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Welcome to the website. It may not be perfect but let’s call it a work in progress.

I’m a fiction writer and  poet, based in Edinburgh. I have published twelve books, most recently Unspeakable, a novel based on the life and times of Thomas Aikenhead, which, in April 2017, was selected as Waterstones’ Scottish Book of the Month.

My work  has received various awards and fellowships,  including: the Macallan/Scotland on Sunday Short Story Award, two Scottish Arts Council Book Awards, a Society of Authors’ Travel Award,  the McCash poetry prize, a Unesco/City of Literature Fellowship and a Leverhulme Fellowship.  It  has been shortlisted for the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year Award, the McVitie’s Scottish Writer of the Year, The Scottish Arts Council/Sundial Award, nominated for the Impac Prize and long-listed for Not the Booker Prize.

As well as going solo, I enjoy collaborating with visual artists, composers and scientists.  My  most recent collaboration, Watching Over You,  a song cycle on the theme of motherhood, was written for  mezzo soprano Karen Cargill, with music composed by Rory Boyle and performed by Red Note Ensemble in 2015.

Here’s a poem and a piece of flash fiction. Both have been published in magazines but not yet in book form.

Stone the Crows

 

We really should be more nocturnal. Roosting

at dusk – think what we’re missing: mole tartare,

spatchcocked frog, stoat hash! You name it,

somebody’s prepped it. The shops are long shut,

the coach parties toddled off. Bobble hat hikers

and twitchers are holed up in B&Bs or the pub.

The night is ours. How’s about we break with tradition

and pick up a carryout – fresh kill, still warm?

 

We make a fetching Sunset in the Village shot –

Halloween hunchbacks against a blood orange sky –

but our days in the feathered niche are numbered.

Let’s face facts. Us lot won’t ever have a say

at a parish council AGM and the mud-slingers,

the Johnny-come-lately white settler do-gooders

are set to pass a motion to uproot the trees,

oust us from our nests, asphalt the green.

 

Before we’re homeless, d’you fancy a turn

around the hotspots, tail a couple of 4x4s,

take a butcher’s at what’s come a cropper –

I can’t tempt you?  Fair’s fair. No need

to be greedy. We’ve already eaten our fill.

Darlin, I love how you tuck in your wingtips

and snuggle up, but love your hoarse croak more,

your final gripe before darkness undoes us.

 

 

Kiss and Cry

Fen Ha is not doing any kissing, though she could have done with a hug or a kind glance more than the humped cold shoulder of her coach, and his awful hawking, that looks and sounds as if he is trying to sick up a long-legged toad.

Fen Ha is not doing any crying either. She’d rather slash her wrists than be caught crying. While she remains in the viewfinders of the Canons, Nikons and Leicas of the world, Fen Ha’s appalled eyes will remain dry black holes. Not a single salty drop will well, never mind fall. Her head throbs from the effort of holding back a deluge.

She has already changed into her tracksuit. When she eventually gets home, the first thing she will do is destroy the dress, though it’s the most beautiful she’s ever worn: the sweet deep pink of peach blossom, wispy as a spring breeze. One by one she will wrench out three gross of crystals, rip off the yards of silk trim, rend each reinforced seam as she replays each perfect but pointless spin and jump.

No-one will stand in her way. Her parents will not mention the cost of the designer, the fabric, the long trips to fittings, which were as much of a break from practice as her coach allowed in the year leading up to the Games.

Fen Ha is barely into her twenties, an ice virtuosa, but life as she knows it will never be the same again. An otherwise flawless performance: breathtakingly beautiful, balletic. All for nothing. There are some falls from which you never fully pick yourself up.

She will carry the shreds of her dress into the yard. The chickens will cluck around her ankles. She will douse the chiffon in petrol, set a match to it. By then her coach will have rediscovered his crinkly, avuncular smile and found himself a new Thumbelina. All that will remain of Fen Ha’s glittering career will be a pile of scorched crystals.