Today I’m pleased to welcome Barbara Henderson to the blog. Barbara is the author of Fir for Luck, which is published by Pokey Hat on 21 September 2016
Here Barbara talks about stumbling onto stories.
Stumbling onto stories
I don’t know about you, but I stumble a lot.
Being one of nature’s natural clumsy people, I hope I never have to navigate a stair during an awards ceremony or a red carpet in a long dress. I trod on my own wedding dress even though it was only just floor length. I’m a drama teacher, and my dramatic stumbles over the light stands in my studio are legend among my pupils, I’m sure.
But as a writer, stumbling onto stories in one of the greatest pleasures – there you are, making your way through your day in as smooth a way as you can manage, and suddenly…
Suddenly you come across a place, or a person, or a circumstance, or an object. A sound, a smell, an unusual pattern in the clouds. And without knowing it at the time, a story seed has been planted. Sometimes that story will grow for a bit and then wither – not an idea worth pursuing. Others will grow slowly, alongside other ideas – growing but not thriving until it’s given a pot of its own.
And sometimes, just sometimes, a seed will be planted and that story will shoot up and take over your mind in the most beautifully chaotic way, pushing all other ideas out of the way and reaching for the sky.
Fir for Luck was one of those. Let me explain.
Ever since I studied John McGrath’s play The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil at uni, I was interested in the Highland Clearances, a part of history I had never really been taught about. Finally, more than a decade later, I finally made the trip to Sutherland. Clearance country. My two girls were 11 and 13 at that point, and I really struggled to find a book on the subject which would hold their attention.
So when we arrived at the relatively recently installed Ceannabeinne Trail and heard the story of the local rebellion – up to this point not widely known – the what ifs began to tumble and rub in my mind – what if the women and children were alerted to the danger by a child? What if that child was a feisty girl and what if she was at the very centre of every episode of the documented tale. By the time I had walked about 300 yards of the trail, I had made up my mind: I wanted to write about this place. I’m not the obvious person to do it – goodness, I didn’t even grow up in this country! – but no-one else had done it, and for some inexplicable reason, I really, really wanted it to be me. What followed was nothing short of obsessive at times – I studied and researched and revisited. What was a mere now stumble was now consuming my mind.
As my first published novel, Fir for Luck will always be special to me. The stumble has served me well. Maybe it’s the people who never stumble who are missing out?
About the Author:
I’m a writer (Fir for Luck out 21/09/16), puppeteer and drama teacher living in the beautiful Highlands of Scotland.
First and foremost, my writing is aimed at children, but I also enjoy dabbling in short stories and Drama.
I’m in the process of re-starting a book festival in my hometown of Inverness and have just signed up to co-ordinate the Highland Hub of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators).
I love books, nature’s wild places, history, baking, folk music (I fiddle badly in my church band), old buildings, mosaics, Celtic Christianity, thick woolly jumpers…
Oh yes: And I do have a soft spot for all things puppetry. You have been warned!
You can find out more about Barbara on her website.
About the Book: