What happens when music, history and mystery coincide?

I've loved historical fiction set in Scotland, ever since I was a child (when I was hooked on Nigel Trantner), so I could hardly resist when I was offered the chance to interview Laura Vosike, author of the Water is Wide. Join me as I learn more about Scotland, the book and the author.

Laura, I'll just go pour some coffee while readers find out about you and your book.

Laura Vosika is a writer, poet, and musician. Her time travel series, The Blue Bells Chronicles, set in modern and medieval Scotland, has garnered praise and comparisons to writers as diverse as Diana Gabaldon and Dostoevsky. Her poetry has been published in The Moccasin and The Martin Lake Journal 2017.
She has been featured in newspapers, on radio, and TV, has spoken for regional book events, and hosted the radio program Books and Brews. She currently teaches writing at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.
As a musician, Laura has performed as on trombone, flute, and harp, in orchestras, and big bands. She lives in Brooklyn park with 5 of her 9 children, 3 cats, and an Irish Wolfhound.
Her latest book is the time travel/historical fiction, The Water is Wide.



After his failure to escape back to his own time, Shawn is sent with Niall on the Bruce’s business. They criss-cross Scotland and northern England, working for the Bruce and James Douglas, as they seek ways to get Shawn home to Amy and his own time.

Returning from the Bruce’s business, to Glenmirril, Shawn finally meets the mysterious Christina. Despite his vow to finally be faithful to Amy, his feelings for Christina grow.

In modern Scotland, having already told Angus she’s pregnant, Amy must now tell him Shawn is alive and well—in medieval Scotland. Together, they seek a way to bring him back across time.

They are pursued by Simon Beaumont, esteemed knight in the service of King Edward, has also passed between times. Having learned that Amy’s son will kill him—he seeks to kill the infant James first.

The book concludes with MacDougall’s attack on Glenmirril, Amy and Angus’s race to be there and Shawn’s attempt to reach the mysterious tower through the battling armies.

Ah, here's the coffee, and what was it you wanted Laura...? Here we go. And now...

Which came first for you: poetry, music or stories?

Technically, poetry came first--but didn't really last long. I remember sitting outside when I was 8, writing a poem. At ten, I was working on a novel about a boy who is kidnapped for ransom, but such trouble his captors try to return him and are charged ransom by his parents to do so. Sound familiar? Then I discovered Ransom of Red Chief on my mother's book shelf, decided it had been done, and turned to other stories.

Career-wise, however, music came first. I started playing trombone freelance in high school and college, where I majored in music. I've spent the last 29 years performing and teaching.

Which musical instrument came first: trombone, flute or harp?

Actually--organ came first!


I got kicked out of lessons when I was 7, thank goodness! Mrs. Knecht and I were both much happier after that! But when I decided I wanted to play trombone, I had a big head start in being able to read music. So trombone was second. then came clarinet, saxophone, and flute must have been fifth or sixth. I bought one and taught myself to play in tenth grade, which was also the year I borrowed a school bassoon to play in the lower level band. 

I started harp in my 30s, when my pastor asked the choir director what else I played. She brazenly bragged, "Whatever you want her to!" The next day there was a harp on my door step, as she informed me I'd be playing on the altar in front of hundreds of people, in two months! I was quite happy with the situation, as I'd always wanted to play harp.

Which instrument best matches your book, The Water is Wide? Or which best matches the characters?

Definitely trombone! Shawn Kleiner, modern musician, plays trombone, while Niall, the medieval Highland warrior, plays harp. (Actually, Shawn plays a bit of everything, Amy plays violin, Angus plays bagpipes, and the cast consists of Amy's friends and colleagues in her orchestra.) 

But the book is set largely in the years 1315 to 1317, in the wake of Bannockburn, when Scotland was still fighting England, trying to lead the Irish in revolt against English rule. The Welsh were rising under the leadership of Llywelyn Bren. I love harp--but when you have Valkyrie, Darth Vader, and great battles, musically speaking, you call in the trombones!

There is another meaning, though, to the title of the series and the first book: Blue Bells of Scotland. It is a showcase theme and variations on the folk song, to show that a trombone could be far more than people thought. This is an analogy for Shawn himself. In the first book of the series, we see him as a hard-drinking, arrogant womanizer. His girlfriend, Amy, has always believed there's more to him than the obnoxious party animal he shows the world. In The Water is Wide, we see him live ever more up to her faith in him, as he grows ever more into the good parts of himself that he was always capable of.

Okay, you've almost convinced me. Trombone as an analogy for a man sounds cool, and you're making me believe there's more to the instrument than I'd thought. So... Where do music and time-travel intersect?

What an interesting question! I'd say they intersect in the sense that people of every time and place are drawn to music. It is a human instinct, a need, even, to sing, to play music, to listen to music. 

In The Blue Bells Chronicles, and especially in The Water is Wide, where Shawn and Niall spend much more time together, the shared love of, and talent for, music is a tool that first loosens the original animosity between these very different men, and then helps forge a deepening friendship. It's a tool they use throughout the series--to comfort, to boost morale, to hide in plain sight as minstrels, to win over people in their attempt to help the Bruce and Scotland.

And, of course, you're musical. But is that all that draws you to time travel? And what do you think draws readers to it?

I have always loved time travel, starting with In the Keep of Time, a children's novel about four siblings in the 1970s who go into Smailholm Tower in Scotland and come out in the 1500s. (Readers of The Blue Bells Chronicles will recognize this means of switching times!) 

I suppose I'm drawn to it because I spent my earliest years in Germany, surrounded by medieval castles and towns, by great history, both in Germany and on trips to England, the Mediterranean, and Spain. I later lived on the East Coast, visiting Monitcello, historic Williamsburg, Jamestown, Gettysburg, Harper's Ferry, Kitty Hawk and no doubt more I've forgotten--many of them places where history comes to life with historic actors. 

History has very much been a backdrop of my life and it opens a window to see how different these people seem from us because of their clothing, speech, tools, and more. And yet they are like us in their hopes, fears, love, heartbreak, joy, and grief; in their choices to act with nobility or with cowardice, to support another even if it cost them their lives or to betray a friend to save themselves. 

By reading about their lives and choices--whether historical or fictional--we learn a lot about life and what we want our own choices to be, what we want a reader to look back on our lives and say about us. Were we the inept Edward II or were we the Bruce, fighting with all he had for his people?

I think readers (and I myself) love to think about what it was like to live in another time. Ours can seem dull and full of drudgery because it's familiar and common to us. We're curious about these exotic times and people. We romanticize other eras--the graceful elegance of the antebellum, castle and knights, the courage and determination of the men who stormed Normandy, the strength and adventurous seafaring spirit of the Vikings. 

I think deep down we wonder--would we still be the same person if we lived in that era and deeper still--we want to believe we would have been the hero, the one who stood courageously, risked all. We want to believe we would have been the William Wallace. 

Time travel puts a modern person into these situations, lets us fulfill our curiosity and live vicariously in these worlds as we follow the modern character encountering the foreign and exotic and think what we would do, if we were that protagonist.

Cool! What a great answer; thank you. It sounds like you must do a lot of historical research do you do?

 An extreme amount!

And how many real characters do you use in your novels?

 I try to be as historically accurate as current knowledge allows. I've studied the Gaelic language that Niall and the people of Glenmirril would have spoken. I've traveled to Scotland five times to visit most of the places in the books. I've climbed the Eildon Hills where Shawn and Niall, running out of ideas, hope for a magical way home for Shawn via the Fairy Queen who met Thomas the Rhymer there. I've gone to Carlisle, where they are sent by the Bruce to spy on the English, visited the castle there that was commanded by Harclay at the time, and seen the dungeons Amy learns about, where prisoners licked the walls to try to get any sort of water. I've stood in the place where the orchard stood, where Emaline and Duraina and all the girls romanced by 'Brom' the minstrel (who is really both Shawn and Niall), gather to confront 'Brom' as Shawn/Brom desperately tries to escape the incoming MacDougall who would dearly like a second chance at hanging Niall.

The means by which Shawn and Niall escape Carlisle exists exactly where I have placed it! It is my dumb luck that archaeologists discovered it not long before I started researching for a way to get them out of a walled and sealed city with English soldiers hunting every house for them. I'll leave it to the reader to read the book and find out what that means is!

Even with characters, I keep it as historically accurate as possible. In the pages of The Water is Wide,  and the series, the reader meets Robert the Bruce, the greatest King of Scots, his hot-headed younger brother, Edward, and his greatest friend and right hand man, the gentle giant, the military genius and ferocious fighter, James Douglas. We meet Harclay. Lame John of Lorne, Lennox, Angus Og, Christina MacRuari, the Earl of Dunbar--all lived and were in the places I have put them exactly as it happens in the story. 

Thomas the Rhymer--aka Thomas Laird of Erceldoune, aka True Thomas--because one moniker is never enough!--is, amazingly enough, a historical figure and his story, as relayed in The Water is Wide, is exactly what history tells us.

Even 'the Butcher of Berwick' is a historical figure. I made the name up, but history tells us there was an English soldier at Berwick who did exactly the deed I have assigned to the evil Simon Beaumont, esteemed knight in the service of King Edward.

Okay, so coffee time's almost up. What's the most important thing you'd like to tell readers about The Water is Wide?

There are many scenes I especially love in The Water is Wide. In some ways, it's my favorite 'child.' I think each book can be enjoyed on its own, and the reader can get a good feel for what has come before, but The Water is Wide is the third book in a five book trilogy (there really is a three part arc to the story) that tells the story of Shawn Kleiner, drinking, gambling, womanizing, self-centered modern musician, who gets caught in the medieval world and battles of Robert the Bruce, who lives side by side with his medieval look-alike, Niall Campbell, who is all that Shawn is not--loyal, self-sacrificing, dutiful, honorable, and more. It is a story of time travel, mysteries and miracles, adventure, romance, and, ultimately, redemption, that begins with Book One, Blue Bells of Scotland. So if you'd like to jump in to The Water, you can, and if you want to start from the beginning, grab Blue Bells of Scotland and The Minstrel Boy.

Thank you so much, Laura. The Water is Wide sounds a great read; I love the idea of a five-book trilogy! And I love the blend of modern musician and ancient world... and... well, all the other things you're blending here.

Readers can find a link to a trailer below, and to where they can purchase the book on Amazon. Enjoy! Meanwhile, I'll wish you luck with sales and with writing Laura.

Watch the Trailer:




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