Posted by: gillarbuthnott | July 16, 2019

Soup Dragons Are Go!

Image result for moon landing anniversary clangers episodeI will never again write a book that benefits from such a slew of public-consciousness raising as Balloon to the Moon. You can’t move for documentaries, exhibitions, posters and other books. It’s wonderful to have even a tangential involvement, but I’m reaching saturation point with documentaries, however wonderful,  to be honest. BUT… I’m sure I’m not the only person to be in paroxysms of delight at the best anniversary event of all: a special episode of The Clangers! And with added Maggie Aderin-Pocock!! Truly, we live in an age of marvels.

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | July 12, 2019

How to Blend in at Festival Time

Greetings, Edinburgh Festival visitor. You have just entered the most beautiful, infuriating, unpredictable madhouse of culture in the galaxy. Here are some tips to help you slip seamlessly into the life of the city and avoid passive-aggressive tutting and head-shaking from the locals

Image result for one o'clock gunThe one o’clock gun: The clue is in the name. Every day at 1pm, a very big gun is fired at Edinburgh Castle. If you want to look like a local, don’t duck and look round wild-eyed. Check your watch.

Image result for greyfriars bobby statueGreyfriars Bobby: Don’t rub the statue’s nose. It isn’t good luck. This is some nonsense promulgated in the last few years. His nose had been black since the statue was erected. It shouldn’t be shiny. Step away now. But not into the road (see Photographs)

Image result for tourists taking photos in edinburghPhotographs: We understand you want to take lots of lovely photographs and in general we will try not to get in your way, but we do like to be able to walk along the pavements. And do try not to step backwards into the road to get that perfect shot. This particularly applies if you are photographing Greyfriars Bobby or the Elephant House in George IV Bridge. Bus drivers do not like having to swerve round you.

Image result for lrt busBuses: We have a great bus service in Edinburgh, BUT the buses don’t give change. Really. This is actually one reason why the service is so good, as it cuts down the time a bus spends at the stops, but if you’re not prepared, you will find it a bit of a pest (and there will be lots of passive-aggressive tutting from the natives behind you in the queue). Make sure you have change or buy a day ticket and hop on and off to your heart’s content.

Image result for edinburgh weatherWeather: Anything is possible – sun, all-day fog, snow, vertical wind, horizontal rain – all within an hour. Be prepared.  There’s a reason why the locals dress in layers.

Image result for people disguised in masksFamous People: You could run into anyone on the street/in the pub/in a queue during Festival time (Steve Martin once helped me carry my daughter in her push chair up a flight of steps in a graveyard…) Natives consider themselves too cool to get excited, so you must pretend you have no idea who the famous person is. Unless you have just reached the front of a long signing queue for your favourite author at the Book Festival. That would just be silly.

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | July 11, 2019

The Calm Before the Storm

Image result for edinburgh at festival timeEdinburgh is gearing up for the festival season, with the Jazz Festival kicking things off this weekend. When I was growing up I loved festival time – especially the Fringe where, for not very much money, you could take a chance on events by people you’d never heard of, and the Fringe programme was a single fold-out A2 sheet…

As time went on, the programme grew and grew to a point where you had to go into training for weeks just to lift it, the city got more and more busy, and I slightly fell out of love with the whole thing.

And then the Book Festival began and I had something new to fall in love with – an affair that has continued without a break ever since. I went to events in the main Festival and occasionally to the Fringe, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I fell back in love with the Fringe.

The unlikely reason was that my son had a job on a food stall in George Square and when I went to sample his cooking, I was caught up in such joyful bustle that I was charmed. Now I find I look forward to the whole mad month, even though the Fringe programme is now much too heavy to lift at all and the city can seem crammed to bursting point.

If you’re a visitor, see my next post for some tips on blending in…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | July 4, 2019

What’s that in the room?

Image result for elephant in the roomToday’s snippet of ‘couldn’t make it up’ comes from The Times…

A letter from 1705 has been unearthed in which a baker with a shop near the Royal Mile in Edinburgh complains that his shop is being damaged by his upstairs neighbour’s pet.

The upstairs neighbour, Mr Sever,  is Dutch and his pet is an Elephant.

If you know the tenements in Edinburgh, you should be boggling by now at the idea of it being possible to get an elephant  – even a very petite one – up a set of tenement stairs. Not only up, but down again: the elephant went on to have a (short) showbiz career in Edinburgh before dying in Broughty Ferry in 1706. She was a seasoned traveller, having spent 20 years touring Europe before being rented – yes, rented – by Mr Sever.

There has to be a book in that…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | July 1, 2019

Tattoo Who??

Image result for moon tattooI can’t remember exactly how this happened – blame the wine – but at the launch party for Balloon to the Moon I found myself joking to someone that I have a tattoo done for every book I have published. I don’t, needless to say, but I found myself thinking about what illustrations I might have if it was true…

Image result for millennium clock edinburgh drawingHmmm… this one might be tricky.





Image result for dna tattoo





So what tattoo would I have for my next book? Well, that depends on what it is, obviously, but maybe one of these…

Image result for headsman's axe tattoo

Image result for submarine tattoo


Image result for twisted ring tattooRelated image

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | June 27, 2019

Lift Off!

balloon to moonHappy book birthday to my latest ink and paper offspring, out today – Balloon to the Moon (Big Picture Press) – fabulously illustrated by the amazing Christopher Nielsen and telling the story of how we progressed from the first hot air balloon to the first moon landings – and beyond.

There’s already a lovely revue from the Lancashire Post  here – the first of many, I hope.

It seems incredible that I have such a clear memory of something that happened 50 years ago. Can’t actually believe I’m that old, but I suppose I must be…


Posted by: gillarbuthnott | June 25, 2019

Reading Backwards

So Much Life Left OverI’ve just finished reading So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernieres – one of my favourite authors. However, I must admit I’ve fallen behind on his books, so I had no idea until I had already finished reading it that it was a sequel to The Dust That Falls From Dreams, which I have not read.

I wouldn’t have done this on purpose, but how much does it matter? His books are driven by character as much as by plot, so I like to think I haven’t ruined my potential enjoyment of the first volume.

Anyway… I loved the book, but it wasn’t what I’d expected based on the cover blurb, which seemed to misidentify who was the central character. It has a wonderfully ambiguous ending (I’m a sucker for that: see Villette, Inception, and the one I tried to write in my own novel Winterbringers). There is also an encounter between two characters which I find myself thinking might have been a religious experience for one of those characters (trying to avoid spoilers here). If you’ve read it and have an opinion, please share it with me!

It strikes me that this would be a really good Book Group book – there’s a lot in it to discuss and it’s not too long.

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | June 22, 2019

Developing some sitzfleisch…

Image result for cat typingThis is definitely my word of the week. I came across it in an interview with the wonderful Philip Pullman in The Author yesterday. Now, if you speak German and know that the literal meaning is ‘sitting flesh’ (buttocks), you will be wondering why I would want more than I already have. But this word, as so many do, has a double meaning. It also means to sit down and get on with a task, to stick with it until it’s done and, as such, it’s a useful thing for a writer to have.
But in the real world, there are always distractions, and the last few weeks have been full of them. They’ve all been lovely: holidays, family visits, graduations, book launches – but they make it hard to keep any rhythm of work going and for me, at least, that makes a huge difference to how much I achieve…
But now, I have a couple of wonderfully empty weeks coming up and I intend to write many, many words. These are the first and the next ones will be the chapter plan for my next (I hope) book.
Buttocks ready and off we go!
Posted by: gillarbuthnott | June 15, 2019

Writing away from home

IMG_20190611_113139_671I’ve just spent a week in Corfu, mixing writing with holiday (and getting away from truly awful weather, even by Scottish standards). I was slightly worried that I wouldn’t have the discipline to actually do the writing, but a couple of hours in the shade in the middle of each day got me quite far through what I’d been hoping to achieve. I think it’s a good idea to write in different places regularly: it’s all too easy to become so convinced that there’s a sort of ‘magic’ about one building/room/chair that it becomes hard to work away from it. I enjoy working in trains, as long as there’s no one sitting next to me, surreptitiously reading what I’m doing – though if I’m writing by hand, they wouldn’t be able to read it anyway…

DSC_0003_22So this was writing HQ, and very pleasant it was too, but now it’s back to my cluttered desk and probably rain running down the window and all the distractions of home –  including, this week, the launch of my new book, Balloon to the Moon, and my son’s graduation. At least they’re quality distractions!

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | June 6, 2019

Meeting an old friend…

Image result for so much life left overI’m currently reading So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernieres (don’t know why it’s taken me until now to find it) and am delighted to find that Doctor Iannis from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin has a small role in it. Since he’s one of my favourite characters in fiction, the discovery brought a genuine smile to my face. I love it when things like this happen, and characters have walk-on roles in a number of books. It’s one of the (many) reasons I love Terry Pratchett and David Mitchell. Yes, I know it might seem odd to have them in the same sentence, but you’re in my head at the moment and that’s how it is in there.

Please let me know what other authors do this so I can seek them out!

And So Much Life Left Over is just as good as I hoped it would be – of course.

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