Above the Strandline

isle martin

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.

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Isle Martin Writing Retreats 2018

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A strange thing happened when I tried to write about the retreats I’ll be running on Isle Martin this year. As though possessed by the twin spirits of Brigadoon and the Scottish Tourist Board, I began waxing lyrical about the islands off the west coast of Scotland, using overcooked descriptions like the iconic whale-bone outline of the Outer Hebrides, and the haunting beauty of St Kilda, last outpost before the vastness of the Atlantic.

A soundtrack of evocative Celtic music played in my head as I wrote, and I swear I could smell the peat burning on the fire. As if that wasn’t enough, when I read it back to myself, it came out in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart accent. When I realised the spirits had me in their tartan-clad grip, I had a word with myself before I broke into the Skye Boat Song or worse, Donald Where’s Your Troosers?

Here’s the real deal. Last year, I ran Isle Martin’s first writing retreat and I enjoyed it so much, I’m doing it twice over in 2018. Isle Martin is stunning, the island is brimming with history and atmosphere, and it’s exciting getting in a boat and going to an island, especially one that’s off-grid, but here’s the really important bit:  amid all this breathtaking stunning magnificence, we’ll have a great time. There will be writing, lots of writing, but there will be laughter too, and plenty of it. And as if that’s not enough, Em’s food is fantastic and there’s a constant supply of cake.

Check out the links below for more details, and if you’re interested in joining me on a remote island for a weekend of writing, laughter, cake, and maybe a dram or two, email me at lgt@thrillerswithattitude.co.uk

I look forward to seeing you there.

Midsummer Write 22 – 24 June 2018 £210pp*

Above the Strandline 14 – 16 September 2018 £220pp*

*Price per person for the weekend, includes shared accommodation, meals, workshops, cake, and return boat trip.

Isle Martin is a community-owned island off the north-west coast of Scotland, approx. 3 miles north of Ullapool, run by the Isle Martin Trust. The amenities are simple, the island beautiful, the welcome warm. With over 18 hours between sunrise and sunset, great food, and inspiring company, Midsummer Write is the perfect opportunity to devote time to your writing. There will be workshops to help get you started and to keep you going, and an opportunity for one-to-one mentoring, otherwise you will be free to immerse yourself in your work. Above the Strandline will feature a mix of tutored workshops and free writing time For both retreats, you will have the option of a short 1-to-1 mentoring session. There is no electricity, on the island so leave your laptops and tablets behind and bring pens, paper and a sense of adventure. There is no hot running water so bring a flannel for a wash-down. We will however, have the luxury of flushing toilets, a warming fire and delicious meals cooked on the island using local produce.

Books by LG Thomson are available from Amazon and from bookshops in Ullapool. Writing as Lorraine Thomson, the Dark Times trilogy is available from Amazon.

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