I’d been scripting plays and writing short stories and poems for quite some time, but I’d always wanted to write a novel – it just seemed a bit of a daunting task. I took some evening classes and went on to study part-time for an MLitt in Creative Writing. One of my supervisors suggested, as a starting point for a novel, taking a subject I was interested in exploring and setting it in a world with which I was familiar. I was curious about the difference between acting and being – in all situations, not just in relation to performance – and I was keen to write about some of the jobs I’d done when I was starting out, including murder mystery weekends and role-play scenarios. The character of Maddie came fairly easily. I think, from my experience working in the theatre –voice, character, dialogue and scene dynamics – come quite naturally to me, although I adapted a range of exercises to help develop and test these aspects too – I’m a great believer in craft.
Walking the Lights became a rites-of-passage novel set in Scotland in the mid-nineties. The era felt important to me, especially the sense of optimism that surrounded new Labour and the lead-up to devolution and how that reflected Maddie’s emergence. There are a few issues explored in the novel, including mental health and the legacy of the past. For a short while, Maddie’s family background was very dark, but I didn’t want to focus so much on specific abuse, I wanted to look at the power of words and how, in our communication, we can encourage or diminish others. Balanced with these heavier elements is a cast of colourful characters and plenty of hijinks, sparkle and greasepaint – especially when Maddie and her friends begin work on a production of The Tempest, a play that weaves through the novel in terms of story, themes and motifs. Walking the Lights has been described as ‘a love letter to Scotland’, ‘an ode to friendship’ and as ‘a feminist Withnail and I’. I’m passionate about stories for wisdom and wellbeing, and in the capacity for change, and, although these threads are deeply woven through the story, I hope the novel glints with them too.