Monthly Archives: December 2015

At home in the Highlands with Michel Faber

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I had an interview in this weekend’s Sunday Times with Michel Faber, the author of Under The Skin, The Crimson Petal and the White, and the recently announced Saltire book of the year The Book of Strange New Things.

We spoke about the grieving process after the death of his wife Eva last year, his pacifist beliefs and his growing sense of belonging in Scotland thanks to the Saltire win. Not before time – he has lived in the Highlands, near Tain, for more than 20 years, but has always felt something of an “alien” he says, and has never really integrated.

The Sunday Times piece can be found here, or a slightly longer version is also available after the fold.

It didn’t make the piece, but he also spoke very interestingly on the writing process – particularly the no-nonsense approach he took to his first book The Crimson Petal and the White (he wrote the first version as a student, although it was not published until after his critically-acclaimed ‘debut’ with Under The Skin). Having started, but not completed, many novels, he decided to very carefully structure his next attempt, taking inspiration from the Victorian novels he was studying for his literature degree (particularly, Middlemarch) – down to the paragraph, even. After which he could work through the plan very diligently, marking off his progress as he went.

The book went through two or three redrafts, but the back of the work had been broken. It was published in 2002 and received rave reviews, later being adapted as a TV series for the BBC starring Romola Garai. He has retained this highly structured process through his later books, although he has spoken elsewhere of making efforts to allow his latest novel more space to grow “organically”.

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Country diary: sunlight on snowfall

adrian hopkins - view from Sgurr MorI wrote a short entry for the Guardian’s Country Diary section this week following a fantastic hillwalking trip to the west coast, on the edge of Knoydart, stopping off at the Kinbreak bothy.

Full text can be found here, or after the break

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Covers for Thicker Than Water revealed

cover UK  Cover Aus

I’m so excited to be able to show you these: the covers (left – UK, right – Australia) of my first book, Thicker Than Water, which will be published next year by Harper Collins’ non-fiction strand William Collins. I hope you like them!

The book is currently available for pre-order at Waterstones and Amazon, with the following summary from the publisher:

A compelling and beautifully written memoir about dark and shameful family secrets, and one young Scottish woman’s pilgrimage to Australia to attempt to lay the past to rest. Cal Flyn was holidaying in her childhood home in the Scottish Highlands when she stumbled upon a dark family secret. To her horror, she discovered that her great-great-great uncle Angus McMillan, who had been mythologized as a great explorer and pioneer of early Australia, was in fact also the leader of a number of gruesome massacres of indigenous people.

In 1843 he led a loosely formed ‘Highland brigade’ which were responsible for a series of assaults so ferocious that the sites would ever after be synonymous with bloodshed: Butchers Creek, Boney Point, Skull Creek, Slaughterhouse Gully. Angus McMillan, she learns, is known by another name: the Butcher of Gippsland. Driven to piece together his story and to confront her own history, Flyn decided to retrace McMillan’s journey, looking for answers: How could a man lauded for his generosity and integrity commit such terrible acts? How could a man who had witnessed the misery of Highlanders cleared from their lands travel to the other side of the world to massacre and ‘clear’ the indigenous people he encountered? What have been the long-term consequences of his actions? And has today’s generation inherited a responsibility to atone for its ancestors’ sins?

THICKER THAN WATER, like THE HARE WITH AMBER EYES, is part family memoir, part travelogue, part history – and an intimate, revealing and fascinating journey into the past. Her book evokes the startlingly beautiful wilderness of the Highlands, the seemingly empty bush of Victoria and the echoes and reverberations on one from the other. Delving into a dark period in history with a novel’s immediate style, this book asks how whole societies can come to be overlooked, forgotten and shamed. Cal Flyn has written a wholly compelling and clear-eyed examination of the burden of intergenerational grief and inherited guilt that we all carry with us.

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 9780008126605

 

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