Inspired by time and place…

A lot of research went into the writing of my second novel, Elemental—and research is something I love. I remember missing the first half of a teleconference because I was so engrossed in something I was researching on the net that I forgot the time! But possibly the most exciting part was visiting places in the UK where the novel is set: the Shetland Islands, fishing villages in the north-east of Scotland, Great Yarmouth on the Norfolk coast.

Here are a few photographs from those visits, along with some brief extracts from the novel they inspired.

Fishing villages


I was born in a village as far north-east as you can go on the Scottish mainland, closer to Norway than London. Roanhaven was only two miles from the town of Gadlehead, and I’m told they’re all the one place now. But back then, oh, we were a folk apart, we thought Gadlehead as much a stranger-place as Fraserburgh to the north, Collieston to the south, and all those inland villages where Ma would sell fish from the creel on her back.

Pink granite


That wind!…Every year it took a little more of the houses in Tiller Street, wearing them away grain by grain. Not the frames, no, for the pink granite of Gadlehead will survive more generations than I’ll ever know, but the soft matter between that yields to the elements.



Jockel Buchan, an old fisherman, strode through the shallows to reach me. Waded in, he did, almost to the knees of his great seaboots.

The Knab, Lerwick


The Knab is spectacular. You can see forever from its wild summit. Rabbits scamper this way and that among the gorse and marigolds, and the cliff face is home to hundreds of puffins hunkering down among the small mauve flowers…



Aye, they are the strangest little things, birds that look as though they’ve been put together on the Lord’s day off by someone with a sense of humour—a hodgepodge thrown together with the bits left over from other birds…


Filed under Elemental, Writing

20 responses to “Inspired by time and place…

  1. Brenda

    Ah Amanda , ye ken how t’ mak a quine hamesick.
    Both Elemental and the photos are very special and I look forward to all your posts.

  2. LOL Amanda, you should have taken these photos on a bleak winter’s day! I can’t think of the beginning of Elemental without wanting to put a scarf and mittens on!

  3. marlish glorie

    Similar to Lisa, I almost half-froze to death reading Elemental! You’ve a lot to answer for Amanda. But right throughout Elemental the attention to detail which can only come through exhaustive research, shone through, more particularity for me,(being an ex-nurse), when Cooper is in Intensive Care. I thought this was handled brilliantly.

  4. debi o' hehir

    gorgeous xxx

  5. This may sound odd, seeing as I’ve never been to Scotland, but the pictures in my head when I was reading Elemental were uncannily like these ones … and I do love the bit about puffins being a hodgepodge … my treat after my PhD is handed in will be to go to Scotland, I think, with Elemental tucked under my arm!

    • Oh, that’s so interesting, Rashida, because the fictional constructs of place in Elemental are a little bit of this, a little bit of that (a bit like puffins?), partly because of the historical context (these places long ago), but of course they’ve been strongly influenced by the experience of being there. I love the idea of you marching around Scotland with Elemental under your arm but I fear for your excess baggage, not to mention your shoulder joints! 🙂

  6. Pat

    Lovely Amanda, I was slowly scrolling down through them encase any of them might contain ‘spoiler’ elements! Heh 🙂 Am so enjoying the book, will write you soonly x Patrick

  7. Hi Amanda, have you checked out fisher-woman Sarah Drummond’s wonderful book Salt Story? It’s with Fremantle Press,you’ve probably heard of it. It’s a really lovely read I thought, her prose is terrific.

  8. Jean Brooks

    Just started your book for book club Amanda. Googled to find location context and came across your page. I have Scottish heritage and love anything to do with my roots. I too have a story that began in the UK and will probably end in Western Australia. Have loved your photos also the comments of other appreciative readers. Looking forward to the read!

    • Lovely to hear from you, Jean, and I’m delighted that your book club is reading Elemental. It sounds as though you have a few things in common with my Meggie! I hope you enjoy it, and thanks for visiting the blog.

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