Women Writers in the Highlands

HighlandLIT

In April I spent an enjoyable evening as part of a panel in Inverness, hosted by HighlandLIT. We discussed

‘Women Writers in the  Highlands’.

We were a varied group, both in age and as writers. Helen Forbes and Margaret Kirk are both accomplished writers of crime thrillers set in Inverness, Morven-May MacCallum has written a moving account of a teenager suffering from the aftermath of Lyme’s disease and my speciality is historical novels set in the Highlands. However we have Highland ancestry in common and Highland women are renowned for their toughness and resilience!

We covered a range of subjects, including how male authors expect praise for portraying “strong women”. Does this imply that strong women are unusual and therefore most  women are weak?

Also debated was the issue of why Highland stereotypes are still so popular, especially the kilted, brooding Jacobite hero (red-haired of course).

There were plenty of lively observations from the audience which contributed to a memorable evening.

The Travelling Bookseller

Since the launch of ‘No Safe Anchorage’ I’ve been travelling around Skye and further afield to Inverness, talking to all sorts of different groups and selling copies of the book. I’ve also been a travelling bookseller, taking books, not only to bookshops but to Skye’s Gaelic College, craft shops, post Offices, galleries and petrol stations. My journeys were mostly by car but I also took the ferry over to the island of Raasay, close to Rona where the story begins.

 

Talk to Dunvegan Ladies

 

Talk with Dunvegan Ladies

Aros Community Theatre

Sabhal Mor Ostaig

The Raasay Ferry

Skeabost, Skye

Inverness Book Reading

My Second Novel – ‘No Safe Anchorage,’ – to be published October 2017.

I’m very excited by this prospect. Like ‘Love and Music Will Endure’ it is set in the nineteenth century but in other respects it is very different. Robert Louis Stevenson makes a guest appearance but the main character, Lieutenant Tom Masters is a creation of my imagination. The action moves from the Highlands of Scotland to Canada.

I shall write more about the story nearer publication but for now I shall quote the comments made by Donald S. Murray. He’s the acclaimed author of, ‘Herring Tales,’ ‘The Guga Stone’ and many other books of both prose and poetry.

An evocative and fast-moving tale set in Skye and the West Highlands, ‘No Safe Anchorage,’ like its title, swirls with risks and dangers. It invokes the spirit of Robert Louis Stevenson whose childhood it portrays. With its sharpness of dialogue and tight, concise description, it also conjures up hat writer in other ways, creating an adventure story that is as breathless and exciting as some of that nineteenth century novelist’s work.’

Recent talks

Since publishing my book I’ve done numerous readings across Scotland, from the Western Isles to Selkirk in the Borders and Wigtown in Dumfries and Galloway. This has been an enjoyable and stimulating process.

More recently I’ve embarked on a different kind of talk,’Researching the life of Mairi Mhor – reconciling fact and fiction.’ I’ve spoken to full houses at the Gaelic Society of Inverness and for Portree Local History on Skye.

The Gaelic Society of Inverness has a prestigious history. It was established by Charles Fraser MacKintosh, M.P. one of the leaders of the Land Reform movement. Mairi campaigned for him and helped him gain election as a Crofter M.P. The Society attracts eminent academics to speak at its meetings. So I found it quite a daunting experience. However I believe it’s important to publicise the thorough research done by historical novelists as some famous historians, David Starkey for example, has stated,’We really should stop taking historical novelists seriously as historians. The idea that they have authority is ludricious.’ That’s a view that should be challenged!