VEH Masters was born and grew up on a farm just outside of St. Andrews in Fife. She attended school in the town from aged 4, first at Madras Primary and then at Madras College in South Street.
The first time she was inside St. Andrews Castle was when her history teacher, Miss Grubb, took the class on a visit, aged 12.
‘I was fascinated, especially when we crept down the siege tunnel, and peered into the bottle dungeon where Cardinal Beaton’s body is said to have been kept, pickled in salt.’
The siege of St Andrews Castle was covered briefly in school but was very much about the martyrdom of George Wishart, and, before him, Patrick Hamilton. Cardinal Beaton was described as an evil man and the men who murdered him “did the right thing”. There was only passing mention of Henry VIII’s involvement or the complex politics.
‘When I heard that they called themselves the Castilians,’ she says, ‘I remember this shiver of excitement. It seemed the perfect title for a book.’
‘I studied history at Stirling University, which was a radical place in those days,’ she says. ‘It was taught from a Marxist perspective and, again, no Scottish history.’
Her second novel, The Conversos continues the story of Bethia and Will. ‘When I began The Castilians I had no thought of a sequel but my two main characters are very young – I was curious to find out what happened for them next – and we end up in Antwerp as well as Scotland and England.’
Again there is a family connection – her husband’s ancestors fled the inquisition in Spain and then Portugal, ultimately emigrating, via the United States, to England. ‘It was fascinating and terrifying in equal measure to uncover the background to their story,’ she says.
Book Three, The Apostates finds the family fleeing across Europe. They end up in Venice, where Jews could live openly – under certain conditions.
V E H Masters… firstname.lastname@example.org