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Authors/New Voices Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

Writer’s blog: Barbara Stevenson – Writing in Orkney

In her last blogpost Barbara Stevenson, author of Zuri Mtu published in Issue One, describes her life in Orkney, between history and nature.

I am lucky to live in Orkney, with the sea all around as inspiration. Not only that, there is five thousand years of history on my doorstep – from my front garden I can look down onto the neolithic village of Skara Brae. It is a natural step to imagine how the people there lived and I am currently working on a Stone Age whodunnit. With the ongoing archaeological dig at the Ness of Brodgar nearby, discoveries are constantly forcing historians to question what they knew about the time. I have been surprised at the sophistication of the artwork and decorations found there. Although the setting is important, I prefer writing stories about the people and how they deal with and overcome problems no matter where they live or what social circumstances they find themselves in.IMG_1630
Orkney has a vibrant community of writers, artists and musicians which can be a distraction from actually doing any writing, but it is also fantastic for bouncing ideas around and coming up with stories.
In my other life as a veterinary surgeon, I meet a variety of wonderful people and animals who say and do remarkable and funny things that wouldn’t be believed in fiction. Unsurprisingly this proves to be a fantastic source for creative projects. My novel, The Organist, which will be launched in February with Yolk Publishers, is about a vet living in Edinburgh just before the First World War.

 

Barbara Stevenson

 

 

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Authors/New Voices Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

Writer’s Blog: Barbara Stevenson – Notes of Inspiration

Barbara Stevenson author of ‘Zuri Mtu’ published in Breve New Stories Issue One, talks about the authors that inspire her.

When I was about eight a friend gave me a copy of short stories by Oscar Wilde for my birthday. This included, among others, The Happy Prince, The Gentle Giant and my favourite The Remarkable Rocket. I was enchanted by the poetic language and also the sadness. Most of the stories involved at least one death. At the time I had no idea about Oscar Wilde’s life, but being used to reading Enid Blyton, it seemed strange to enjoy a story where the hero died. I admit that nowadays in my own stories the hero doesn’t always survive to the last page.

In my late teens, early twenties, my favourite book was Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. This is an inspirational book about a seagull, which in itself says everything. Jonathan is no ordinary seagull and the author encourages the reader to be no ordinary person. It’s a short book and if you haven’t read it, I would recommend you do.

My final mention is for a book I read fairly recently by the Scottish author Michael Malone (with Bashir Saoudi) called The Guillotine Choice. This gripping story reads like a novel, but when you realise it is based on the life of Saoudi’s father, Kaci Mohand Saoudi who was wrongfully convicted of murder and sent to Devil’s Island, it makes disturbing and emotional reading. With experience as a crime novelist, Malone is able to tackle the subject with frankness and understanding, without the need for an orchestra of violins.

Barbara Stevenson

Categories
Authors/New Voices Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

Writer’s Blog: Barbara Stevenson – The Idea Behind “Zuri Mtu”

Barbara Stevenson talks about what inspired her story ‘Zuri Mtu’ published in Breve New Stories Issue One.

Visiting Africa, in particular west Africa, I was intoxicated by the spirit of the people there and how in tune their lives are to their natural surroundings. I wanted to write something to bring this out. I also wanted to write about how larger decisions, often made by BREVE-LOGOgroups with no direct knowledge of or interest in the subject, affect individuals. There is often no right or wrong. In Zuri Mtu, the protestors feel they are in the right and see the result of their demonstrations as a victory, but it has a devastating effect on Kofi and to the local community. I am also concerned about how people treat the natural world, manipulating it to suit. In the story, people revere the ancient tree as the last of its kind, conveniently forgetting that they were the ones who destroyed the others. To make a point, they go over the top to ‘protect’ the tree using scientific data, but the tree is dying in its artificial environment..

I hoped to give the story the feel of a modern folk tale or fable, by implying the tree is descended from the tree of wisdom and knowledge, blown to earth on a cherry blossom breeze and by writing in a simple style. I also hoped to add a touch of humour, with the goat eating the signs and when one of the protestors asks what it does, Kofi answers seriously ‘It is a tree.’ Like all fables, it has to have a happy ending, so Kofi is rewarded for his service. This isn’t in monetary terms, but in a way that he and people like him appreciate, giving hope for the world.

Barbara Stevenson