A chilly, dreich Inverness evening failed to dampen spirits for the keenly anticipated first Salon proper of 2017. The Glen Mhor Hotel played host to author, Kellan MacInnes, who braved the snowy rail journey from Edinburgh on March 21 to deliver an enthralling workshop, followed by an equally entertaining set of readings from his debut novel, The Making of Mickey Bell.
Over a dozen Salon members benefitted from Kellan’s workshop, for which he had prepared meticulously, beginning with some ice-breaker games! He then proceeded – with the help of a number of instructive handouts and visual aids – to encompass key aspects of the writing process, such as how to pick a title for your book, what is your book really about, plotting and plot twists, structure and perspective, imagery and metaphor. The workshop also delved into the collaboration dynamic between he and the publishers and editor at Sandstone Press, not least in terms of cover design and the author’s stylistic predilection, which in Mickey Bell’s case involves the device of italics to convey shifts in time.
After a short break to refill our glasses at the bar, it was back to the Salon, ably presided over by the committee’s Chair, Paul Shanks. A few more folks had now taken their seats to hear Kellan, who comes across as a highly intelligent, thoughtful and sincere person, recite several humorous passages from his novel and discuss his work with Paul. Indeed, thanks to Paul’s insightful and well-researched interviewing, we learned of Kellan’s personal journey, including his love of climbing. Integral to this was the writing of Caleb’s List – a non-fiction account of Caleb George Cash, the late Victorian-era mountaineer, geographer, antiquarian and teacher, who set out to climb the Scottish mountains visible from Arthur's Seat. Kellan’s book tells the story of how Cash’s scaling of twenty mountains (all over 300m high) came about, and provides directions and route descriptions for those wishing to emulate the feat!
However, more than just a climbing book, Caleb’s List is also the story of a survivor. Sensitively guided by Paul, Kellan recounted to the Salon how he was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS at the age of 33, and how becoming an ‘Arthurist’ has helped him carry on with life. Twenty-five years later, Kellan is fighting fit and already working on further books. For now though, he is busy promoting The Making of Mickey Bell, which – with its central tenet around the Scottish Independence Referendum – looks set to be relevant for a long time to come!