Trouble at the ScriptoriumSynopsis: Harley is a twelve-year-old servant boy at a castle north of London in the thirteenth century. Lady Margaret, also twelve, is the daughter of the castle's lord. Together they must puzzle out a message hidden
in a book of Gregorian chant. There's something very suspicious going on at the scriptorium where the book was made, and people's lives are in danger!
The Magic of Reality
I wrote Trouble at the Scriptorium for two main reasons:
1) I have a master’s degree in medieval music, and I wanted to share some of that fascinating information with kids by presenting it in a fun, exciting story.
2) It was the height of Harry Potter obsession (about four years ago), and I was tired of “medievalist” ideas always being presented as fantasy.
And so, I plunged into my first historical novel. I decided to set it in 13th-century England. I invented a protagonist, a twelve-year-old servant boy named Harley, who lives in a castle north of London. He needed to have a natural interest in music (his father’s a jester and his uncle is the choirmaster at a monastery), but not be a musician himself, so he could learn along with the reader.
I had no idea how to write a mystery, but I knew I wanted to focus on Gregorian chant. The crafting of books is a wonderful topic, so I combined those two ideas: Harley discovers that a newly-made book of Gregorian chant has one of its painted illuminations missing.
At first, Harley assumes this is a most unfortunate error, but he’s especially concerned about it because the book is a name-day present for the lady of his castle. (A “name day” was the special feast day for the saint a person was named after; this tradition is still practiced in some parts of the world.)
Lady Ursula has also just had her family jewels stolen, so she’s already upset. This makes Harley desperate to cover up or fix the problem with the chant book. But the more he learns about the book, the more problems he discovers in it. Eventually he realizes it contains a hidden message, which he cracks with the help of Lady Ursula’s beautiful, brilliant daughter, Lady Margaret.
I tried to make Trouble at the Scriptorium accurate and detailed, yet also an entertaining mystery that would appeal to intelligent kids. Creating it inspired me to continue writing historical fiction specifically for the middle-grade market (I’ve already written a sequel to Trouble at the Scriptorium!). I enjoy the special challenges it offers.
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Here are some fun links about Harley's world.
You can learn more about Anne E. Johnson at her website.
You can learn more about Anne E. Johnson at her website.
For updates on Anne’s publications and appearances, like her Facebook author page.
You can buy Trouble at the Scriptorium directly from Royal Fireworks Press.
This just in: Anne has signed a contract for the sequel to Trouble at the Scriptorium! Harley and Lady Margeret have another adventure in their future: The London Hurdy Gurdy.
Thanks for hosting, Anne, Ruth. Anne, what a creative way to use your background in medieval music. I also find it refreshing that you write across genres - for kids and adults. How have your branded yourself? (This was just an issue of discussion over at Kelly Hashway's blog.)ReplyDelete
I did just talk about that. How timely! :)Delete
Branding has been a point of much consideration for me. I seem to be settling into two separate brands: MG historical fiction and adult sci fi. We'll see how that works out!Delete
Congrats to Anne on this book and the new contract. Such exciting news!ReplyDelete
Ruth, thank you for this intro to Anne! Anne, congratulations on your books! Thank you for sharing. :)ReplyDelete
Thanks, Kelly and Karen. It thrills me anytime people show an interest in my work. Amazing to me that the little stories in my head can be developed into something that other people get excited about.ReplyDelete
Interesting that medieval historical fiction is so often confused with fantasy. Congrats -- great inspiration.ReplyDelete
Congrats on the whirlwind of success, Anne! Medieval mystery & music sound like an intriguing combination. This is definitely for the kids who like to challenge themselves intellectually.ReplyDelete
Ruth, I am so excited about Scriptorium, and to think there's going to be a sequel! Fun, fun, fun. My kids will eat this up. Congratulations Anne!!!ReplyDelete
I love the medieval period and since Anne has a background in the music of that time, I'm looking forward to reading the details she'll be able to put into her story. Congratulations and good luck with this, Anne.ReplyDelete
Anne's book sounds riveting. I wish I knew more about medieval music. She wrote about what she knows, which is a good starting point. This one is a must-get-it.ReplyDelete
This book looks so exciting! Can't wait to read it :)ReplyDelete
Thanks for stopping by, everyone. It really was a fun project to put all of this rather obscure knowledge into a kids' story. I hope it's as much fun to read as it was to write!ReplyDelete
I love that Anne used her expertise in medieval music! Thanks for the introduction Ruth! :)ReplyDelete
That sounds like a really great book, Anne! Gregorian Chant is some of the prettiest music written. I love the way it looks on paper, too... so different from traditional musical notation. Congratulations!ReplyDelete
Thanks for interviewing, Ruth. ;-)
Oh, I like the sound of Anne's historical fiction book. It combines many elements I love -- the medievil period and music. Sounds like a great read! I love Gregorian chants. Thanks for the interview Ruth!ReplyDelete
Coleen, Katrina, and Patricia, thanks for checking in! Yes, Gregorian chant is fascinating music. On my website I link to a recording of the chant featured in the novel!ReplyDelete
Huge congrats on the book. How every exciting:)ReplyDelete
Congrats Anne on all of your success! So exciting!ReplyDelete
Anne's work sounds FASCINATING... I'm very intrigued!ReplyDelete
Thanks for hosting Anne, Ruth! The book sounds great, and it was fun to hear about how it came to be.ReplyDelete
Ruth, off topic for a moment:ReplyDelete
I've tagged you for an award. I think you're one of the most amazing bloggers I know.
I'm a big fan of KidLit based on historic events...fascinating, Anne! I'm checking out your website, too...thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.ReplyDelete
Ruth ~ Thanks for having Anne as a guest blogger - I'm definitely going to purchase Scriptorium!ReplyDelete
Wow, this MG book sounds like an award winner. And, yes, what a whirlwind success! Awesome!ReplyDelete
Congratulations to Anne. Best wishes for great success with all her books.
Thanks for sharing all this exciting news with us, Ruth!
Ruth, thanks for introducing me to Anne E. Johnson.ReplyDelete
Anne, sounds like a busy, exciting year for you. Fascinating to hear how you came up with the idea for your novel using your background.
What an impressive way to create a plot for a novel. You've certainly got me wanting to read more.ReplyDelete
I'm humbled by all these kind and encouraging comments. I hope everyone who reads Scriptorium thoroughly enjoys it.ReplyDelete
Writing historical fiction is hard work. It sounds like you are doing a brilliant job, Anne.ReplyDelete
Congrats to Anne on her achievements! I am so curious about her books and I cannot wait to read Scriptorium. It just sounds fabulous and I enjoy a good HF book. I loved hearing how she came up with the idea for the story. Wishing her much success!ReplyDelete
This sounds so good. I'm fascinated by anything to do with the scribes of old.ReplyDelete
How fascinating. I do like books that take place in another country and it sounds like Harley is a very interesting character.ReplyDelete
Yay, Anne you're on fire. Scriptorium sounds yummy.ReplyDelete
Hi Ruth, first time visitor stopping in from Facebook to say hello. And good luck to Ann and her book Trouble at the Scriptorium!ReplyDelete
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