I’ve always enjoyed going to islands. There’s something exhilarating about crossing a body of water and knowing that it separates you from the rest of the world, especially if the mobile signal is dodgy or, better still, non-existent, and then you get the feeling of being completely cut off from the rest of the world. Anything could be happening out there from a zombie apocalypse to Elvis being found alive and well in Saltcoats, and you wouldn’t know a thing about it.
I’ve been lucky enough to get to know a few islands fairly well, the most recent being Isle Martin, a community-owned island just a few miles north of my home in Ullapool. It’s fair to say I’ve fallen in love with the place, perhaps even become a little obsessed, my excuse for the obsession being that my current work-in-progress finds me immersed in the island’s history.
It’s not my first island-set book – Erosion is a stranded-on-an-island thriller – but it is my first engagement with historical fiction. I didn’t mean it to happen, but when I went on a walk on Isle Martin with local archaeologist, Cathy Dagg, and heard some of what took place there, I couldn’t help myself.
Though she may be small, Isle Martin is a gem that punches well above her weight. From the howling of wolves and the layering of bones, to the Jacobite rebellion, herring girls, and a mother who gave all for her son, hers is a rich and fascinating tale.
I’m currently in the year 1778 and, I think, almost a third of the way through the first draft. My book will probably end near the start of the 20th century so I won’t be writing about the rich eccentric with his flour mill and no wheat to grind. Not this time round at any rate.
For anyone in the area, I’ll be giving a guided walk around the island on 11 August 2018. The ferry will depart from Ardmair at 11am. More details can be found below.
If you’d like to experience staying on Isle Martin and trying some creative play, I’ll be running a writing retreat on the island 14-16 September, 2018. Details of Above the Strandline can be found here. Or feel free to message me about either event via Facebook or Twitter.