Category Archives: MISSING Past and Present

Islands of Inspiration (3) ~ Iona

I first visited the Scottish western island of Iona, off the coast of Mull, in my 30’s on a pilgrimage with Aylesbury, St Mary’s. It was an incredible Easter experience and we stayed at the Abbey for a week ~ the likes of which I have never enjoyed since. See my original post in my series:

Pilgrims, Paths and Personal Journeys

This was my fifth trip to the island in all and we were visiting with two friends from here in Kinghorn, Fife.

How the island helped me in Mind, Body and Spirit

Staying in a pod, the only accommodation we could get, in the shadow on Dun I (Dun eeh) was as close to nature as we were going to get because Iona can feel like the end of the earth. And yet, to worship with the community at Iona Abbey, which we did both mornings, makes you truly grounded because addressing the suffering of the natural world and its people is at the heart of everything the community believes in.

You retreat from life in order to raise your awareness and live it in a more fruitful and fulfilling way.

We walked as much as we could, despite the rain, enjoying the wild north end of the island with its craggy shoreline and white sandy bays. We talked so much too; such a pleasure to be away with friends and to spend quality time with them. (and our visiting chickens!)

How I was inspired by the island of Iona

Like Tinos and Sifnos, the beauty of Iona could not help but stir my emotions and inspire me to describe the world around me in a deeper way. I was reminded of the social issues which drove me to write ‘MISSING, Past and Present’; homelessness, racial tension and injustice, and yet I have always been driven by the dichotomy of these issues – the positive relationships between refugee and foster carer, discovering mindfulness whilst wandering the lanes without a permanent home and racist attitudes that can just slip in unawares.

Above all, Iona made me think about the direction my writing would go in. So many projects begun but unfinished, mainly due to the events of the last two years. I have a glimmer of a direction now ~ watch this space …

Iona will always be close to my heart – a place where

‘the air between this world and the next is thin.’ ~ St Coumba

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Virtual tour around Canbury Village ~ the second imaginary location for my latest novel

Canbury village featured a great deal in MISSING Past and Present, both in the ‘Present’ story of Dot, who wandered homeless around the lanes surrounding Canbury village, only two miles walk from Drumford town centre.

The walk from the town took Dot over the River Ree, through a spinney, past some allotments where Dot found a tumbledown shed open; a refuge on cooler nights. It was situated behind the school, an old fashioned Victorian building which had a main entrance out to the village green. It was here she went during her worst moments of despair to be surrounded by everyday life going on normally around her. Dot would wander long Canbury Lane, which ran through the village, and it was along the way that she discovered the solace of nature in a clearing where she slept out in the open on warm summer nights, staring up into the canopy of the three mature trees. Opposite was a tiny footpath and it was along here that she discovered the Grange, a haven where she tried to find herself once more.

Above is a rough map of Canbury in relation to Drumford.

The children of Canbury School had a great affection for Dot and called her ‘Lady Pink Hat’ and the little village shop looked out for her too, giving her food on their sell by date at the end of a day when they saw her pass by.

For Millie, in the ‘Past’ story, Canbury was her home as she trained to be a nun at the Grange, nearly two centuries before, but whereas for Dot it was a Godsend, for Millie it was more like a prison.

Did I find it difficult to write a novel in an imaginary place?

No, not at all. These places were as real in my head as Dot, Millie and the other characters who led my story forward.

Was it strange to link them to real places too?

Yet again no. I imagined Drumford as one of those communities affected by Beecham in the cut to the UK rail network; not deemed large enough to have its own station and yet a thriving and caring community nevertheless, much like many a market town in the UK. To get to Bedford there is a good bus service or of course the road.

MISSING Past and Present, is available at Waterstones or on Amazon.

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Filed under Author Diana Jackson, Book reading, Historical Fiction, MISSING Past and Present, Mystery inspired by history series, Planning a novel

Virtual Tour around the main settings for my latest novel ~ real and imaginary

MISSING Past and Present is unlike my previous novels because two of the main settings are imaginary. Why go to all that trouble?

  • It challenges the imagination of the writer and the reader
  • It will not offend a reader ~ in my murder mystery, set on my doorstep at the time in a village down in Bedfordshire, some folks loved it that way but others were a bit disturbed by it ~ well, it was murder after all!

Strangely enough this did not deter my ability to see the scenes as vividly as ever in my mind’s eye, maybe more so. I suppose writing fantasy is like that.

Tour 1 in the imaginary Town of Drumford

Here’s my sketch of the main town of Drumford in my novel, or at least the centre, where a lot of the action took place. It was the birth place of Dot, my protagonist, and the focus of a life of memories.

The main scenes were set in The Ark, a centre for the homeless, but there were also scenes in the community police station in the old bank building, in the cafe, in both churches and in the Women’s Refuge.

Belmont Park featured both in the past and the present; as a park to enjoy in today’s world it was a place of reflection, even secret assignations. The ruins of the old manor house, still visible among the gardens, brought to life its past for Millie, my trainee nun, nearly two hundred years before.

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Filed under MISSING Past and Present, Mystery inspired by history series, Planning a novel, Writing, Writing a novel