Filling the gaps
I'm just back from Shetland, where I spent a week in Whalsay and a week in Fair Isle. In my last diary entry I spoke about the importance of concentration and of saving research until the skeleton of the story has been constructed. That's when I fill in the gaps. My time in Shetland gave me the opportunity to carry out some of that research. I had an afternoon with Ian Best, who builds beautiful traditional Shetland boats. Sitting in his croft house in Fair Isle he described the method of choosing the wood, cutting and drying it, before steaming the planks to make them pliable and then clinking them together using copper nails. Ian's wife Lise is a writer and she understood just the detail I'd need to bring the scene to life - the sound of the nails being hammered through the wood, the wood shavings trapped in clothing. I could have read about the process - these days almost anything is available on-line - but it wouldn't have brought the scene in the boat shed to life.
Before Shetland I had a couple of weeks of touring to promote the paperback of Silent Voices. There were visits to lovely indie bookshops in Holt, Cambridge and Ely and to the very grand new library in Norwich. It was a great opportunity to meet readers and discuss my books. At these events there's always a variety of responses to plot and character. Reading is a subjective business. People bring their own histories, experience and imagination to the books. This is a creative process and authors should leave space in the narrative for readers to build their own fictional worlds.
After East Anglia there was Richmond and an enjoyable evening in conversation with Peter Robinson, then it was down to the south west for an event in Exeter Library and to the very pleasant Appledore Book Festival. Appledore is a real community event, with local people providing soup and cream teas in the church hall for charity. It was the first of October, but there was a heat wave in North Devon, and the town was quite idyllic.
I'm hoping for more time to work on the new Shetland book in the next few weeks, but on October 25th there's a very special event in Aberdeen. I'll be working again with the brilliant forensic scientists, Lorna Dawson, Dave Barclay and James Grieves, and the event is to raise funds for a great charity. If you're interested, do check out the details on the events page of my website. It'd be great to see you there!