Last night, as Storm Ophelia was whipping up the sands of the Sahara with her skirts – causing a bit of a storm on FB and predictions of the end of the world – I gave a talk to a Women’s Guild of St.Blane’s on my novel FOR MY SINS. They were a lovely audience – so sweet, intelligent and literate – not addicted to any kind of technology, and as a result, thoughtful and observant. Never dismiss people based on gender and age. If you are young, you will be elderly one day, and if you are a man, you might even become a woman one day. Well, mostly probably not… but my point is that a female audience with an average age of 70 is a brilliant audience. We all share the same issues, no matter what age, and when I talked about there being no concept of rape in 1567 when Mary was “abducted” by Bothwell, and that historians maybe missed that point over the years, you could have heard a pin drop.
Here are some more pics of other recent events – where I have been taking my workshop The Art of the Ghost Story to the masses, to the people, to the readers and writers of the future… (not the masses actually but Chryston High School for their Literacy Festival, and Portobello Book Festival where I was very excited by the fact I could have tea on the beach in the morning!)
Long Live Literacy and Librarians. Especially when they invite me to their schools and offer me home-baking. That’s always a plus in my book.
I’m offering two workshop sessions to schools and colleges inspired by my latest novel FOR MY SINS, a historical novel about Mary, Queen of Scots, sitting in her prison cell at the end of her life, a prisoner to Queen Elizabeth, stitching her tapestries while being haunted by the ghosts of her past. It’s receiving 5 star reviews and has been quoted as “a masterclass in historical fiction.”
The first workshop – TENSIONS IN SCOTTISH HISTORY – will be a talk on Mary, Queen of Scots, and this period of Scottish History (1542-1587), the conflicts and tensions, together with a Q&A session. This is suitable for History students at Higher, Advanced Higher, and University level to help with engagement of the subject and bringing the topic to life in a memorable way.
The second workshop HOW TO WRITE A HISTORICAL NOVEL is suitable for Higher, Advanced Higher, and undergraduates and graduates of English and Creative Writing, and will explore the pleasures and pitfalls of writing historical fiction, offering 5 inspirational ways to make it work for you.
As well as being a writer I am also an experienced English teacher. I teach and mentor English students at Higher and Advanced Higher.
Please be in touch if you would like to arrange either or both of these workshops for your students.
It has been a busy couple of weeks launching my latest title FOR MY SINS, a historical novel for adults about Mary Queen of Scots. And Mary herself appeared at my first launch in Blackwell’s, Edinburgh. She sat very demurely to one side like a pale ghost (courtesy of Artemis Scotland) while I talked about the writing of FMS in front of windows that rattled and shook in a storm. We were yards away from the scene of Darnley’s murder at Kirk o’ Field.
The next stop was Waterstones, Byres Road, and tonight it will be my local library, Dunblane. I’ve been taking my audience on a mental journey into the past. I am the curator of that journey, guiding them into that distant realm which we can only imagine, where darkness held sway, where death was an everyday occurrence, and there was definitely no WiFi… Here are some pics of me flapping my arms about.
While the wind wails outside my window – it’s June in Scotland – I’ve put the final full-stop on the first draft of DARKER ENDS for my publisher Fledgling Press. It’s set in Glencoe so the howling gales are appropriate, I suppose. Now I’ve started on my fourth novel. When I met with Clare at the NLS the other week, I happened to mention the Mary Queen of Scots novel I wrote when I lived in Edinburgh 25 years ago as a young student, and her face lit up. She wanted to see that too. I then remembered that I’d moved house several times since, and might well have lost my only original copy. So I went home and did a frantic search. Found it in the attic and hoovered off 15 years of dust, trying not to rip the title page with the nozzle. Spiders ran for cover and I laughed in delight – before hoovering up one or two of said spiders due to phobia.
I wrote that novel FOR MY SINS with an absolute passion in my twenties. I’m happy to rediscover that passion, and that’s what I’ll be working on over the summer. And to relax?
Amateur Dramatics! I’ve got the lead in a one-act comedy called What’s For Pudding? Bossy insufferable woman with a club book and an abrasive manner set in the 1980s! It’s such a giggle, especially all the backstage drama. One of the more controlling members of the group decided to do an impromptu health and safety test on the opening night. Tried out the smoke machine under the stairs and set the alarm off 5 mins before curtain call. Fire brigade arrived looking fed up and tempers flared! It was very funny…
Anyway, back to serious matters. I have been searching for book cover ideas for DARKER ENDS with the help of several pupils from various schools during workshop visits. Here are one or two
cover ideas for DARKER ENDS created by pupils