It’s criminal how busy this month has been (see what I did there?) I’ve been working on the new book, which is more of a crime novel than the last one. It was a surprise that some people thought Dark Water was crime – it wasn’t what I had intended, but I’m happy to have it in that genre. On the back of this I’ve joined the CWA in the hopes I’ll get some tips from other Crime Writers and keep up to date with what is going on in that world. I’ve always been a fan of Crime novels. I am a member of Orkney Book Club – Saturday Slaughters – the one JK Rowling visited and have learnt so much from that group about what works and what doesn’t. So, the next book will be as much for them as anyone.
I had a feature published in Good Housekeeping (Feb issue), which is about my return to Orkney. Getting the article written was a story in itself. I knew my publishers had approached GH to see if they would promote my novel in their Books page, but we missed the deadline, so I wasn’t hopeful. However, what I hadn’t realised was that they’d also mentioned the story behind Dark Water and how I’d returned to Orkney after 37 years.
I was on my way to London for the London launch and had just got off the plane when I got an email from Jacqui, my publisher asking me to call her. She said that GH were interested in publishing the story on their Real Lives page, what did I think? If I agreed, the editor would call me later with details.
I’d arranged to meet friends I’d not see for a long time in central London and have cocktails at the fanciest bar we could find before going somewhere for dinner. It’s rare these days for me to go to London so I was going to make the most of the few days I had. I’d arranged pretty much back to back reunions with the book launch slotted in. And I wanted to shop and see my daughters. Jackie Brown, the editor rang me a few hours later as I was changing to go out for my first round of partying, she was lovely and asked if I’d be able to get her 600 word outline by the next morning, she was sending over samples of previous articles to give me an idea of what they were after.
Her email came in as texts from my friends started bleeping ‘Where are you!’
Fine. In the taxi I read through quickly what she’d sent. I could do this. I wasn’t sure when, but I could do it. I’d told my story countless times to people, surely I could write it down.
It was a good night. The friends were my Women’s History group that I’d known for over 20 years and we had a lot of catching up to do.
I wrote the 600 words over breakfast, with several cups of coffee following a cool shower and some Alka Seltzer. Isn’t this what journalism was all about? Writing through the hangover? I can tell you, I sobered up faster than I have ever done before and kicked myself for not doing it before I’d gone out. But something must have been OK, because I got the commission and I had a week to write the full 1600 words plus photos.
In the end it was a photo of me with Dad’s bench that was the hardest to do – the weather in Orkney at that time of year is either windy or rainy, or both. Eventually we found a day when the sun came through and Les, my husband drove us up to the bench to take as many photos as we could before the next band of rain came along.
In the end, it has been Les who has had the most response from the article – he even got asked for his autograph in the pub!
As February begins, the light starts to come back. Morning sunrises are pink and orange, tipped with mauve and I sit in the porch watching the sun come up earlier and earlier each week. I am so lucky to live in this wonderful place, that both inspires and feeds the soul. In the current political climate it is all the more special for me to be in this place at this time.