Kafka is cited as an influence on many Scottish writers from Trocchi, Kelman, Tom Leonard, Alan Warner, Ali Smith to myself and many more.
The Metamorphosis is a brilliant modernist story and it greatly inspired in some way, my approach for Luckenbooth.
The very first English translation of this was done by Willa and Edwin Muir in Scotland. Willa was one of Scotland’s foremost feminists and writers.
Scottish writers have long been heavily influenced by European modernist literature, we are linked in our surrealism, darkness, intellect, the use of horror and social subversion to expose the undesirable truths of humanity.
Her evocation of the Hebrides as a place in which the sea is ‘stretched like silk across the bay,’ earns its place here, her ability to move between characters, location and landscape is something that reminds me of walking around Edinburgh in all seasons.
Virginia Woolf’s use of stream of consciousness and free indirect is an influence. I understood it more after reading How Late It Was, How Late by James Kelman too as he uses it to such a high standard.
I too have a love for Skye and all Scottish Islands, so this novel takes me there. Luckenbooth starts on an unnamed island, a tiny one, far North, where Jessie MacRae (my protagonist) was raised.
Discovering the work of Gertrude Stein felt like finding a missing space on my bookshelf had been filled by something I was looking for. I am also influenced by some of her poetry. I love her deliberate use of repetition and how she creates sketches of characters as in her Portrait of Picasso.
I love to read about her life in Paris and the salon she shared with her wife Alice B. Toklas. It is a place I would have loved to visit. They had such strong relationships with artists, poets, thinkers and writers.
In Luckenbooth we find Gertrude Stein is mentioned, as one of the writers that my characters in the 1910 decade go to visit, in fact they meet Picasso and dare slur that he isn’t even painting at the time, he’s off in Florence having a love affair, of course it is a fictionalised world that visits real ones and in turn alters them, heightens and disturbs reality.
Gertrude Stein was writing through surrealism and she experimentated in form and technique. Her wife Alice is the narrator in this book, drawing in their lives and realities, she talks of Leo Stein, Cezanne, Matisse, Vollard and Guillaime Appollinaire and lots of Cubist artists and arguing with people like T.S. Eliot. I love the feel of these characters and how the form of autobiography is enhanced, not hindered, by reality.
Written on the Isle of Jura where he had gone to escape the furore that had arisen after publication of Animal Farm.
The political take of this novel, the exploration of power, abuse of privilege and social structures and how they impact individuals is an ongoing muse of mine.
As someone raised by the state, I recognised so many interesting truths in Orwell’s work, we also share the same publisher, which I love. The themes of inequality and the individual vs the State, recur in all of my work, Luckenbooth is responding particularly to patriarchy, capitalism, gender, and narcissism.
One of my favourite Scottish writers of all time. This book is a classic that should go out to a far wider audience.
Jessie Kesson was an extraordinary writer, a great mind and someone we should value more deeply in Scottish literary heritage. She is also the writer I wish most to have met so we could have gone out to drink gin and dance.
White Bird Passes has such a sense of place. It is set initially on The Lane where a young girl is taken by the ‘Cruelty man,’ into care.
Kesson is a writer who I think about often. I used her name for my protagonist as a private nod from one Scottish female writer raised in the care system, with all the bias that holds, to another from a previous generation who also set out very much, despite overwhelming odds, to be a great writer.
I have selected various literary mothers in my lifetime. I discovered Maya Angelou when I was still a teenager, I turned to her work many times to understand the clarity of her voice, the power of her intellect, the ability she has to depict all kinds of difficult circumstances without lessening them or dropping into voyeurism or victimhood. Angelou explores her own human condition as fearlessly as she does others and is still funny, wise, clever and humane. Her stories and worlds always feel real. It’s something I always hope to achieve, despite the distance I may travel from cold hard reality.
The year I was born in a Victorian psychiatric hospital, The Shining was published. This classic American horror is about a building that has a dark power. The hotel houses its ghosts and its living with equal terror and truth. It is a novel that has long called to me. From the ability to ‘shine,’ which I understood as a child, to the extraordinary imagery, it is an iconic novel that became a vital part of popular culture. I also feel the literary themes and questions on human evolution, the mind, consciousness, sanity and autonomy often get a little lost by those who dismiss it is as ‘genre,’ fiction!