Without archives many stories of real people would be lost, and along with those stories, vital clues that allow us to reflect and interpret our lives today.
It is through our extended family that we first learn to compromise and come to an understanding that even if we don't always agree about things we can still love and look out for each other.
Research material can turn up anywhere - in a dusty old letter in an archive, a journal or some old photographs you find in a charity shop.
Those who have not been stung will hardly fear a bee the same as those who have.
As an historical novelist – there are few jobs more retrospective.
Sometimes I create a character from a scrap - a mere mention that has been left behind.
A book is a story, even if it's non-fiction, and once I've read it, I have the story with me inside my head always.
It is one of the benchmarks of a culture I always think – the page at which it operates. A good way to measure it is to order a taxi and see how irate local people get if it is late.
Books have a vital place in our culture. They are the source of ideas, of stories that engage and stretch the imagination and most importantly, inspire.
If we don't value the people who inspire us (and money is one mark of that) then what kind of culture are we building?
Writers of novels live in a strange world where what's made up is as important as what's real.
A word out of place or an interesting choice of vocabulary can spawn a whole character.
I've always had a keen sense of history. My father was an antiques dealer and he used to bring home boxes full of treasures, and each item always had a tale attached.
For me, writing stories set, well, wherever they're best set, is a form of cultural curiosity that is uniquely Scottish - we're famous for travelling in search of adventure.
Aunts offer kids an opportunity to try out ideas that don't chime with their parents and they also demonstrate that people can get on, love each other and live together without necessarily being carbon copies.
The sky was a sparkling succession of black diamonds on black velvet made crystal clear by the blackout.
At the end of the day, that's what a family is - a group of different people who accept each other.
I jealously guard my research time and I love fully immersing myself in those dusty old books and papers. It's one of the most enjoyable parts of my job.
Historical fiction of course is particularly research-heavy. The details of everyday life are there to trip you up. Things that we take for granted, indeed, hardly think about, can lead to tremendous mistakes.
Writing about the 1950s has given me tremendous respect for my mother's generation.
Very often the characters people respond to best have little parts of reality they can relate to.
My father could talk about the Romany way of life and its culture. He could talk about freedom and the Scottish spirit. But that was all he could talk about. I was desperate for someone to talk to but there was just nobody there.
Often we don't notice the stringent rules to which our culture subjects us.
People make interesting assumptions about the profession. The writer is a mysterious figure, wandering lonely as a cloud, fired by inspiration, or perhaps a cocktail or two.
I don't choose between my house phone and my mobile. I don't choose between my laptop and my notebook. And I don't intend to choose between my e-reader and my bookshelf.
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