At the top of the new releases list in Scottish fiction this month is this extraordinary and un-put-down-able wartime romance, We Fought for Ardnish.
Following the tremendous success of Ardnish Was Home (now on it’s 5th reprint), this is a sure-fire hit for the summer. The story focuses on a young Highlander recruited to his local regiment at the beginning of the Second World War, and follows his dangerous liaisons with a Canadian SOE agent.
We caught up with author Angus MacDonald to discuss all things writing, Ardnish and his latest novel –
Jenny: Firstly Angus, tell us a bit about your latest novel, We Fought for Ardnish…
Angus MacDonald: The book is the sequel to ‘Ardnish was home’, a romantic story about a lad growing up on the remote West Highland peninsula of Ardnish. At the outset of WW2 he joins the local regiment The Lovat Scouts and then switches to the Special Operations Executive (SOE), in order to fight with the French resistance. On a mission in the alps he meets Canadian SOE agent, Francoise who has a mission to complete. Their lives become intertwined; dangerous and romantic…
J: Set in the Second World War, how does this differ from your first novel? Did you undertake a lot of research in the period?
AM: The baby from the first book becomes the hero of the second. The stories of the highlands and Cape Breton in Canada are true and the details of the Lovat Scouts and SOE are accurate. The characters are fictional however.
J: Tell us about Donald Angus and Francoise, the heroine?
AM: Donald Angus is a proud, generous and capable lad, brought up in a very simple existence in a crofters house on the shoreline. A legendary bagpiper and soldier who is rapidly promoted, his love for his beloved highlands is completely authentic.
Francoise is strong, fearless and very intelligent. Her father is a doctor in Cape Breton, Canada. The deprivations she copes with during her mission behind enemy lines are remarkable.
J: Both of your novels are set (in part) in the Scottish Highlands – do you find your surroundings influence your writing? Why does this setting appeal to you?
AM: The village on Ardnish is a row of houses along a sandy beach with the islands of Eigg and Rum the view. Its impossible not to marvel at the beauty of this place, its stirs the heart.
J: Has your own background in the military influenced your writing?
AM: My ability to rise at 3.45 in the morning to write and discipline of focusing and getting on with the job may be a result of time in the army. But the writing is such a pleasure its easy to do really.
J: Since you’re not a full time writer – we’d imagine you have a very busy schedule. How do you find time to fit writing in?
AM: I write in the winter months, and the early start allows me to do my day job. The editing process as I work with Erica Munro, Jo-Anne MacDonald in Canada and Alison Rae from Birlinn is a long and sometimes painful experience.
J: We hear you have a great deal of publicity for your latest release – tell us all!
AM: BBC Alba, the Gaelic TV station, and Radio Nan Gaidheal came to visit Ardnish and interviewed me, aired on Monday 9th July. And BBC Scotland had Janice Forsyth interview me, really thorough and interested questioning. Nevis radio and Oban FM too. Lots of coverage in the regional press as well as The Scotsman so far. The Inverness Courier will run almost a full page along with their many subsidiary newspapers across the north of Scotland in mid July.
I’ll be at The Edinburgh Festival, Wigtown, Mallaig and Tobermory festivals over the course of the next few months.
J: If you had to sum up We Fought for Ardnish in a tweet, how would you describe it?
AM: A dangerous war time mission resulting in romance, ‘We fought for Ardnish’ is better than Outlander.
J: And if you imagine the reader you think would most enjoy this novel, how would you describe them?
AM: Considerate, exciting, loves adventure and the Highlands.
J: What’s your best piece of writing advice?
AM: Just get on and do it, stop talking about it and prevaricating!
J: And lastly, if you could only recommend one place in Scotland for someone to visit, where would it be and why?
AM: Two miles north of Lochailort on the A830 past the stunning ‘Our lady of the Braes’ church, park in the big lay-by on the left. Peanmeanach is signposted, put on good boots and set along the same route that Donald Angus and the hundreds of people of Ardnish before him walked for two hours to their stunning village. Sit on the rock that Francoise would have as she looked down to where her beloved Donald Angus was brought up. Wave, then walk down to Ardnish and home…
Angus’s recommendation sounds truly blissful, as is his writing. We’d highly recommend We Fought for Ardnish as a summer read – it’s the perfect mix of nostalgia, romance, escapism and action. It’s available from Scottish Bookstore now with 10% off!