The idea for Sewing the Shadows Together has been in my mind for more than thirty years. I was teaching English in Edinburgh secondary schools at that time, and there were several high profile murders. Even after the cases seemed to have been solved, I couldn’t stop thinking about those who were left behind. Looking at my own adolescent students I wondered how they would be able to come to terms with the loss of a sibling or a best friend. This question of how ordinary people cope with extraordinary situations, and how a tragedy can affect the emotional development of young people, both troubled and intrigued me. I felt then it was something I’d like to explore in a novel.
Over the next few years the idea was always in the back of my mind, but with children, a divorce, moving to another country and teaching full-time I never wrote anything down. However, almost without my noticing it, the plot was taking shape. Different things happened which added to the idea: I went to a school reunion and realised I had the ideal way for my characters to meet up again at the start of my novel; I also met my wonderful old English teacher there and remembered reading Bat by DH Lawrence as a thirteen-year-old with him. From this memory I got the title (which is a quotation from Bat) and the leitmotif for the book.
I’ve always loved reading Scottish and Scandinavian crime, and I particularly like the exploration of character and motivation, and the importance of setting in them. I hoped to capture these characteristics in my novel and, therefore, the setting is very significant to the plot, and to me. Most of the action takes place in Edinburgh, where I lived for many years and where my heart still is, although I now live in Switzerland. Other places also play an important role in my novel: the Outer Hebrides, which I visited with a dear friend to scatter her husband’s ashes, and Plettenberg Bay in South Africa, where I also wrote some of the book.
I’d always wanted to write this book within me, but in the past I felt I didn’t have enough time. However, when I stopped working full-time I told myself I had no excuses anymore and started to write at last. I was very much helped by attending two Arvon courses and the people I met there, but in many ways writing it came quite easily, as story felt fully-formed after so many years of gestation. However, as I was writing the characters, several of whom share characteristics with people I know, they began to develop and become real individuals. I heard their voices and they drove the plot, which began to follow its own direction in many places.
I’ve enjoyed everything about writing my novel. At first, I was just doing it for myself and didn’t think about getting published, but encouraged by the reactions of my first readers I did go ahead with publication. Now that the book is on sale, and being read by people I don’t know, it is the most wonderful feeling to hear that they are enjoying it, want to know ‘whodunnit’ and care about my characters.
Sewing the Shadows Together is published by Troubadour