A story is not an inanimate thing, is it? It is alive. Beyond the last full stop, a story continues to stir and develop in our minds. In fact, you could say that a story never finishes. We simply choose to turn away from the what comes next or what might be.
Some stories, however, cannot be so easily ignored. They pester with whispered words of dialogue or fleeting images of scenes playing out somewhere unfixed between the known and unknown. They create an insistent momentum for us to want to know more and to read the unwritten. My 2017 debut novel Highland Fling is one of those stories. And my new release Highland Whirl is the sequel that insisted to be brought to life.
Whenever I heard the weather forecast for the Highlands, I would think of Eve and Moira and their life amongst the snow-topped mountains and the brooding waters of Loch Ness. Had Moira’s wounds from her troubled past healed? Had Eve found her one in Moira? Have they found the lasting love together that the closing scene of Highland Fling promised…?
Beginning four years on from the ending of Highland Fling, Highland Whirl answers these questions for the curious. (The answers are yes, yes, and yes!)
It seems unbelievable now that I never considered a sequel at the point of writing Highland Fling, for everything about Highland Whirl feels anticipated and inevitable. I mean, how could I not return to Eve and Roxanne’s friendship? How was Roxanne coping without Eve, her best mate in the whole wide universe world? Could they maintain that vital childhood bond from so far apart?
In the years following the publication of Highland Fling, I kept hearing the repeated question rising to the surface whenever my thoughts wandered off—it was Eve asking Roxanne, “Alice? Moira’s Alice?” Like an approaching flurry of Highland snow, Roxanne and Alice’s love was forecast from the start…
The wee eejit Roxanne Barns and feisty Alice Campbell are so well matched in their differences and their surprising similarities that there is a palpable sense of meant to be. Their love is the story that demanded to be told, as they become the main characters, front and center, in Highland Whirl.
“Why Alice? What makes her different to all the others?”
Could Roxanne say everything? “Well, she’s kind and compassionate and smart, with bags of common sense. And she’s funny and sharp-witted and feisty— I can’t bloody well get away with anything.”
Eve laughed. “True. You’ve certainly met your match.”
“But most of all, maybe, she looks at me like no one else has ever done. As if she sees through the bullshit and…”
For me, writing a sequel is all about the art of seeing through to the potential of that which is already there. A key additional narrative asking to be seen is found in the supporting characters of Elizabeth and Angus McAlister, the much-loved elderly couple who provided the emotional bedrock in Highland Fling. What would happen if the stability they provided began to crumble? That question sparked the inspiration for the narrative thread that would poignantly resonate in Highland Whirl and bring everything and everyone together. In many ways, the McAlisters’ story provides a measure and a context of what a lifetime of love can be. We come to understand that lasting love is not boisterous or seeking of limelight. It is constant and has the breathtaking strength to weather life’s storms.
“You are my beginning and my end. Thank you for being my love, my Elizabeth, and for receiving these carrots every year, when I know you would rather have a bunch of roses.”
Elizabeth took the soil smudged offering into her lap and rested her palm against his rosy cheek. “No, my sweetheart. What other wife has such a unique gift? And what other wife could ask for more than a life lived with you? I love you, Angus McAlister, with all my heart. Now please get off that cold floor with that knee of yours.”
Only time will tell if I can turn away and move on from the stories of Highland Fling and Highland Whirl now that another full stop has been placed. But I promise I will be listening for that next story, be it in the Highland series or otherwise, that will no doubt pester itself into life.