp musicians are more correctly termed harpers. They were bards in earlier centuries, sometimes court bards attached to a royal or noble household, and often itinerant, traveling from one household to another. They had privileged status even in a king’s household, and often led warriors into battle. They were the keepers of tradition, history and genealogy, their memories filled with the names, lineages, epic stories and entertaining tales of generations. They had secret methods and tricks for storing hundreds, even thousands of songs and tales in their heads. Their music, their skill, their harps were given legendary and even magical qualities in stories and poetry. Any listener of the time would know of the importance of the harper and would respect and revere the beautiful, even mystical, music.

Women were sometimes trained and employed as bards in Irish and Scottish households. Men were primarily the bards of their day--at least they appear most often in the scant records, skewing the statistics—but we do know it was not so unusual for women to serve as bards and harpers. References to women bards appear in occasional documents from the earliest centuries through later centuries in Scotland. And Celtic bards and harpers, male and female, thrive today -- we buy their CDs all the time! Next time you hear Celtic harp music – and likely you will this Christmas season – remember what a proud and ancient tradition it is, and imagine yourself by a fireside in a medieval hall. Some of these wonderful songs are just that old, and still endure.

I hope you’ll look for Queen Hereafter in bookstores and online in trade paperback or in e-book, and I hope you’ll enjoy the story of Margaret of Scotland and her Celtic bard, Lady Macbeth’s granddaughter, Eva! Check out the Queen Hereafter video here. 

Thank you Susan for that wonderful Guest Post. Harper was my maiden name and some of my family originated in Scotland!!!! 

I know that everyone will love this book. It was one of the books that pulled me off a 8 year reading hiatus! It's a gem!!

And now for the giveaway. Leave a comment with your email address so I can contact you if you win! An extra entry will be given to followers, new or old! The contest will be close on January 1st! Good luck!


  1. I think harp music is so gorgeous! It's sort of mystical in a way!

    I've been so anxious to read this book! Thanks for the giveaway.

    I'm an old follower!


  2. I would love to read this book! My name is Margaret so I think it's meant for me lol! Thanks for the giveaway!


  3. Would love to be counted in for this giveaway.

    Thanks for sharing.


  4. Would be ecstatic to receive this book! Thanks so much!

  5. This sounds amazing, I can't wait.

  6. Would love to receive a copy of this book!

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. I would love to be entered. I just discovered your blog, so I'm now a follower :)
    Kristy Nicole
    Email: kristy (at) dreamingbyday (dot) com

  9. It sounds like such wonderful research went into this book. I would love to win it.

  10. Sounds like a wonderful book!! Thanks so much for the giveaway! I am following your blog :)

  11. I'm really enjoying reading this book. As a historian-librarian, I am eager to learn some of the actual references meant by "References to women bards appear in occasional documents from the earliest centuries through later centuries in Scotland." Thank you! MM

  12. That would be interesting!! If you find anything Mia, please share as this might relate to my past!!!