It's true, though, that I often write about love in all its strange and wonderful manifestations. And I often find myself writing about people who are damaged in one way and another. Perhaps by past trauma, as in Bird of Passage and more recently in Ice Dancing. Perhaps by a betrayal of friendship or family, as in the Curiosity Cabinet and a new novel called The Physic Garden. Perhaps by circumstances of birth, as in The Amber Heart. Put these two predilections (obsessions, some might call them) together and you have a recipe for novels which inevitably tend to focus on the close relationships between two people, whether they are lovers or not.
There is certainly one aspect of my writing where I would say that 'romance' looms large, given that one of the definitions of romance is: expressive and pleasurable feeling from an emotional attachment towards another person, associated with love. There's a sense in which I 'romance' my characters and that warm pleasurable feeling is associated with the female as much as with the male characters. I think that as a novelist, you just have to fall a little in love with your characters in order to breathe life into them. I suspect that this even applies to the less than lovable characters. You form an emotional attachment to them.
One of the things which interested me when I first began engaging with social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, was just how often other writers, especially female writers, even those who weren't working in a romantic genre, tended to have a particular person, often but not always an actor, in mind for a character in a book. I thought it was just me, with a background in theatre, who indulged in this engaging pastime but I soon found out I wasn't alone. Writer friends often post inspirational pictures of hero material. But many of us have female role models in mind for particular characters as well.
|Emma Thompson in Love Actually|
Now, I'm moving on to a new project called The Physic Garden, a novel set in very early 1800s Glasgow, about an unlikely friendship between two young men from quite different backgrounds: William Lang and Thomas Brown. The book is more or less finished, but has been lying fallow for so long that I now have a clearer perception of where rewrites are needed. And I've begun to indulge in a little fantasy casting again. As a playwright, I have to say that this isn't as strange as it may sound. In the world of theatre, you are often asked if you have a particular actor in mind, and just occasionally - oh joy - you get the very person you want. So when I wrote The Secret Commonwealth as a stage play, and tentatively suggested that it might be very nice if we could get the incomparable Liam Brennan to play Robert Kirk, the Scottish minister who quite literally went away with the fairies, we were lucky enough to get him. When I tell you that, only the other day, a US reader wrote to me to tell me that she had been reading the script in eBook form, she wondered if there might be an audio version of the play available, and remarked that she would be prepared to come to Scotland to see and hear Liam in the role, you'll have some idea of why we were all so pleased!
|Liam Brennan and Deirdre Graham in the Secret Commonwealth.|