Today we welcome Anne Pettigrew as we travel to north Ayrshire overlooking the lovely Firth of Clyde, learning how Glasgow University, a career as a GP, The Herald, a meerkat, Judi Dench, Snow White, Ailsa Craig, and the Exuma Cays in the Caribbean come together to form Anne’s past, her present and her writer’s life. Come in closer, we’re sharing all the secrets in this one …
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am Glasgow-born, haunted local libraries as a child, graduated in medicine from Glasgow University in 1974 and enjoyed a career as a GP in Greenock for 31 years. I also dabbled in homeopathy, acupuncture, BMA media stuff, wrote columns in The Herald and medical press (mostly funny) and tried to improve patient care by serving on many (tediously un-funny) committees up to EEC level.
In 2001 at a crusty old 52, I shot off to Oxford for a sabbatical MSc in Medical Anthropology looking for new ideas for health promotion. To my surprise, I found the best thing you can do to improve a society’s health is to educate its girls past 12, hence my sponsorship of girls in India and the channelling of funds from my novel into PlanUK who aim to help the 130 million denied schooling.
My other passions are travelling (although mosquitoes find me so attractive my husband doesn’t need insect repellent), painting wonky landscapes, gardening and my writers groups: one local, of inspiring, if bonkers, people, and one in the city, of candid editors.
The novel would never have seen light of day without them and the Creative Writing tutors at Glasgow Uni, where the undergrads egged me on to write of a life before mobiles, the internet and the pill (unavailable for the unmarried on the NHS in the 60s). How did we manage? Not sure I’m managing now with all this web/social media stuff – see my blog post at https://annepettigrew.co.uk/social-media-can-do-your-head-in/
I live in north Ayrshire overlooking the lovely Firth of Clyde and am the proud owner of a new titanium knee (never jump off a boat in Kerala).
How many published books do you have?
My debut novel Not The Life Imagined has been published by Glasgow non-profit Ringwood Publishing as ebook (December 2018) and paperback (January 2019).
I also had some award-winning short stories published in a 50th anniversary Anthology by Greenock Writers Club in 2018. My second novel Not The Deaths Imagined is in editing.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?
My first novel was written age eight: an illustrated medieval whodunnit called Bridget’s Key. Sadly I knew little about the Middle Ages and couldn’t draw for toffee!
But by ten, I’d decided on being a doctor and didn’t start Not The Life Imagined until retirement. This book was ignited by the discovery that there were no books about UK women doctors, only pioneers, pathologists and the odd Mills & Boon. I felt the struggles of female medics in the 60s was worth recording, though decided it had to be fiction, not memoir, since I was reluctant to write about living people without seeking their permission; doctors of course, are taught to keep secrets.
The first book concerns an arrogant womanising surgeon; the second has a Shipman villain, also unmasked by the main protagonist Beth. I discovered writing about complete monsters can actually be quite fun.
Is there an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?
I am prone to ‘tics’ as my tutor called them, first drafts are awash with excess ‘just’ ‘seem’ ‘merely’ ‘very’ ‘somehow’ ‘maybe ‘and ‘quite’ which need ruthlessly eliminated.
What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?
An albatross; they can fly for hundreds of miles effortlessly out to sea, mate for life and are the longest-lived bird by far. Or maybe a meerkat… they are very cheeky and bossy.
What does your ideal writing space look like?
See attached photo – Big desk with wireless keyboard and mouse, hate the narrow laptop one. Behind laptop I have a propped-up pinboard with teaching prompts eg ‘Hook -Move- Intrigue- Paint a picture- Pace- Perspective – Voice’ to remind me what I am meant to be doing as I write- not ambling endlessly through Twitter or checking my emails.
What are you currently reading?
Just started Middlemarch by George Eliot after being told it’s one of best novels ever written.
Love eg Joanne Cannon, Joanne Harris, Martin Walker, Peter James, Andrea Camilleri, Anthony Horowitz, Chris Brookmyre, Daphne Du Maurier, Philippa Gregory, Taylor Caldwell, John Le Carre, Douglas Kennedy etc
What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?
Cook, walk or snooze in front of Scandi-noir TV… do lunch.
If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Judi Dench- ‘What would you like to drink?’
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?
I can be wide awake at 2 am if on a roll with an idea.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve experienced to help create a scene or plot?
For my second book I Google-searched ‘Where are the saunas in Edinburgh?’ for my seedy villain, and the next night around eleven I was playing solitaire on my iPad, when up popped an Ad showing a well-rounded young lady in suspenders offering a hotline for her services in my locality. Big Brother Google indeed watches us!
Do you journal write or keep a personal diary?
Never- the girls in my book, however, keep them.
If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose?
The only one I remember is Snow White- of which I was terrified! Not going there ever again, I mean, those red pointy talons on the Wicked Stepmother? I was taken out of the cinema screaming by my Dad when I was 4.
If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do?
Rosie maybe- she doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. She is also very smart and doesn’t need to study as hard as I did!
What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?
Wild Rose – about a Glasgow girl who follows her dream to become a country and western singer. I liked the parallel to Beth in my book following her dream to be a doctor; Rose’s life turned out not to be the life she imagined either. I enjoyed it, but felt it but it had scope for more humour.
A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?
I don’t give him a chance but shut the door immediately: all that ‘inspirational’ Sauvignon is obviously giving me DT hallucinations. I will go and have a wee lie down and some vitamins .…
What’s your favourite place to visit in your country and why?
The cliff walk at Culzean Castle down the Ayrshire coast from here; wild sea, distant misty island on the horizon (Paddy’s milestone aka Ailsa Craig- halfway between Ayrshire and Ireland): tall grasses whisper in the breeze beside my bench beside the path, purple and red wild flowers dance, seabirds cry as they whirl overhead and dive off the cliff. There may be a seal or two on the beach. No traffic. Of a morning, usually no people either.
Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.
A seaplane trip down the Exuma Cays in the Caribbean, obviously best if it’s not hurricane season. Lunch time? Calm azure blue sea and cloudless sky- solo picnic on a deserted island- iced fresh lemonade and today-caught prawns barbecued with crusty bread. Sitting under a palm tree with pink crabs scurrying past. Mind you, I couldn’t be completely solo- there would have to be a pilot since I can’t fly a plane! Tom Hiddlestone would do.
Tell us about your most recent book.
Not The Life Imagined is a darkly humorous, thought-provoking story of Scottish medical students in the sixties, a time of changing social and sexual mores. None of the teenagers starting at Glasgow University in 1967 live the life they imagine.
Beth Slater is shocked at how few female medical students there are and that some, like Conor Towmey, think they shouldn’t be there at all. Devastated by a close friend’s suicide, Beth uncovers a revealing diary and vows to find the person responsible for her death.
Struggling with the pressure of exams while supporting friends though disasters, Beth charts the students changing, often stormy, relationships over two decades against a contemporary backdrop of Free Love, the Ibrox Football Disaster, the emergence of HIV and DNA forensics. In time, indiscretions surface with dire consequences for some. A Ten-Year reunion is a watershed: devastating crimes past and present are exposed.
Relevant to present-day narratives concerning mental health and #MeToo, this award-winning novel (runner-up in the Constable Award 2018) has wide appeal and already has attracted 5 star reviews (see below).
Thank you Anne for joining us on MTA! I had a great time getting to know you and learning more about your debut book and upcoming book! –Camilla
Where to find the book:
Available from Amazon, Ringwood, and Waterstones.
UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/2NqslAW
US Amazon: https://amzn.to/2LDrF95
Connect with Anne:
Email: [email protected]
Website and blog: https://www.annepettigrew.co.uk
Amazon and Goodreads reviews:
***** Superb ***** difficult to put down
***** Cracking read ***** such a great book
***** A Must read … ***** a whirlwind of wit and emotional ups/downs
***** Entertaining tale ***** a really good read
***** Up market rite of passage *****a good picture of sexual discrimination
***** The light and dark lives of medics ***** A great read, super pace
***** Medics with a twist ***** A compelling read ….
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And if it feels the thing to do and you are inspired to do so, I would be deeply grateful if you’d like to “Buy Me a Coffee” … Camilla – Host of Meeting the Authors …