Inspiration in the Woods

Yesterday we went for a walk in the woods in Perthshire. It was mild, dry, there was even occasional sunshine and we saw lots of wildlife, lots of red squirrels, fallow deer, flocks of starlings, buzzards, Canada geese, wigeon. This time of year, before Autumn shrinks into Winter is an inspirational time for a writer. There’s something about deep woods that is iconic of wilderness or the outdoors. Of course civilisation emerged from the forests and so there’s something mythic about being enfolded in deep woods. It’s a symbol of the depth and darkness of otherness; some 18th century religions sought to portray woods as an actual source of evil and think how many slasher movies take place there. For me, a walk in the woods with the vibrant Autumnal colours always requires a notebook and pen in my pocket. And my most recently completed novel started that way. I was walking in the woods of Vermont, early fall, some years ago and it occurred to me how easy it would be to get lost and… what if you wanted to get lost? Would it be possible to stay lost, to survive as a hermit? From that idea, I soon came up with a character who wanted to escape… into woods and possible motivations… an unusual character, but harmless, likeable even, and if you have somebody who is lost, even willingly, you’re going to need to have somebody looking for him… I had half a plot already. So then you need a starting point… perhaps a failed romance…

And that was how my mind turned and twisted as I came up with my novel ‘The Way Back’ that has taken me longer to complete than any other project. In fact, I have worked it and reworked over years while other novels have been begun, completed and published. Recently, I spent some time with it and really got to grips with and this time I think I have finally nailed it. Anyway it’s out there, so let’s hope publishers agree.