Skip to main content

Places of Inspiration - an #AuthorOfTheWeek blog

During this coronavirus craziness, it can seem almost impossible to remember the places we've been to. We have a slideshow of photographs which come up on our computer and looking at them now is like seeing a different world.

Isn't that how it is with writing anyway? We find a place which speaks to us and, not only while we're there but every time our imagination transports us back, we move into another world. Invariably, because of the genre I write, I head back to another time, too.

Bear with me as I take you on a little journey through a few of the places which have brought me great inspiration...

1 - The Big Burn, Golspie
I don't know how many times we'd driven past the little sign for The Big Burn. It's an oddly insignificant little walk, but there is a waterfall there which you can walk up and over. Standing back a little bit, on that first walk we took there, I was struck by how strangely human it looked. The picture above was how I first met the waterfall, its spindly arms and cascading fingers.

And it occurred to me - if I saw a person there, why wouldn't someone else...? And what powers could a living waterfall have and present...? Ideas were jumbling around in my head as we journeyed home.

Ultimately, the waterfall became "The Souce" in Caledon, the voice of Caledon's spirit. I wrote the waterfall as I imagined it would be, neither male nor female, eternal but ever-changing. On that, I was right. The last time I went - a couple of years ago now - the waterfall looked like the picture below. It was hardly human, and was difficult to see from the same viewpoint. I didn't mind, though. If anything, it just made me consider how lucky I'd been to see it in its human appearance. Who knows, perhaps the myth of Caledon is true. And, having see it, I could be the eighth incarnation! [You can find a short story about the 8th incarnation in this free eBook.]

2 - Dresden
No photo description available.
In 2013, I took a solo trip to Germany, and organised myself a little mini-tour. It was one of those things which I am exceptionally proud of but, looking back, I wonder how on earth I was brave enough to do it!

It was only a short tour - a couple of nights in Berlin, the same in Leipzig, Dresden, Nuremberg and Munich. By the time I'd got to Munich I was feeling pretty peaky, and had an interesting series of events trying to get home. But that's a story for another time!

I went off, armed with my travel journal, and in Dresden words just flowed! There was a trumpet player outside the opera house, busking with all sorts of tunes. There were little horse-drawn carriages like you get in lots of tourist cities. And there were busy tourists passing down the cobbled streets. I lay on my hotel bed and wrote and wrote and wrote some more. Such a collection of sounds, and the olde worlde atmosphere they invoked was unlike anything I'd heard before - or since.

3 - Skye
I've always known I wanted to travel. Reaching far back into my childhood, I remember staring at the vapour trails which crisscrossed overhead, or imagining where the road would take me if I went right instead of left.

But, growing up in a landscape which stretched over the ocean, boats have always been a near-mystical vehicle to me. Orkney has been built on boat travel, and all those stories fuelled my imagination.

We properly visited Skye for the first time last year - although Judith and I did once have a slightly crazy visit, during the course of which we found we were temporarily homeless. But one of the most captivating moments of our visit to Skye was an impromptu trip to Portree, where I took this picture. There is something very tantalising about the bobbing boats on the water, and imagining all the other boats which had come and gone from that bay.

The world looks magical in moonlight, and one thing it pointed out to me was how clearly the landscape showed up in that pallid light.

There are many others places, too many to mention. But these happened to be the ones I had pictures for!

When all this lockdown and social distancing is over, and we're free to explore the world again, go out and look for something beyond the surface. Or close your eyes and listen to the sounds of the world as they wrap you up. Or sail away on the promise of adventure, past, present or future.

Writing locations is an immersive experience. I don't believe you have to have been somewhere to write about it, but I do believe you do your best writing when you have been.

What do you think?

from "Caledon"


Popular posts from this blog

GUEST POST - "Hallo teachers! Would you like to write a book?" by Jessica Norrie

  The Magic Carpet  is available at I'm absolutely thrilled to share this gem of a blog by Jessica Norrie on the Crowvus Book Blog. It's personally relatable for me, too, as I'm teacher who also writes children's fiction. I just love all the comments made in this blog - they are so true! It's a delight to meet another author/teacher/soprano! Check out the links to Jessica Norrie's books at the end of the blog too! Hallo teachers! Would you like to write a book? Primary and English teachers spend their days with books. It’s not surprising many dream of writing their own. Some make the big time - think Philip Pullman, Eoin Colfer, Michael Morpurgo. Teachers start with several professional advantages: 1) All child and adult human life enters the classroom. Teachers overhear conversations, respond to different personalities, encounter heartrending or enviable household  circumstances. They see family and cultural likenesses and cont

#IndieApril Craggy Blog: On the Hoof!

When people say they’re doing something “on the hoof”, it generally implies they’re making it up as they go along. When it came to writing my first book, I did so on the hoof in more ways than one. The photos that feature in Craggy the Coo Wants a Place to Call Home  were snapped all over Scotland, from the top of mountains to the surface of Loch Ness. But the words that accompany the pictures were largely concocted near my hometown of Langholm in Dumfries and Galloway. I’m relatively notorious in these parts for embarking on epic walks of 20-30 miles around the surrounding hills. And while most people would carry their phone to chart their route or maybe listen to music, I used mine to put words to my pictures. Having all the photos of Craggy’s travels on my iPhone meant I could weave a clear narrative together based on where he happened to be, and what could be seen in each image. So I would set off on a long walk armed with all I needed to create the verses and his direction of trav

#IndieApril Craggy Blog: My Inspiration

When I’m asked who my favourite author is, I also tend to consider who my favourite writers have been at various stages of my life. When I was very young, Roald Dahl could not be beaten. Like many children, I found his sense of mischief combined with superlative storytelling and Quentin Blake’s glorious illustrations irresistible. In my angsty teenage years, I must have re-read JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye  about 20 times, dreaming of leaving boarding school and running off to the States with just a rucksack on my back (which I actually did for a year when I was 17. I wasn’t quite as rebellious as Holden Caulfield though. It was all above board.) But the writer who has stood the test of time with me most, and was taken from us far too soon, is Iain Banks. I love the twisty intrigue of Complicity , in which my hometown of Langholm has an early cameo. I adore the assault on the hypocrisies of organised religion that lie at the heart of Whit . In my teens, I was traumatised in a can’t