Barbara Henderson

I can hardly contain my excitement to share with you my newest Interview with the amazing Barbara Henderson, the author of The Siege of Caerlaverock (2020), Black Water (2019), Wilderness Wars (2018), Punch (2017) and Fir for Luck (2016).

Sometimes you come across a book were the plot sounds so good that the only thing to do is to take it home and read it immediately. This happened to me when I came across The Siege of Caerlaverock. In the first place I bought it for my boys, but then I decided to read it myself first as it sounded very interesting and after that I couldn’t put it down. As I said in a previous article were I reviewed it I was so happy that I was able to join the release party where I was able to meet the author of The Siege of Caerlaverock.

The way that Barbara explain her book and the passion that she showed towards it made me feel curious about her other work and I wondered what else she had released. I approached Barbara with the idea of an interview and she kindly accepted and was extremely helpful and really friendly. 

Barbara writes mostly Scottish Historical Fiction for young children, although adults love her writing as well. Her books have the ability to transport you inside the story and are educational which is great as children can learn the history of different Scottish places and periods through historical fiction.

Barbara has been awarded prizes in several national and international short-story competitions and was one of three writers short-listed for the Kelpies Prize 2013 with a previous novel manuscript (Never Back).

Recently she was awarded with Creative Scotland funding for a wonderful new project called ‘Scottish by Inclination’ and in the interview she gives us a glimpse into it. This project is going to be a bit different from what she has written before but I am sure that whatever she writes is going to be epic.

Here is the Interview and hope you all enjoy getting to know her a little bit.


Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Sure, I moved to Scotland from Germany as a teenager and never looked back. My degree was in English Literature and Language, and I spent some time teaching English and Drama in secondary schools before taking a job as a primary Drama specialist – which allowed me to focus on my writing more. I am the author of five books and the mum of three amazing youngsters. I live in Inverness with my husband, son and Mini-Schnauzer as the girls have flown the nest!

You write stories set in real world historical locations and incorporating historical events and details for a young audience. What led you to writing this sort of fiction?

To be honest, it was a bit of an accident. I had written six other books in other genres (fantasy/contemporary/dystopian…) but when I stumbled across the real-life story of the Highland Clearances on a Sutherland camping holiday, I really wanted to tell its story. I had always assumed that I couldn’t do historical subjects justice because I am naturally more of a big picture person and not such a meticulous researcher. It turned out that I could become obsessed with research if the subject interested me enough. Fir for Luck was my first published novel. 

What kind of research do you do while preparing to write a new story and at what stage of the process is this done?

It is never done! But I have learned over the years, that a sprinkling is enough. I will read around the subject for some weeks before starting to write. If something is interesting enough to stick in my mind, I tend to assume it’s interesting enough to go in the book! Too much detail can be a hindrance to the storytelling, and I wouldn’t want that. I wouldn’t want kids to feel lectured, if you know what I mean. Sometimes you find a really cool bit of research just before the manuscript goes to print, and you have to relax and say ‘It’s good enough,’ but that is hard!

Where do you get these amazing ideas and inspiration for your books?

Much of my inspiration comes from places I visit, or interesting snippets in books I read. It’s almost like being a translator – you see something that you understand, and you turn it into a format a different audience may engage with. A story may already be out there in its facts.

What do you think it makes a story good?

Pace, compelling characters we care about, the right amount of quirky detail, high stakes, a villain reader can visualise, amazing setting … – lots of things.

What would you tell someone from your young audience who wished to become an author?

Work on your writing and read it aloud. Take on board suggestions. Read, read, read as much as you can. And when you’ve done all of that – Never, ever, ever give up.

I have really enjoyed your books. Are you working on anything at the moment and will there be another book released?

Yes, a Norse/Viking book will be released next year, and I am really excited about it. It explores how the Lewis Chessmen may have come to Scotland.

You mentioned that you recently were awarded with Creative Scotland funding. Can you tell us a bit about this new project of yours?

Sure! This is a complete departure from children’s books for me. I will be writing an episodic memoir called Scottish by Inclination. Throughout the book, I will also showcase the stories of other EU migrants to Scotland who have made their mark on this country in some way. I am really enjoying the process and so delighted to have got a bit of funding towards it – especially as I can’t do school visits at this time which I love – and which brings in half my income normally.

Thank you so much Barbara for this amazing interview it was a real honour to get to know you and your writing a bit more.

I absolutely recommend all her books especially for children in the middle years of school (8-12) and for adults as well. Cranachan has published Barbaras books and we can find her books on it’s website. Here is the link and hope you all enjoy them ☺️

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