Lives of Characters by Laura Vosika
Contrasting lives. It is a counter-melody running through Blue Bells of Scotland, a novel about time travel, switching places, and the Battle of Bannockburn in medieval Scotland. The story revolves around two men who are, apart from their identical looks, complete opposites. Shawn is a self-centered, womanizing musician of the twenty-first century. Niall is a devout Highland warrior in the dawn of the fourteenth, ready to sacrifice everything for his country and those he loves. Shawn and Niall, however, switch places and end up caught in one another’s lives. Through the people around them, each learns what the other is like. Neither is impressed. Worse yet, to the dismay of both, they find they have many similarities. They’re both brash and over-confident; both have energy, drive, determination, and a sense of humor, and had they lived the same lives, they might not be so different, after all.
But Shawn grew up in a modern world of opportunities, choices, gentle parenting, and high personal expectations for happiness. In the face of tragedy, he decides to get all he can out of life and live for himself, not selflessly, a trait he associates with gullibility and getting yourself killed. He buries himself in parties, gambling, drinking, women, and pursuing music with passion and energy. He spends sleepless nights in a flurry of activity, arranging music and marketing himself and his orchestra. Through vision, determination, and hard work, he has lifted the orchestra to heights of which they never dreamed. But he largely regards it as ‘his’ orchestra, and knows little about anyone in it, not even his best friends.
Niall, by contrast, has grown up in the harsh world of medieval Scotland: hard work, hard discipline, famine, cold, disease. He takes hard physical punishment and Death is a regular visitor. He has spent his youth being educated in languages, music, and warfare, knowing he will marry the laird’s daughter and one day take on the weighty responsibility of his castle and all its people. He takes his duties to these people seriously. He has grown up with them, knows their lives, their families, their histories, and cares deeply about each one. He remembers the births of the young boys he now trains to fight. When the thieving MacDougalls steal their cattle, he is at the forefront retrieving them so his people will not go hungry. Like Shawn, Niall has lost a loved one to violent death. Unlike Shawn, it motivates him to work harder and sacrifice more to make a better world so that his own children never suffer as he has. He takes his father’s selflessness and sacrifice as a model of how a man behaves.
I have always found the study of lives—real or fictional—worthwhile. An examination of how others live, their choices, and the repercussions of those choices helps us chart our own course more wisely. I have really enjoyed writing Shawn and Niall’s contrasting lives and exploring the way our surroundings and our own choices interact to create who we become.
Laura Vosika grew up in the military, visiting castles in England, pig fests in Germany, and the historic sites of America’s east coast.
She earned a degree in music, and worked for many years as a freelance musician, music teacher, band director, and instructor in private music lessons on harp, piano, winds, and brass.
Laura is the mother of 7 boys and 2 girls, and lives in Minnesota.
Her latest book is Blue Bells of Scotland: The Trilogy.
You can visit her website at www.bluebellstrilogy.com.