People often ask me where I got the inspiration for my first book Sewing the Shadows Together. The idea was in my head for many years before I actually wrote it, but it was inspired by a place that is very dear to me, Portobello, which i have already mentioned several times on my blog already!
Portobello is the seaside suburb of Edinburgh on the Firth of Forth, with a wide sandy beach and a long promenade. This has always been a special place for me because my mother came from there and as a child I spent all my holidays at my grandparents’ house near the seafront. I later became an English teacher at Portobello High School and when my sons were young I also spent many happy hours playing on the beach there.
It was at this time that the first seeds of an idea for my novel came to me. A tragedy which still hangs over the name Portobello took place when, in July 1983, a five-year-old girl was abducted from the prom by the serial killer, Robert Black.
I wondered then how the family and friends of a murder victim could ever come to terms with such a terrible event and this formed the basis for my novel. I deliberately made the circumstances as different as possible, with a teenaged victim, a another decade and a completely different kind of murderer, but I kept the setting of Portobello as a very important element in the book.
The book opens with the main character walking along Portobello prom, as I do every time I go back to Scotland and I miss it so much. Living in Switzerland, about as far as it is possible to be from the ocean, I long for the sound and the smell of the sea, the far horizons and the wide open sky. This week I felt so homesick that I went to Lake Constance just so I could look over the water and imagine that I was back in Portobello. It was nice but just not the same.