Write, Read, Retreat


How are you all? I'm just back from a retreat at Moniack Mhor writers' centre near Inverness in the far north of Scotland, with the MA/PhD group of friends I've been writing with for over fifteen years. Coming at the end of a long period of research and work on the new novel, it was perfect timing.

The sun shone all week for us - imagine dazzling blue skies and bright yellow, coconut-scented gorse. We worked, we hiked, we swam in the (rather bracing), loch. We talked late into the night. We laughed - a lot. It's a great gift to have a group of friends you trust implicitly, and there's nowhere I'd rather have given the first reading of 'The Golden Hour.' 

The new book is an epic twin-timeline story which interweaves the desert explorers, priceless treasures and decadent cabarets of WW2 Cairo with the restless hearts of expat lives in bohemian 70s Beirut. Archaeologist Lucie's mother is dying - she's also been lying. As her home, the 'Paris of the East', Beirut, teeters on the brink of war, Polly has one last story to tell, of her best friend Juno and their life in 30s Cairo. Lucie must discover the truth about Juno's work and their shared search for the greatest undiscovered tomb of all - Nefertiti's.

I've loved writing it, going back to books on Egyptology I've had since school. Now, all the research is packed away and the final polish of the manuscript is almost done. I can't wait to introduce you to Lucie, Polly and Juno.

On the last morning at Moniack, I read this in a letter from a HD, a poet, to her lover: 'Build our house upon a rock. Your rock (as mine) is creating and imaginative work ... don't let the outside world hurt you.' It's good advice. Carve out a place for your writing. Find a group of friends to write with. Set your work on strong foundations.

And if you get the chance to visit Moniack, go.

Happy writing.