Posted by: gillarbuthnott | August 14, 2017

It’s Raining Festivals…

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The biblical rain is still falling here in Edinburgh from time to time, but the city is full of compensations for occasional – actually, frequent, if I’m honest – soakings now that the multiplicity of festivals are well underway.

As usual, a major problem is how on earth to decide what to see/hear. The Fringe programme is now so large and heavy that reading it qualifies as aerobic exercise, but the Book Festival programme is more manageable but still stuffed with goodies.

So far, I’ve been to Wagner in the main festival (wonderful, even on the unpadded wooden seats of the Usher Hall organ gallery) and Manual Cinema in the Fringe. Manual Cinema produce enormously atmospheric performances using puppets, silhouettes, and live music to tell stories, in the complete absence of dialogue. That somehow makes it sound ghastly… but it is extraordinary in an entirely positive way. Go and see this year’s production, ‘Lula del Ray’ and find out for yourself.

I was lucky enough to hear Sebastian Barry talking about my favourite book of 2017 – Days Without End – today at the Book Festival. He was lyrical and funny and fierce and passionate, and the book is breath-catchingly good.   Read. It. Now.


Posted by: gillarbuthnott | August 1, 2017


Image result for aberdour festivalI had a great day yesterday visiting the Aberdour Festival, to talk about A Beginner’s Guide to Life on Earth, and my Fife novels, Winterbringers and Dark Spell. What a lovely and welcoming place! I’m not sure I’ve ever been in Aberdour in my life (and how stupid is that, given how close it is?), but I’ll certainly be back. And the festival programme is terrific – I’m only sorry I can’t get back for the Bohemian Rhapsody singalong and Strictly Aberdour… I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the programme next year.

August is upon us, so no more reading simply for pleasure for me, as I get prepared for the Edinburgh International Book Festival. You can see what I’m doing on the Events page.

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | July 26, 2017

Harry Potter and the 20th Anniversary

Image result for philosopher's stone book coverAbout 20 years ago, I was reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for the first time… I have loved all the books (and the films) and read them to my children until they were old enough to read the next instalment by themselves.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised they both claim to be part of the ‘Harry Potter Generation’.

There are, of course, many things going on to mark the anniversary, and I’m very pleased to be playing a part in one of them. The British Library is hosting an exhibition – Harry Potter: A History of Magic – from October, and  Bloomsbury and the British Library are publishing a children’s book to accompany it – Harry Potter: A Journey Through A History Of MagicI was delighted to be asked to write some of the text and suggest activities connected with the subjects Harry studies at Hogwarts.

Amazing books, objects and original illustrations will be on display, and it was great fun finding out about some of them. My favourite challenge was to come with a colour-changing potion you can make at home and drink. I’m very much hoping to see the exhibition for myself, knowing what’s going to be on show…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | July 19, 2017

Creeping back

Image result for gothic typewriterI’m ashamed to start writing this again, it’s been such a long time. And the longer it’s gone on, the harder and harder it’s become to actually face doing it. Thank goodness that hasn’t been the case with the actual, real writing, which has been chuntering along nicely. I’ve eventually been shamed into returning here by the need to get my events page up to date to advertise my forthcoming visits to the Aberdour Festival and the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I’m really looking forward to attending lots of events as well, especially Simon Callow, A L Kennedy and Sebastian Barry. And Evelyn Glennie. And the Unthanks. Etc. Ready meals for the family during August, I think.

I’m nearing the end of one big writing project, and ideas are already swirling in my brain about what to do next. But which one do I choose?? Or do I have some time off?

Don’t be silly. I was only joking.

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | May 11, 2017

Back to work…

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Garelochhead; a lovely place for a school visit…

Just getting back into the swing of things after an extended break, holidaying in Costa Rica with the husband to celebrate our escape from the world of work in the classroom/office. I’ve been straight back into events: thankyou to all the small but enthusiastic scientists who came along to Borders Science Festival at Duns library on Saturday for my Human Body event, and thanks to everyone at Garelochhead Primary for the warm welcome you gave me yesterday. That was a lovely day out for me, to a new part of the country as far as author events go. I could still be talking now, I was having such a good time with the pupils. Hope the story-writing is going well… Let me know!

Have had the luxury today of almost a whole day spent with the Naples novel, doing bits of rewriting and generally tidying things up. With any luck, I might get another one tomorrow, though I can hear the garden weeds growing behind my back…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | April 13, 2017

Easter Editing

Image result for writer writingI am busy editing a novel draft at the moment, and in particular, making sure the timelines work. You know the sort of thing: have I put two Tuesdays in one week; have I made a character give birth three months after the pregnancy started; has it been summer for nine months? All very embarrassing if you get them wrong – and someone will always notice. Then there’s the matter of names. Some of my main characters don’t have surnames yet… No one will care what their surnames are, I can hear you saying. But they still have to be right, because they won’t seem real to me, otherwise, and if they’re not real, I can’t write about them. And did I mention they’re Italian, so it’s harder for me to know if I’ve got them right for the place (Naples) and period (1620ish)?

None of this is very enthralling, but it is vital. Get it wrong, and you basically make your reader run into a wall if they spot one of your mistakes. And then what happens to the all-important suspension of disbelief??

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | April 4, 2017


I opened a parcel from my publishers yesterday to find this little beauty…


I’ve never been in Portugese before – perhaps this is my chance to teach myself some. Not perhaps for general conversation or useful-on-holiday purposes…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | March 29, 2017

A Grand Day Out

Image result for newcastleI was unchained from the desk yesterday and let loose in Newcastle for a day, working with Eric Ferguson as part of the ‘Literature Works’ programme which runs in the city’s schools. I had great fun visiting West Denton, St John Vianney and Westgate Hill primary pupils, who had been reading A Beginner’s Guide to Life on Earth. They came armed with many, many questions about living organisms,  writing non-fiction, and being an author. I had a great time – I only hope they enjoyed themselves as much as I did!

Right – the leg irons are being fastened again, so it’s back to Naples for a bit more death…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | March 20, 2017

Creeping into the light again..

Hello… It’s been such an embarrassingly long time since I posted that it’s become harder and harder to actually do it. Pathetic. Anyway, back again now. I’ve been doing lots of school events (Hello Downfield, Our Lady’s High and Davidson’s Mains), bashing on as fast as I can with the patchwork novel, which is nearly a finished draft now, and working on a new non-fiction project.

But what has finally lit the blue touch-paper under me is that my first story for radio goes out this Wednesday for BBC Schools’ Radio, and it would be nice if someone, somewhere listened to it! It’s been very exciting to write something so different – those of you who know me will also know I don’t often sidle up to a short story – and I can’t wait to hear it being read by an actual Actor. You can find out all about it here. It’s called A Long Way From Home and has a bit of a twist in the tale/tail…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | January 6, 2017

And so it begins…

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Hello 2017! The festivities are over, the decorations are all put away, we’ve almost finished the cheese,  and I’m back at work at my desk, unlike most of Edinburgh, who seem to be extending their holidays until Monday 9th.

I haven’t been idle since the last (long ago…) time I posted, and the patchwork-quilt novel (that’s working method, not subject) has reached 70,000 words. It underwent an unexpected and rather pleasing gear change this morning and is now definitely entering the final act, though quite a long final act, I think. I am so enjoying being able to write every day – it’s amazing what a difference a bit of momentum makes. And you were right,Theresa Breslin, when you said there would be much more room in my brain once I stopped teaching – thankyou!

In January, I am particularly looking forward to reading The Essex Serpent, and to Donald Trump’s inauguration, where he reveals that he is in fact David Bowie in a hideous mask…

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