Born in Glasgow
Scribbler in early life
MA and B.Sc. Geology
One stint as Museum Curator
Geology, archaeology, photography
Two published novels, articles and poems
An adventurer bar none
with ‘girl-on-the-go’ hair.
1. Which came first for you, archaeology or writing?
Writing, without a doubt. I was a passionate scribbler as a small child, fascinated by all shapes and symbols printed on paper, longing to know their meaning. I had a head-full of imaginary people, whose adventures I constantly chronicled in stories and strip cartoons.
2. What’s the best part of what you’re working on right now?
Difficult to say. I tend to first run the story in my head like a film, but things often change once I start writing it. I think my current long-short story, “The Lighthouse Man”, should turn out quite well - but then the “next one” is always going to be better than the last!
3. What is more important to you, process or publishing?
Definitely process. Once a piece is finished I no longer have much interest in it, preferring to move on to something new. Trying to get anything published is a tiresome chore.
4. Describe your perfect writing day.
Perfect writing days do not come my way very often. Ideally I would get up late, feed the cat and myself, and write or jot down ideas for about two hours. Household chores, mail, preparation of food etc. have to be fitted in somewhere. Computer work for up to two hours. In the evening I might do correspondence or write again for an hour or so. Most of my reading is done at meals or in bed.
5. At one time you were involved in mountaineering. What prompted an expedition to NE Greenland?
A fellow-climber was organising charter flights for climbers and scientists to Mestersvig, where there was a Danish weather station. There were still quite a few unclimbed peaks in the Staunings Alps. Having been there in 1968 with a small party and seen the possibilities, I helped to set up an expedition from the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club in 1970. It was a successful trip with several good ascents.
6. What do you believe contributed to your love of remote places?
I have no idea. Some recessive Viking gene perhaps, as my parents were not overly adventurous. Childhood explorations of the world around me were extended in imagination by reading boys’ adventure stories, the first and most influential being R. M. Ballantyne’s “The Coral Island”, which I still love. I think that part of me just never grew up.
7. How would you say the sum total of your varied life experience has contributed to your writing?
Life has provided me with a wide choice of settings, as well as a great variety of interesting characters. Earlier in life I was a keen people-watcher, studying human nature and interactions. Having a slight degree of “second sight” and a belief in ghosts (however they may be generated), it is perhaps not surprising that some of my tales turn out to include a ghost or a supernatural element.
8. In 1979 your novel, ‘The Raven’s Beak’ was published. Describe that experience.
It was a thrill, of course, but I was old enough not to get over-excited or over-ambitious. I also felt that the publishers did not do much to promote the book. I had hoped to continue writing novels, but my other three efforts found no publisher, and my interest wandered off, principally to archaeology.
9. Do you interview characters, create elaborate back stories or simply get on with it and see where it takes you?
I usually start with a physical type, sometimes based on a real person I have encountered. When I begin writing, the characters seem to develop of their own accord.
10. What is your least favourite part of the writing process?
Editing one’s own cherished manuscript. For instance, in “The Raven’s Beak” I had to cut out some passages that did not really contribute to the story. In particular, I had extended the encounter between Calum and Seán, and was much tempted to let them have a fight, but struck it all out in the end.
11. What’s the toughest criticism you ever received?
Re: GIDDY OLD SCHOOL: “ [T]here is little narrative flow, plot or overall theme…… the book quickly becomes repetitive, like the slides of an unknown family’s vacation.” (Kirkus Indie).
12. Three words you love.
Cerulean ; Coruscate; Melancholia.
I love these words of classical origin for their euphony. The sounds of the words and their meanings seem perfectly blended. Anglo-Saxon words, good for action passages, are blunt and rarely musical.
13. Three words you overuse.
but; however; suddenly.
I could think of more…..!
14. Which of your characters do you most identify with?
I don’t wholly identify with any of them. While writing, I have to temporarily identify in turn with each person’s thoughts, problems, decisions etc.
15. If writing was a place on earth, where would it be?
Probably Chile. Being of such extent from north to south, it has great variety of geomorphology and climate; it also has vast stretches of apparently empty land wherein one’s mind could wander at will. Now and again an earthquake will jolt one back to reality.
16. What was the nicest compliment ever paid to you?
Re: GIDDY OLD SCHOOL: “Just…. To say how much I have enjoyed reading your ‘schooldays’ book. It’s a fascinating piece of scholastic history and…. It’s interesting to see how your style of writing matured as the months and years passed.” (Rhona Weir).
17. What was the most life-changing personal or professional experience you’ve had?
Falling in love for the third and last time.
18. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be and why? The Faroe Islands. Attractive hilly islands, plenty of opportunity for sea trips and cliff-walking, Early Christian and Viking archaeology; and when the sky is clear, the quality of the light is unparalleled. Above all, the most wonderful people.
19. Your story ‘The Cauldron’, published in this year’s Gem Street: Collector’s Edition is both mystical and frightening – what led you to write it?
The “story within the story” came first, at a time when I was in depression and beset by dark thoughts. Having let it simmer for a while, I decided it was not strong enough to stand on its own, so devised the scenario in which a susceptible person might have experienced it (or imagined it?). This is the longest “short story” I have written so far.
20. What’s next on your agenda?
Another long-short story involving a lot of action and a taciturn hero confronting his reluctance to converse (no ghosts this time). Although the tale is complete in my mind, I have difficulty getting down to the grind of writing it all out in detail! Another longish story is brewing - a sort of burlesque murder mystery - but it needs some research, which I haven’t yet found time for.
Eilidh’s atmospheric story ‘The Cauldron’ was short-listed and published in this year’s ‘Gem Street: Collector’s Edition’.
Extra Stuff about Eilidh:
GIDDY OLD SCHOOL - The Diary of a Swot, 1948 - 1951 by Eilidh Nisbet. (2011).
“In 1948 the author entered Eastwood, a secondary school located near Glasgow, at the age of 14. ….. [S]he initially portrays Eastwood as filled with intimidating teachers, unfriendly students and scary class work that she found impossible to master. As the months pass, however, the entries show her becoming more and more sure of herself. By the time she’s ready to leave Eastwood three years later, the awkward, uncertain girl has been transformed into a confident, knowledgeable young woman. ….. [T]here is something refreshing about reading about schoolchildren more concerned with bicycle tires [sic] and getting a chance to perform a science experiment than with cellphones, text messages, email and who is posting what online. Unfortunately, readers may find that the charm of the bygone age quickly wears off ……”
Available from Eilidh (preferred) www.eilidhscribble.com
Or from Authorhouse www.authorhouse.co.uk