I’ve been writing a fictional story for the last few months which is set in Shetland and I’m about to fly up there for a few days to do some research.
Writing is something I’ve done every day all my life, but for the last 30 years or so it has been as a journalist, working for newspapers, magazines and BBC radio and television. Getting out and meeting folk, interacting with them and hearing their stories has always been the best bit of the process so sitting in front of a laptop inventing it all can be a poor (and often lonely) substitute.
So that’s why I’m taking time away from my desk to get out and meet people who can give me the information I need to add credibility to my story. Already I’ve interviewed several professionals who have been extremely generous with their time and information and incredibly supportive and encouraging when I’ve outlined the plot – or the parts of it that are relevant to them.
One former detective I consulted two weeks ago got so involved he’s still trying to work out how he can “nail” a character he has taken a violent dislike to! And that sort of passionate response has been immensely helpful because there are many days when I sit down in the morning and know that pursuing this dream is a crazy gamble. All around me friends are rushing around earning a living and saving towards their pensions, meanwhile I’m living nomadically; housesitting and camping and cautiously exploring the possibility of making a campervan my future home. Am I insane?
Possibly. But for the moment I’m going to stick with my story and am excited about the travel to Shetland. We did a lot of filming there when I worked in television and I always loved the starkness of the place, the hardness of the land, the contrasting softness of the voices and the warmth and generosity of the people. I’m looking forward to finding locations for my drama by walking around Lerwick, revisiting Unst and going to Whalsay for the first time. I’m hiring a car and hopefully a bike for the islands to get me closer to the landscape and the smell of the place.
And it will be so light up there in the land of the Simmir Dim when the sun dips below the horizon for only a few hours a day. Islands, summer, writing, water, travel; I intend to make the most of it.