A holiday or a book group? by Fran Brady

This week, I am on holiday in our extended family house on the Hebridean Isle of Iona. There are seven of us and we are having lots of laughter and big, jolly meals round the kitchen table, which has an incomparable view of the Sound (strip of water) between Iona and the much larger Isle of Mull.

Portentous clouds, the wee fire station and our house peeping in on the left 
This our 21st year here and, over those years, we have brought 57 individual friends/family members to share in the delights of this beautiful place with us. Often it is simply people that we love to spend time with; but often too, one or two people who we feel need Iona. Perhaps it has been a tough time for them of late - health, worries, relationship upsets, financial problems, recent bereavement, whatever - but we just know that a week on Iona will calm their souls and feed their spirits.

It is not that we do anything special beyond ensuring there is plenty of food/wine, comfortable beds, hot showers and games to play/books to read/jigsaws to do, if the weather is bad. We just say; 'The island does the work'. People have talked over the years about a living peace here and that it is a thin place -where the veil between heaven and earth (or the here and-now and the spiritual realm) is very thin. Here's a beautiful little poem by a fellow Iona-lover and one of my favourite modern poets, Kenneth Steven:      


Is this place really nearer to God?
Is the wall this between our whispers
And his listening? I only know
The world grows less and less -
Here what matters is conquering the wind,
Coming home dry shod, getting the fire lit.
I am not sure whether there is no time here
Or more time. Whether the light  is stronger
Or just easier to see. That is why
I keep returning, thirsty, to this place
That is older than my understanding,
Younger than my broken spirit.

(from his book of poems, simply called 'Iona', published in 2000 by St Andrews Press, Edinburgh - more about Kenneth's poetry, novels and children's books at: www.kennethsteven.co.uk)

It is certainly a place that feeds and inspires the creative urge in all of us. One of my sons-in-law started painting here about five years ago and is now exhibiting and selling beautiful seascape paintings. My own fourth novel, which came out in April, is set in this area in the 1920s about a lighthouse family on Erraid, the tiny causeway island off the south tip of Mull and directly across the Sound from our house on Iona. Everyone in the house is reading it this week and discussing it. Many cries of 'No spoilers!' as people at different stages in the book start discussing these.

It's like an ongoing book-group-cum-holiday! Yesterday, three of us made the tortuous trek across the causeway to Erraid at low tide and visited several of the sites and places that I use in the novel. They loved that experience and I loved being their guide.

On Monday, I have a book-signing at Tobermory, the main town on Mull, and then am dropping off stock at two other outlets. It seemed sensible to concentrate my marketing efforts on this area first, party because the novel is set here, and partly because I knew we would be here just now.
So it's a bit of a busman's holiday for me but I am enjoying getting lots of positive feedback from my readers in the house. It will hopefully give me the confidence to tackle the wider world when I return to the mainland/central belt of Scotland in ten days' time.

My self-imposed year of marketing effort will soon be halfway through. Then I can revert to my comfort zone of writing (not marketing and self-promoting - phew!) Got a great idea for my fifth novel . . .

I know Wendy Jones will tell me that marketing should be going on all the time alongside writing new stuff but I'm not sure if that will work for me. Maybe . . . watch this space . . .


JO said…
What a lovely place!
Bill Kirton said…
My favourite part of the world - and it does everything you claim for it, Fran.
Anonymous said…
To the Lighthouse! Excellent to have a book that actually gets there, or rather - even better - is set in a Hebridean lighthouse. What a beautiful, calm, restorative place Iona sounds and how wonderful that you've shared it with so many people who need just that.

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