Please give a warm welcome to New York Times, USA Today and RWA RITA Finalist Susanna Kearsley! Susanna’s latest North American release, The Shadowy Horses, has just hit stores this month.
Hi, everyone! It’s so great to be back here with all of you to celebrate the re-issue of my book The Shadowy Horses, with a Scottish hero who’ll feel right at home with a few of the Highlanders here, although being from the Borders he speaks Scots, not Gaelic, and is more at home wielding a trowel than a broadsword.
Archaeologist David Fortune is one of my favorite creations, and because he comes from the small east-coast fishing village of Eyemouth, where the Scots language is still spoken, my efforts to learn a few phrases and words for myself led to several fun scenes between Davy and heroine Verity Grey, who comes north to take part in a dig for a lost Roman legion, and finds a lot more than she bargained for.
Here’s an excerpt from one of those scenes, in which Verity learns that some phrases have more than one meaning:
Encouraged by his openness, and the growing ease of our companionship, I chanced another question. “Your dad was a fisherman, wasn’t he?”
“Aye, so they tell me. I can’t really mind him. I have this memory of a big man in a gansey—a guernsey, you call it in England—that always smelt of fish, but that might not have been my dad. Everyone smelt of fish, in our house. My grandad was a cadger.”
“Oh.” I nodded sagely. “Sort of a traveling fish-salesman, you mean.”
We’d come to the end of the middle pier. A sharp right turn would have taken us over the Eye Water by a small metal drawbridge, then on around the lifeboat station to the looming bulk of Gunsgreen House. But David chose instead to lean his elbows on the bright red railing at the pier’s end, and study my innocent face.
“Been sleeping with that dictionary, have you?” he asked, in a tone laced thick with amusement. “How d’ye ken what a cadger is?”
“Well, I had to look up ‘ca’ canny’ the other day, and ‘cadger’ is right on the same page, so I thought I might as well memorize it, too.”
He quirked an eyebrow. “‘Ca’ canny’?”
“Yes. It means to take care, or be cautious.”
“Aye, I ken fine what it means. Why’d you need to look it up?”
I shrugged, and leaned in my turn on the railing. “Wally said it last week. When Jeannie went out in the car. I don’t know where she was going, but Wally told her to ‘ca’ canny along that road.’ And I just wondered what it meant.”
“You could have asked.”
“I don’t like asking all the time. Besides,” I pointed out, “my dictionary works just fine. I did know what a cadger was.”
“Aye, so you did.” He smiled a little and turned his face forward again, looking across to the harbor’s shielded entrance. Every now and then a stiff gust of wind caught the swirl of the sea and tossed a mist of white spray over the barrier wall. I could faintly taste the salt from where I stood, and smell the cleanly biting scent of the North Sea. The smell of fish was fainter still, but for David, at least, it stirred memories. “He had a small business, my grandad did, selling fish up north, around Edinburgh. Mostly miners up there, in those days, with large families. Two pieces of fish to the pound was no use to them—they wanted ten pieces, to feed all those mouths. And that meant whiting. Ever clean a whiting?” he asked me.
“Bloody awful things. My grandad used to come to auction every day, to get his boxes of whiting, and every day when I got home from school I’d have to help to filet them. Christ,” he shuddered at the memory, “I hated working at the fish. We’d all get so cheesed off that we’d stop talking, after the first hour or so. Nothing to do but count the fish. Used to be two hundred and thirty-seven whiting,” he informed me, “in a six-stone box. They’ve changed the weights now, but that’s what it used to be.”
I propped one foot on the red-painted railing and followed his gaze out to sea. “Is that what put you off being a fisherman?”
“Not really. You’re either born to the sea or you’re not, and I’m not. My mother kent that, early on. She always tells the story of how Peter caught me digging up the garden, and said I was born to be an archaeologist.”
“And he was right.”
“He usually is.”
It was a simple statement of fact, and I stayed silent a moment, thinking about the excavation at Rosehill. About the disappearance of the Ninth Legion, all those years ago, and about a ghostly presence that last night might have said nona…
A white shape glided silently beneath us, and I looked down, startled. No ghost, I reassured myself, but something just as strange. “David, look!”
“Oh, aye, the swan. I wondered where he’d got to.”
“Do you mean he actually lives here? Here, in the harbor?”
The bird cocked its head at the sound of my voice, and having surveyed me with one round uncertain eye, turned smoothly and floated back underneath the little red drawbridge, seeking the relative security of the channel.
“He’s magnificent,” I said.
“Aye.” David watched the bird’s sleek figure disappearing underneath the bridge.
“Does he have a mate?”
“Not yet. There was a female here, a few years back, but she only stayed a fortnight. She couldn’t seem to settle down to life inside the harbor.” He turned his head and met my gaze unhurriedly. ‘And he’s well stuck here now, that lad. Too old to change his ways.”
He’d only moved his head, I thought, and yet I felt as though the space between us had grown smaller. I felt suddenly aware of just how near he was, of how little effort it would take to move toward him, feel his warmth…to raise my hand and touch the hard unshaven contours of his face.
His eyes flicked down toward my lips, and back again, a smile in their depths. “Ca’ canny along that road,” he told me gently.
But he wasn’t warning me off. No, I decided with growing amazement, watching the smile spread slowly from his blue eyes to his mouth; he wasn’t giving me a warning. He was issuing a challenge.
I’ll admit I grew fond of that phrase, after writing that scene. It’s right up there with “sleekit”, my favorite Scots word. What’s the best Scottish word or phrase you’ve come across, in your reading or writing?
A big thank you to Susanna for joining us today! To be entered to win one of two copies of The Shadowy Horses, please leave a comment, answering Susanna question at the end of her post. US and Canada only, and please leave an email address so we can reach you easily. We’ll choose a winner on Friday, 10/12!
THE SHADOWY HORSES BY SUSANNA KEARSLEY – IN STORES OCTOBER 2012
THE INVINCIBLE NINTH ROMAN LEGION MARCHES FROM YORK TO FIGHT THE NORTHERN TRIBES. AND THEN VANISHES FROM THE PAGES OF HISTORY.
Archaeologist Verity Grey has been drawn to the dark legends of the Scottish Borderlands in search of the truth buried in a rocky field by the sea.
Her eccentric boss has spent his whole life searching for the resting place of the lost Ninth Roman Legion and is convinced he's finally found it—not because of any scientific evidence, but because a local boy has "seen" a Roman soldier walking in the fields, a ghostly sentinel who guards the bodies of his long-dead comrades.
Here on the windswept shores, Verity may find the answer to one of the great unsolved mysteries of our time. Or she may uncover secrets someone buried for a reason.
"Like something out of the pages of Daphne du Maurier."— Daily Express
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author SUSANNA KEARSLEY’s writing has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne Du Maurier, and Diana Gabaldon. Her award-winning books have been translated into several languages, selected for the Mystery Guild, condensed for Reader's Digest, and optioned for film. She lives in Canada near the shores of Lake Ontario. For more information, please visit http://www.susannakearsley.com/, Like her on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorSusannaKearsley, and follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SusannaKearsley.