How the story began

Ideas to discuss

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Click  here to listen to a Scottish Book Trust interview with me about THE RECKONING

how the story began




Unlike THE WITNESS, which took me a long time to write, I had to come up with an idea quickly for THE RECKONING. I had a board on my office wall with a big list of potentially exciting things on it: tsunami, cults, extremists, tunnels, sacrifice, brain-washing, those were just a few ...  


I sat and stared at it until I hit on two things that seemed very far apart, but that I thought I could bring together in an interesting and dramatic way: racism and green energy. I realised that I wanted to tell a story about things not always being what they seem, and also about the idea that things are very seldom entirely good or entirely bad.  


For the racism part to work, the story needed a black main character but because I live in the country in Scotland, and don't know enough about the life of modern black city kids to be able to write about them in a believable way, I decided to make my character's home an island. So 18 year-old Fin Carpenter came to live on the imaginary Whale Island (for which I 'borrowed' the shape of a real Scottish island - check out the map in the book and see if you can figure out which one!).  


Fin is the son of a white father and a black mother. Danny, his father, worked on the trawlers until he had a bad accident when Fin was younger. Out of work ever since, he drinks too much and his rows with Fin's sister Maia eventually become so bad that she leaves home. At the time the story starts, they haven't heard a word from her for nearly two years. Fin misses her terribly and is beginning to worry about her safety. Then a girl falls from a bridge and from that moment on Fin's life will never be the same again ...  


I'm also intrigued by 'outsiders'. I think all writers are, partly because they identify with the idea and often feel that they themselves are standing on the edge of things, looking on; partly because people who are different in some way offer an interesting lens through which to look at the world.  


In THE WITNESS, Ninian with his Fragile X syndrome was the outsider. For THE RECKONING I created a character called Norman Turner, an older man with a tragic past, who has retreated to Whale Island to live as a recluse and spend his days trying to solve the medieval mystery of perpetual motion. Have his experiences left him wiser, or simply deluded?


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'. . . a tense thriller and a moving man-into-boy story.'
 The Telegraph