An Unexpected Problem

As I was working on a last read through for The Story Spinner, and coming up to deadline day, when they wanted the corrected MS back, a strange request  came in from my publisher. Marked Urgent. Always a red flag! Apparently the team at Audible had a few questions for me.  This had happened before. Some 18 months ago they were about to record the unabridged version of On the Edge of Darkness. Could I confirm for them the correct way to pronounce the names of two of the characters in the book. Easy, I thought. Then I thought again. I know how to pronounce the names of all my characters in my own head, of course I do, but am I right? Emergency email to my friend Annie, who I had first consulted back in the ‘80s when I was writing Lady of Hay and she was my go-to  Professor of Celtic Studies. She has been on call for most of my forays into  the more obscure depths of Celtic history and she now lives in the West Highlands. She was however cautious on this one. Further enquiries were made via Edinburgh University and then on to the head of the Gaelic College on the Isle of Skye. The result was 50% right in my head.  50% very wrong.  Probably. Possibly. BUT parts of the book were set in 6th century in the land of the Picts. We are not even sure what language they spoke , almost certainly not Gaelic... Caveats were needed.


So, now it was happening again. Audible were about to record Daughters of Fire (they  will be doing them all eventually) No problem I said. Which names to you need?  Four pages arrived. Four A4 pages!! I reminded myself when and where D of F was set. The land of the Brigantes.   First century. Northern England.  I doubt if anyone would know how they actually spoke.  Or even the actual language. Some variation of Brythonic no doubt but taking into account regional accents and local idiosyncrasies.  So maybe with a Yorkshire accent? Or Northumbrian? Think Welsh spoken by Vera? In writing the book I had obviously dipped indiscriminately into names from Ireland, Wales and Scotland (the land of both Scots and Picts). Talk about a trap for the unwary! I emailed Annie once again, but our wonderful contact on the Isle of Skye was unavailable. It was Christmas after all. The recording was booked for the actual Christmas holiday. I had to guess. I looked up pronunciation guides to Irish, Scots Gaelic and Welsh, discounted the lady with a strong Chinese accent and kept every finger crossed. Even so I had to concoct a quick apologia to be read at the start of the book just in case I got it wrong. In self defence, I still maintain we can’t be sure, can we? And does it matter that much as long as the reader sounds confident. Which she will.  And think about it:  we are still arguing about how to pronounce scone!


The Audible version of Daughters of Fire is scheduled for March 14

The Story Spinner, will be published on August 1