BOOKS

Launch 11

FOR MY SINS published by Fledgling Press

The year is 1586, and Mary Stuart is sitting in an English prison cell at the end of her life, stitching her tapestries, haunted by the ghosts of her past – including John Knox, Bothwell, her half-brother Moray, and Darnley, the husband she was accused of conspiring to murder. Darnley’s murder became a mystery crime which remains unsolved to this day.

Only Mary can tell the true version of events, whilst quietly stitching her braid and entertaining the ghosts of her past. She has been Elizabeth’s reluctant ‘guest’ for eighteen years, but she still has her supporters, most notably a young nobleman called Anthony Babington. As her needle weaves in and out of the fine linen, she plots for Elizabeth’s downfall.

Her life before this was marked by murder, conspiracy and intrigue in the dark Scottish courts of Renaissance Europe and for Mary it is not over yet.

She confides in her servants, secrets which remain untold.

Reviews of FOR MY SINS

By Ani Johnson at The Bookbag.co.uk

1586: Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, has time to look back over her past life as she sits, incarcerated by her second cousin Queen Elizabeth I. Mary’s life hasn’t been one of totally pampered royalty. Growing up in France, away from her mother, widowed and then returning to Scotland to claim the throne before she was even 19, her struggle with fate started early. The tensions between Mary the woman, Mary the Catholic and Mary the political force continue through three marriages, an unsolved murder and the thwarted desire to serve her people. Now it’s come to this prison cell but while there’s life, there’s still hope…

England born/Scotland adopted Alex Nye showed a passion for writing at an early age; a passion leading to awards and acclaim as an author of children’s and YA fiction in later years. Taking her inspiration from her new homeland, Alex now brings us adult historical fiction that shines a wonderful depth, understanding and humanity onto the story of the Queen of the Scots.

Alex’s style is at the meatier end of hist-fict as much is packed within in an excellent way. Indeed, Alex gets it right, using her discoveries to provide us with a greater, deftly animated sense of people, time and place rather than the impression some writers give of shoe horning research in whether it fits or not.

Mary herself speaks to us via a diary and pieces that cut through the fourth wall while she sits with her tapestries and attendants. As we eagerly inhale her words and the episodes that have made up a breathtakingly eventful life, we begin to understand what childhood being displaced by duty does to an existence. In fact this is a motif that crops up throughout her reign and beyond. For Mary this means duty to the Scottish crown and the Roman Catholic faith: two very shaky cornerstones in the 16th century.

Mary’s power and decisiveness are there as she clashes words and sentiments with people like Protestant purist and adversary John Knox. Yet we also witness her vulnerability, examples being when her love for Darnley is met with betrayal and in those moments when we witness her pining for the son who others have turned against her.

Talking of Darnley, it’s not a spoiler to say that his murder remains unsolved to this present day so it was fascinating to see Alex’s plausible treatment and reasoning behind it, along with the relationship that flows from Darnley’s ashes.

Hist-fict writers are always fighting the fact that history becomes its own spoiler yet Alex ensures the tale isn’t ruined by foreknowledge. Despite realising the end result of certain alliances, I still couldn’t put the book down as the author ensures that the tension rises and we hope against hope that things will be different this time. (Illogical but true in my case!)

The fact is that via these pages, we feel as if we’ve met Mary and are as involved in the story as much as any character with whom she interacts. Of course there are as many interpretations of Mary as there are historians to interpret her, but none of that matters as Alex subsumes us in the moment.

This is indeed not just an excellent, thoroughly enjoyable read but also a masterclass in how historical fiction should be done. Definitely on my re-read annually list!

on 5 April 2017
There will be tears before bedtime.

Mary, Queen of Scots is a legend and Alex Nye tells the final part of her heart-breaking life story in breath-taking diary entries that confirm her fight for justice and loyalty to the crown right to the bitter end.

The attention to detail the author provides, ensures the reader is right there in the room at every twist and treacherous turn in her tale – from the murder of Rizzio to the introduction of every vindictive character that came her way. I went from biting my nails to reaching for tissues to dry my eyes. Alex Nye has a fantastic way of totally immersing you until you feel yourself holding your breath as you turn each page, waiting and hoping for her to be rescued from her prison. This is a story that will never leave you after you’ve devoured the last page. A story just waiting to be shared again and again.

“In my end is my beginning”.

A must for every book shelf and a must for every school studying Mary, Queen of Scots. It doesn’t get much better than this.

on 30 March 2017
In ‘For My Sins’, author Alex Nye reveals the human face of Mary, Queen of Scots.
The story is told as a personal account of the queen’s life, beginning with Mary’s reminiscences on the night before her execution. We are very quickly drawn into Mary’s efforts to pick her way through the warring factions of the Scottish nobility with the religious zeal of the Reformation forming a constant backdrop to her struggle.
Alex Nye offers a skilful, sensitive portrayal of a young woman who makes mistakes and miscalculations, who is at times powerless against the male-dominated society that surrounds her, and whose passionate desire to fulfil the role she was born for is frequently in conflict with her resentment of its obligations and restrictions.
A truly absorbing insight into the human figure behind the legend.
 on 30 March 2017
In ‘For My Sins’, author Alex Nye reveals the human face of Mary, Queen of Scots.
The story is told as a personal account of the queen’s life, beginning with Mary’s reminiscences on the night before her execution. We are very quickly drawn into Mary’s efforts to pick her way through the warring factions of the Scottish nobility with the religious zeal of the Reformation forming a constant backdrop to her struggle.
Alex Nye offers a skilful, sensitive portrayal of a young woman who makes mistakes and miscalculations, who is at times powerless against the male-dominated society that surrounds her, and whose passionate desire to fulfil the role she was born for is frequently in conflict with her resentment of its obligations and restrictions.
A truly absorbing insight into the human figure behind the legend.

 

DARKER ENDS  published by Fledgling Press

Alex’s third title is again inspired by Scottish history and landscapes. This time Glencoe is the background setting, and the ghosts of the recent past mingle with the dark events of 1692, when the leader of Clan Campbell authorized the genocide of a whole community as they slept in their beds…Those who survived – women and children – struggled their way up into the lowering mountains of Glencoe, but what happened to them? Did they live to tell the tale? Meanwhile two children wait in a lonely inn for their parents to come home, while a storm closes in. When a stranger’s car crashes in the river below, and he knocks at their door for shelter, the long night darkens. All is not what it seems, and Maggie and Rory are about to learn what became of the so-called ‘survivors’ of Glencoe.

Reviews of DARKER ENDS

Historical Novel Society’s review of DARKER ENDS

Alex Nye continues her exploration of the chillier end of children’s fiction with this novel set in modern Glencoe. Or is it? This is a skilled time-slip tale of time, life and consciousness swirled up into a heady brew of mystery and danger. ‘Time is a web… Sometimes threads break, and worlds collide.’

A man, Ivan, crashes his car in a ditch and walks to the nearest habitation. Inside the old inn two children, Maggie and her little brother Rory, await the return of their parents from a shopping trip. But it is getting late, a storm is brewing, and the stranger at their door seeking help is not the only stranger in the house. The mists of history begin to blend with the present as Ivan regales the children with the legend of the massacre of Glencoe in 1692: when the children flee, their experiences become strangely entangled with the lives of those fleeing the massacre all those years before.

The historical scenes in this novel are sharply depicted without sentimentality, but the power of the novel lies in its other-worldly atmosphere, of snow, cold and darkness – the‘velvet darkness’ of a power-cut, a storm that ‘trembles in the rafters’ – and the eerie sense of muddle and mix-up in the minds of the protagonists. Maggie worries that her memories are becoming ‘broken up into tiny pieces like a complicated jigsaw puzzle.’

Little flashes of reality – the blue lights of a police vehicle outside their house, Rory’s need for his inhaler – only add to the sustained air of jeopardy. The affectionate reliance and resourcefulness of brother and sister offer safety despite the spooky plot-lines, and the emotional finale provides an effective resolution, though not the one imagined at the start of the book.  For 10-14 year olds. (Reviewed by Jane Burke in the Historical Novel Society’s February issue)

Scottish Book Trust’s Review, by Sarah Mallon

Book: Darker Ends by Alex Nye | Age Category 12-16 years

In Alex Nye’s third novel, Darker Ends, she interweaves the tragic history of the Glencoe massacre and a chilling modern ghost story.

On a cold, stormy night in Glencoe, Maggie and Rory await the return of their parents in the company of an ominous stranger seeking shelter. As the night unfolds, the violent and unexplained history of Glencoe becomes more real for the siblings, while Alex Nye slowly reveals their fate, commanding the attention of the reader until the very end.

This mysterious tale blurs the boundaries between reality and fiction, creating a dark and thought-provoking read.

Q&A with Alex Nye

How did you first become interested in the Glencoe Massacre, and how did that interest develop into this story? 

I first became interested in the Glencoe Massacre when I was driving through [Glencoe] one day several years ago in the pouring rain with my parents. It was too wet to step outside, but I insisted on stopping the car and standing in the rain for 5 mins to “soak up the atmosphere”. My family stared through the misted-up windows, patiently rolling their eyes and thinking, “there’s Alex being dramatic again!” I had heard about the Massacre, and the story appealed to me because it fed into my great love for Scottish history. The story of what happened in 1692 is another example of unresolved injustice during the Clearances – it was actually genocide. I have always been attracted to dark subjects. The idea of the tragedy of human conflict coupled with the majesty and power of the mountainous landscape makes for a heady combination. My writing thrives on atmosphere, and when a place greatly appeals to me, I want to write about it. I have visited Glencoe many times since, and was also struck by the passing glimpse of a cave up in the mountains, which I have used in the story of Darker Ends.

 

What tips can you give to any aspiring writers?

Don’t wait for a fairy godmother to come along and wave a magic wand. Be active, rather than passive. You have to make your own luck. Be your own fairy godmother.

The idea that you get ‘discovered’ and someone else comes along and does the hard work for you, making it happen, is a myth. Writers have to work very hard to promote themselves, but if it’s a life-long dream, you will do it.

 

Have you anything in the pipeline?

Yes, I do have something else in the pipeline. I am half-way through writing a historical novel about Mary, Queen of Scots called For My Sins. But this is a Mary novel with a difference. She is sitting in her prison cell at the end of her life, stitching her tapestries, being haunted by the ghosts of her past. Mary, Queen of Scots has always been a life-long passion of mine, and I am truly loving writing this. I have so many other emerging ideas, some of which will remain a secret until nearer the time, and I fully intend to write one novel a year if I can.

 

Further Reviews

Scotiana’s Books for Christmas

I always try to find the magic of a place, the magic of a book…

And I did find magic in the three books I’ve chosen today.

These books aim at a teenage audience but though my teenage years are far behind, I immediately fell in love with them.

I discovered Alex Nye’s books a few days ago, in the ‘Scottish Bookshelf’ pages of  the December issue of  The Scots Magazine in an article entitled  “Inspired by Scotland, Alex Nye weaves a chilling spell from history and her surroundings “. Wow ! Darker Ends is the title of Alex Nye last book. The cover illustration by Kylie Teasdale immediately rang a bell! The picture represents the mountains of Glen Coe in an eerie and surrealistic atmosphere. Ghostly figures compose a strange procession, in the bottom of the glen…Glen Coe ! This glen, with the river Coe is one of our favourite places in Scotland. One immediately feel there is something special there. When we discovered it we had no idea of the horrible events which had taken place in the area. This sad page of history is at the basis of Darker Ends. I will read  Darker Ends as soon as I’ve finished Chill and ShiverI’ve dowloaded them on my kindle and I also bought the paper edition of them to put them in our libraryOne day, our grandsons will be able to read them in English. They’ve begun to learn the language in their primary school.

I got quickly immersed in the story of Chill, reading it with the same pleasure I had when, as a young girl, I began a new Nancy Drew mystery story or one of the famous Enyd Blyton “Five series” (Le Club des Cinq in French). I like very much Alex Nye’s storytelling, her way to describe place and atmosphere, to lead the intrigue. It’s a ghost story and it takes place at Christmas time. I love the description of the snow-covered landscape of Sheriffmuir and of the old mansion. No wonder Chill did win the Scottish Children’s Book of the Year Award!”

 

“This is a real ‘things that go bump in the night’ book and as such will absolutely enthrall its target audience. Some beautiful writing that will endure well with both young and old. Alex Nye has a great touch when it comes to characters an an even better one when it comes to painting a stark and haunting landscape to pit them against. Terrific imagery and a real sense of menace… definitely recommended for kids who love a bit of a scare and adults who love a really good yarn well told.” lizlovesbooks.com

“When the arrival of a mysterious stranger breaks the boundaries between past and present, the two children gradually begin to understand that all is not as it seems. Alex Nye’s ‘Darker Ends’ is a spooky, atmospheric read that keeps the tension rising right to the very last page.” Annemarie Allen (author of Hox, Kelpie Prize winner)

“It’s one of those books you have to keep reading to find out what happens next…” 14 year old Jake of St. Thomas Aquin’s RC High School, Edinburgh

 

 

 

new covers

Scottish Children’s Book Award winner CHILL, and its sequel SHIVER, published by Floris Books.

A crumbling Stirlingshire mansion is the hiding place of dangerous secrets and ghostly residents. Samuel and Fiona must uncover Dunadd’s tales of revenge and betrayal to save the house and themselves.

) Chill-Alex

The Morton family are cursed. Their house is haunted by eerie footsteps, a ghostly figure and whispers in the night. Together, Samuel and Fiona discover a deadly tale of betrayal, revenge, and a family secret long forgotten.

Trapped by snow and ice, can they escape the chill or will the Morton children be doomed to repeat the past forever?

Reviews for Chill

“Alex Nye’s involving Chill is set near Stirling, in a snowbound house with a ghost in the library. It’s a tense confection of mystery, historical intrigue and adventure for eight to 12 year olds. Young heroes Samuel and Fiona find they cannot ignore a call from the past to put things right.” Lyndsey Fraser, Sunday Herald.

“Nye’s prose is chilling and sparse, and works well to build tension as the ghost stories emerge. The ancient house comes alive, and the ghosts’ eerie movements and noises will have readers jumping at creeks and bumps in the night. These scary stories are a great addition to any middle-grade collection.”—Ellen Norton, White Oak Library District, Crest Hill, IL

Shiver cover-Alex

A scream in the night, a hidden staircase to nowhere and a ghostly face: Dunadd House still has its secrets.

For over 400 years, something has been hidden in the old manor house. As another dangerous winter descends, Samuel and the Morton children discover it’s not just the cold sending a shiver down their spine… not all their ghosts have been put to rest.

Can they unravel the family secret before they’re forced to leave their home forever?

Reviews for Shiver

“Samuel just knows there’s something wrong at the spooky, medieval Scottish mansion he and his mother live next to. Suddenly snowbound on the remote country estate and pursued by a mysterious and terrifying Weeping Woman, Samuel and his new friend Fiona have to figure out how to appease this ancient ghost before she takes another life.

Alex Nye’s unadorned prose perfectly captures the chilling feeling of being trapped in a cold and forbidding–yet still beautiful–landscape and being watched day and night by a menacing presence. This story is gripping, and one of the scariest I’ve read. Another fine example of modern Scottish literature with a dash of historical romance thrown in.” US Review of Books

“I absolutely LOVED Shiver – it was great!”

I found Shiver an unputdownable book. It was more than a ghost story; it was a detective story as well.” Pupils at Gracemount High School

Shiver was one of the best books I’ve read so far.” Teen Titles Book Review Magazine

 

 

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