My New Novel
Wednesday 7 October 2015
A number of you, in the most charming fashion, have been telling me to get a blooming move on. You’d read my first three novels, and now, for some unfathomable reason, you wanted a fourth. And pronto.
As the polite chorus mounted, I went as fast as I could. Perhaps it was a little too fast. Within the last few weeks my keyboard, printer and shredder have all refused to work in some creepy simultaneous technological meltdown.
The demise of the keyboard I could understand. I always start writing at breakfast time, which results in my keyboard being splattered with a thunderous avalanche of porridge. Eventually certain letters gummed up, including the ‘j’ and the ‘u’. For a while, when signing my name on emails, I was reduced to a mere ‘lia’.
The printer’s passing was unexpected, despite the racket it joyfully made. There was always something reassuring in the way that nextdoor’s cat sprang up from slouching on top of my dustbin whenever the contraption rattled into motion.
In comparison, the new wireless thing is deadly silent. I don’t trust it. Judging by the uncomfortable twitch of its tail, my neighbour’s cat doesn’t trust it either. Each time I press ‘print’, I slide my eyes towards the mute black box with suspicion. How can the birds still be on the trees if it’s working?
As for the shredder, looking back I see that I simply force-fed it to death with too many indigestible early drafts.
While I’ve destroyed all my kit, the happy result is that I’ve finished my fourth novel, The Last Pearl-fisher of Scotland. Not only that, but those nice people at Vintage will publish it in autumn 2016.
The book was inspired by a visit to a family friend in Scotland. At the time I was living in Bahrain, and had just been diving for pearls. After telling Ann that I’d actually found one, albeit the size of a freckle, she promptly disappeared and returned with a pearl necklace. The pearls had been found in Scottish rivers, she insisted. In mussels. I must have blinked several times, the way I do when required to do maths. Like most people, I’d always assumed that all pearls come from marine oysters.
The very curious fact that you can find fine pearls in Scottish river mussels (a practice that is now illegal) lodged in my brain. Eventually I had to write it out of my system.
The story tells of Brodie McBride, the last pearl-fisher of Scotland, who is trying to finish a glorious pearl necklace for his wife in the belief that it will save his marriage. After nineteen years, all he needs to find is the largest pearl that will sit in the middle. As to whether he finds it or not, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until next year to know. And, try as I might, there’s nothing I can wreck in the meantime that will bring it out any faster…
Pearl-diving in Bahrain
The pearl I found in Bahrain