CARROTS, MEMORIES AND THE RISE OF THE SMALL SCOTTISH PRESS

It’s half past eleven, and I have already written 1,800 words today, so I’m well pleased with myself and thought I ought to add a little blog post before I take the dog out for a walk. He is looking at me expectantly, but I’m choosing to ignore him for now.

I’m very excited about this new novel. I have 53,000 words so far, but I’m keeping shtum. No title as yet. It’s set in Scotland, it’s topical but I’m not saying why. It explores a topic I feel strongly about – one of humanity and our lack of it at the moment – but again, I’m not saying anything more.

What I will say though is that I have found myself drawing on personal experiences from when I was 14 years of age, which was a surprise to me. It just happened as I wrote. I found myself writing about the carrot-topping shed I worked in one Easter Holidays in the rural Norfolk village where I grew up, and remembering how rough it seemed to me. We had to pull carrots across a blade in the work bench in front of us, and when I cut my hand there was little sympathy from the foreman, who was a scary woman with biceps, who threw a whole crate-load of carrots back at me when I hadn’t topped them properly. (They were hard with frost). We were paid by the crate, so that was a couple of hours’ work lost, which felt like a lifetime. I earned £20 in 2 weeks, and spent the money on clothes, which I remember really well. THIS IS TRUE. So I’ve used this in my novel, together with the experience of being bullied in school through a six-month period which I have NEVER forgotten, and which makes me feel very strongly about the impact of bullying on pupils. Or on anyone, for that matter…

As well as this, I have a whole load of school visits lined up – Breadalbane Academy on Tuesday, then Bellshill and Cumbernauld Academy the following week, plus three separate events in Craigmillar, and another in Cowie.

I’m also aware that the launch of my first adult novel FOR MY SINS about Mary, Queen of Scots, is looming on the horizon. That will be in January, and I’m very much looking forward to planning the event, thinking about what I might say, sound effects, images, music, lights… atmosphere… etc.

Have also been reading an amazingly good book lately, published by a relatively small Scottish press, Freight Books. It’s called THE HOUSE BETWEEN TIDES by Sarah Maine, and is so inspiring. I loved it, and I’m quite chuffed by the positive growth of small Scottish presses at the moment. Contraband/Saraband, a small Scottish press, have managed to get one of their titles shortlisted for the Booker!!! HIS BLOODY PROJECT. I haven’t read it yet, but the structure looks really interesting and original, and reminds me of THE MOONSTONE by Wilkie Collins, which I studied at school under a teacher called Mrs Fraymouth. She had a very grumpy persona which went with her name, but I liked her. She was good…

Sorry about the bizarre title, but when I’m writing all morning I zone out into Alex-land, a place of strange thought and emotion. Here I am looking thoughtful in the graveyard which I live not far from. And there’s MARY, looking mysterious and capable of great treachery and plotting. She looks as if she knows too much, and has found out that her friends can’t be trusted…. (I love it…)

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