I’m very pleased to be joined by Anne Pettigrew today. Anne’s latest novel, The Carnelian Tree, will be published this coming Thursday. Welcome Anne. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
I was a Scottish GP for many years and a journalist in the mainstream and medical press, always with a medical slant, preferably humorous. No point in grumbling all the time- though I do enjoy a good rant at authority!
What inspired you to start writing?
I started very young, penning a medieval mystery at eight- though the only research I did for that was watching Robin Hood on TV. When I retired I found there were few books on women doctors apart from pioneers like Dr Quinn Medical Woman or pathologists (like in Jo Nesbo’s novels, so I took up the challenge!
Tell me about your journey to publication
I found writing a novel harder than I thought. Characterisation, plotting, setting, dialogue- so many things to consider. So, I enrolled on a Creative Writing Course at Glasgow University. Egged on by the young undergrads on the course who couldn’t understand how we researched essays without Google or organised our social lives without mobiles, I started a novel about girls doing medicine in 1967, the Summer of Love. And that’s how Not The Life Imagined, my first book on the tribulations of women as a minority in the chauvinistic medical profession, was born. After quite a few submissions, it was taken up by publisher Ringwood. Not the Deaths Imagined followed, with the main feisty female character, Beth, now a GP trying to expose a GP serial killer. I didn’t set out to write crime, but after being chosen as a Bloody Scotland Spotlight author, the drift into mystery and crime was inevitable. My third book The Carnelian Tree out in October is set in Oxford, where I did a sabbatical at 52. It shows the underside of ‘academe’ and also has strong female leads.
In a nutshell, what is your book about?
It is an Oxford murder mystery with humour set in 2003 on the eve of the Iraq War. A teacher, Judith, on sabbatical to recharge after a messy divorce, finds herself instead in a house full of odd inhabitants and caught up in a murder involving disappearing students and fascinating ancient texts smuggled from Iraq. A page-turning romp was the plan.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
I was fascinated by the Garden of the Gods in the real ancient text, The Epic of Gilgamesh, that the murdered professor was studying. It had jewelled trees covered in lapis lazuli and carnelians and sounded so exotic! The research for this book was totally fascinating- and the truth about Saddam Hussein stranger than fiction. He was obsessed with ancient kings and even an author himself.
How do you plan to celebrate publication day?
A chilled glass of sauvignon or prosecco- as always!
Do you have a work in progress just now?
I am penning a Second World War novel on a quirky young female serial killer. Emily is ‘Frightfully Clever’ (working title) and eliminates any irritating people in her life. Something to be said for it, but perhaps best not to murder them!
What one book would you recommend to a friend and why?
Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom and London between the Wars. A Guardian Best Book of the Year and fascinating read about prevailing society attitudes to women then and curious facts about the Blitz. Lots of well-known authors feature and some amazing pioneers I had never heard of. Non-fiction.
What are you reading just now?
An Honourable Thief, terrific historical crime by Douglas Skelton and One Body, non-fiction, by Catherine Simpson.
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. How can you not love an author who said he kept a diary as, ‘One always needs something sensational to read on the train.’
Is there a book you’d love to see made into a film?
My first book Not The Life Imagined (she said modestly). Sixties and seventies disco music would provide such a great soundtrack never mind the drama of disastrous love affairs, burning an incriminating body, misogyny and rampant discrimination because of homosexuality, religion and race at beautiful Glasgow University.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
Blogs/reviews books on her own website and on https://annepettigrew.literaryglobe.com/
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
Tricky Woo, the Pekinese dog in Herriot’s lovely ‘All Creatures Great and Small’. Who wouldn’t like to lie on a satin cushion all day and be fed chocolates?
The Carnelian Tree will be published this Thursday by Ringwood Publishing.
You can order your copy here: The Carnelian Tree