Friday, 24 February 2012

Guest Post by Author Hope Irvin Marston

The Birthing of My First Historical Novel
Hope Irvin Marston

When I was little girl my sister Shirley, who was fifteen years older than me, had a pen pal named Scotty. I was amazed that she was getting a letter from someone who lived in faraway Scotland.  Though I don’t recall how it began, I acquired my Scots pen pal, Sheena McIlvean, sometime before my twelfth birthday.  (We are still pen friends!)  We had been writing for a year or two, when Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were married in 1947.  Sheena sent me a lovely book with wedding pictures of the royal couple.

About forty years later when I was proofreading a manuscript for a publishing company in Harrisburg, PA, I read the inscription on Margaret’s grave marker in a Wigtown, Scotland, kirkyard.  I was awed by the dedication of this 17th century teen martyr. I set out on my own quest to find out all I could about her.
A librarian by profession, I had research skills that put me in good stead.  However, finding information about a Scots teen who  had lived some 300 years ago was a daunting task.  For about four years I searched for Margaret in libraries and on the Internet.  I subscribed to The Scots Magazine and watched for any mention of her or of  the time frame in which she lived.

In 2000 I visited Scotland on a Castle Tour.  I met Sheena and her husband Phil and shared a dinner with them in their lovely home in Perth. The following day they took me to Stirling Castle. Just below the castle is a huge statue of Margaret and her younger sister.  We also visited some areas in Edinburgh that were significant in Margaret’s life. I came home and finished my story as best I could based on the information I had assembled.

In 2004 when Sheena was securing for me a CD entitled Voices of Wigtown, she was given the name and contact for the leading authority on Margaret Wilson and the Covenanters, Donna Brewster. Donna was an American who married a Scotsman and now lived in Wigtown. When I contacted her via e-mail, she invited me to come to Wigtown as her house guest.  She would take me to the places important in Margaret’s life.
I finished my manuscript as best I could before visiting Scotland to “check things out.”  I returned on the 325th anniversary of Margaret’s martyrdom and had the privilege of laying flowers on her grave and taking a wreath to the spot where she was drowned.

Donna took me to Margaret’s birthplace and to the moors as well as other spots that were part of Margaret’s life. Stepping into the small prison cell where she spent her last few days in Wigtown was an emotional high for me and a fitting climax to my research.

  It was home again to rewrite much of Margaret’s story. When questions arose in my mind about something Scots, a quick e-mail to Donna, or to Liz Curtis Higgs, an American author acclaimed for her historical Scots novels, secured for me the answers I needed to ensure my story details were accurate.
In July 2007 an American publishing company, P & R Publishing (Presbyterian and Reformed), released Against the Tide: The Valor of Margaret Wilson as part of their Chosen Daughters Series.

The persecution of Christians around the world grows more severe day by day, a grim reminder of the mini-inquisition that Margaret Wilson and the people in Southwestern Scotland faced for fifty years from 1638-1688.

Widow M’Lauchlan, a devout Covenanter who was martyred on the same day as Margaret Wilson, had counseled her when they were imprisoned together in Thieves’ Hole that they needed to be ready for service or sacrifice.  Margaret understood this.  She was ready.

Whether the readers of Margaret’s story are teen or adult, that’s the story I aimed to tell through Margaret’s life.
About the Author: 

Hope Irvin Marston is a native of central Pennsylvania, the eighth child in a farm family of nine, an honor’s graduate of Lock Haven (PA) High School, Milligan College (TN) and SUNY at Geneseo. She and her husband of fifty years share their Black River (NY) home with Heidi, a lovable Bernese mountain dog. A former junior high school teacher/library media specialist in Watertown (NY), Hope retired in 1990 to write full time. Her bio is listed in Something about the Author (Gale).
She is a member of the New York State Retired Teachers, the Greater Thousand Islands Literacy Council, the Jeff-Lewis Librarians Association, the Adirondack Center for Writing, the St. Lawrence County Arts Council, the North Country Arts Council and SCBWI. She organized the Black River Valley Writers Club and served as its leader for several years. Later she founded the North Country Children’s Writers and Illustrators arm of SCBWI and directed the annual writing conference for five years. 
In addition to writing thirty-two children’s books and several adult titles, Hope has been on staff for Christian Writers Conferences at Hephzibah Heights (MA), Montrose Bible Conference (PA) and at St. Davids Christian Writers Conference at Beaver Falls, PA. She has taught creative writing workshops at Jefferson Community College, the Jefferson-Lewis Teacher Center, and the North Country Arts Council.
Her picture book series, MY LITTLE BOOK COLLECTION (Windward), has grown to eight titles thus far and has 125,000 books in print.
Hope was a book reviewer for the now defunct Provident Book Finder.  She currently writes reviews for Church Libraries.
Hope does school visits from kindergarten through post-graduate college and presents writing workshops for kids and adults. When she is not researching, reading or writing, you may find her cooking or baking in the kitchen, or out walking Heidi.

Author Website:

Facebook Fan Page URL:

Places where books are available for sale:
            A Second Look, Watertown, NY
            Arts on the Square, Watertown, NY
            Marguerite’s Cranberry Emporium, Lowville, NY
            St. Lawrence County Arts Council, Potsdam, NY
            St. Lawrence County Historical Association, Canton, NY

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