I’ve been working on Twisted Ladder, my first novel, since at least 2007. Or perhaps I’ve been working on it all my life. I wrote one of the chapters, The Salt Cellar, while still at school. I wasn’t ready to be open about what I was writing then. So I was horrified when the headmistress announced that I’d won a commendation for it in the WH Smith Young Writers Competition. Still more horrified when I was made to read parts of it aloud to the class. I closed that chapter for a while, picking it up again only after the sudden death of my stubbornly tragic father. I took some time off work and started writing his story, which soon turned into an exploration of the genetic side of addiction. While many of the events are fictional, they are inspired by real life as experienced by me and others I have read about. My father deserves a writing credit for the achingly sad but beautiful chapter ‘Cherry Trees,’ based on his account of a period where he doubted his own sanity. And the end of the story was inspired by Nuala O’Faolain’s Are You Somebody: the moment she realised she was turning herself into her alcoholic mother.
Set mostly in Scotland, Twisted Ladder is the story of Andrew Browne, an Edinburgh lawyer and an alcoholic, and his daughter Amy. It is told in the first person by both characters in an episodic style that switches backwards and forwards in time. The big events of both lives are kept in the background and the foreground focus is on the incidents around alcohol and drugs.
Today, I sent a version that I am finally happy with to my agents Dystel & Goderich. I’m ready now to talk about Twisted Ladder and all its whys and hows and wherefores.