Liz Macrae Shaw
All writers feel a compulsion to write and we have different sources of inspiration. For me it’s the landscape of Skye. I write historical fiction and the past is everywhere on the island. As a child I spent every summer holiday with my grandparents here and developed a lifelong fascination with the island’s stark beauty, family stories, traditional music and Gaelic culture. I’m very fortunate to have returned to my roots and live on the island with my husband Steve who rarely gets access to our ‘shared’ study and my standard poodle Breagha who is my creative facilitator. There’s something about walking with a dog that allows ideas to flow freely.
Historical fiction gives history a human face but imagination needs to be informed by detailed research in order to give an authentic flavour. Of course, the historical record is not a seamless cloth but a pretty worm-eaten piece of fabric so there is plenty of scope to use inspiring stories from the past to weave fact and fiction together.
Love and Music Will Endure
My first book is based on the life of Mary MacPherson, the Skye bard and political campaigner at the time of the Land Wars in the late 19th century. She was nicknamed,’Màiri Mhòr nan Oran’, (Big Mary of the Songs), a woman big in stature and spirit who became a champion for her fellow Highlanders who were being evicted from their homes. A crofter’s daughter and native Gaelic speaker she moved to Inverness for work. When she was falsely accused of theft in an Inverness court whose proceedings she couldn’t understand she unleashed her rage and despair into poetry about the plight of her fellow countrymen. Through force of character she overcame the barriers of background, class and gender to become the champion and inspiration of the dispossessed. The title of the book comes from a Gaelic proverb which translates as 'When the world comes to an end only love and music will endure', a sentiment that reflects her life.
No Safe Anchorage
My second book begins on the remote island of Rona, off the Isle of Skye, where a widow called Janet MacKenzie keeps an oil lamp in her window to help seafarers in the dangerous waters. Her story intersects with that of Henry Otter, the captain of a Hebridean survey vessel, the young Robert Louis Stevenson and Tom Masters - a young officer on Otter’s ship. Tom is a square peg in a round hole, unhappy in his profession and further unsettled by the death of his friend. At the funeral a tantalising glimpse of a stranger leads him to jump ship and follow her. His subsequent adventures take him to Canada where he meets other outsiders and creates a new life for himself. But danger and exposure threaten him again and he must go on his travels once more in the search for a safe anchorage.
Had we never loved so blindly
This novel, set during the Second World War will be published on 21st April 2021.