Bird of Passage, Free on Kindle to Mark the Start of Spring.

Cover art by Matt Zanetti
My novel Bird of Passage will be free to download on Kindle from 4th - 6th April. It's another 'island-set' novel. I seemed to go through a period of setting my novels and plays on islands, until I exhausted that particular piece of inspiration, but it still nips away at me from time to time. So the rewritten version of an old novel, The Golden Apple, due for publication next month, is set on a completely different kind of island: a much warmer place altogether, La Gomera in the Canaries. And even The Physic Garden, set fair and square in early nineteenth century Glasgow, has a trip to the Isle of Arran as a central and very important scene.

Bird of Passage, though, is set on a fictional and unnamed Scottish Hebridean island, which could be just about anywhere, from Gigha, which I know well, to the Isle of Skye, or Mull or Islay, or some amalgam of all of them. Oddly enough, the perception of where it is seems to depend on the reader's own experience and that's fine by me. I love that process which seems to go on, whereby the reader recreates the world of the novel within his or her own mind.

Susan Price, reviewing the novel for An Awfully Big Blog Adventure describes how she realized that there was a connection with a much more famous classic novel:
'I was three-quarters of the way through this book – or even more – before it dawned on me that it was Wuthering Heights in modern dress. I was tipped off by a couple of sly and amusing references to twigs tapping on windows and ghosts, and by the hero disappearing for twenty years and then returning a rich man.
It’s not a re-telling, though – it’s a re-imagining. A dialogue with the older book, if you like. It asks, would the same story, the same deathless love, be possible in the modern age, and if so, how?
'
Link to the rest of the review here.

A very young me, in Wuthering Heights mode!
Susan is right. I wasn't attempting a retelling. I wouldn't dare. But Wuthering Heights has always been my all time favourite novel. I was born in Yorkshire and was trundled over the moors to Top Withins when I was still in my pushchair, or so I'm told. Bird of Passage is a book I was desperate to write, partly because of my own obsession with Wuthering Heights, but I spent years hunting for the right story, the right setting, the right set of characters.

Reviewing the novel for the Indie eBook review, Gilly Fraser writes:
There are no pat answers in this story and no neatly contrived solutions. Endings are jagged, situations remain unresolved. Yet at the end of the book there is a feeling of satisfaction that things did work out as they should – at least to some extent. I think that makes the story and its characters all the more realistic and credible. It’s hard to pigeonhole this book to a specific genre. It’s a love story, yet sometimes defies the label. It’s contemporary, yet dwells quite a bit in the past. As to its audience – I think this would appeal to readers who don’t need to be led by the hand and who enjoy
challenging relationships. Wholeheartedly recommended.

Read the rest of her review here

One of the nice things about reviews - especially when they are positive but quite analytical - is that they give you as a writer a new perspective on a novel. It's odd how often you're not entirely sure what you've written, or what you might have achieved, even though you've been in the thick of it, even though you may have had all kinds of intentions for the book. 

I'm often asked to describe the kind of books I write. It's a question I find genuinely difficult to answer, and reviews like Susan's and Gilly's help me to find some answers. My books aren't really romances in the conventional sense because they don't always have the traditional happy ending or even the traditional structure. They have a resolution of sorts, and I hope they give the reader a sense of satisfaction, but the characters don't generally walk off into the sunset. Or not often. One reviewer who loved this novel still found it heartbreaking, and people who have read The Physic Garden, even while they tell me they couldn't put it down, still tell me that they simply couldn't bear what happens in the end. I know what they mean because I couldn't bear it either, and I wrote it! 

Whenever I finish a novel, I try to work out what kind of book I've written. I know that may sound a bit daft. But when you're in the middle of a piece of work, you're so buried in the time and place, so deep into the minds of your characters, that you really can't see the wood for the trees. So it can be very helpful to stand back and try to analyse exactly what kind of novel you've produced. At first, I despaired of finding any common denominators within my fiction. Everything I write seems to be quite different: some are historical, some contemporary, some are more literary than others, some quiet, some complex.

Quite a while ago, an agent told me (and I'm paraphrasing here) that my work was too well written to be popular but too accessible to be really literary. She saw it as a fault. The more I speak to my readers though, the more I see that a lot of people out there are looking for stories which are well written and grown up, but accessible too. And I think that's what I write. Mainly because that's the kind of book I like to read. Lots of them are love stories. But I suppose they are 'grown up' love stories. I wish Amazon had a category like that, but they don't yet - and 'adult' has quite a different connotation! Even the Physic Garden, which isn't really a love story at all, but a story about male friendship and betrayal, is a grown up tale.

Bird of Passage is a very grown up love story -  about past damage and the obsessive attachment that is the result. And of course it is, unashamedly, a homage to my much loved Wuthering Heights. If this sounds like something you might enjoy reading, it's free to download for the next three days, here in the UK and here in the USA.



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