The Courier & Advertiser (Fife Edition)
Joan Haig tells Caroline Lindsay how her love of Scotland helped inspire her debut children’s novel
“Idon’t do many things in a straight line. My route to writing was a bit like one of those maze puzzles you get in children’s comics – lots of knots, occasional dead ends, frequent tangents,” smiles Joan Haig.
“I always wanted to write fiction, but for a long time I considered that, for me, saying that aloud was over indulgent and self-purporting. My job in academic research meant I wrote a lot, and most of this was ethnography – literally, ‘writing culture’. Then, when I was lecturing in African History at the University of Warwick, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer – my contract ended just as treatment began,” she continues.
“I also opted for (self-funded) therapy of a nonradioactive sort: I booked myself a writing retreat at Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre. I started my book there, but I finished it at the kitchen table of my weekly writing buddy, Miranda Moore, without whom I don’t think I would have found the confidence to complete the task.”
Joan’s debut children’s book Tiger Skin Rug, written for children aged 8-11, is the story of two brothers, Lal and Dilip Patel, who move to Scotland from India.
They meet a magical tiger (which has come back to life) with a promise to keep, and, with their new friend Jenny, set out to help it on its quest.
“The idea of a magical tiger skin rug was given to me by my Auntie Lilian, who was the world’s best storyteller,” reveals Joan.
“The story itself came from my own childhood experiences of moving to Scotland from the tropics, and my decision to write across culture came from living in India and researching Hindu diaspora identity,” says Joan who was born in Zambia and now lives in the Scottish borders.
“Tiger Skin Rug is out with Cranachan Publishing, based remotely on the island of Lewis, and I would love to shout about them,” she says. “Cranachan has a wonderful ethos of supporting Scottish children’s
authors and narratives and it’s fabulous when indie bookshops support indie publishing and we’ve seen a lot of that this year. They each have their own separate challenges, but the independents are making waves in the book world.”
Joan’s writing is informed by her children, her own childhood, and the natural world and, she says, “Capturing the mood and spirit of a place in words is a challenge and joy. Scotland is inspiring – the light, the muted tones, the mountains. Animals are a big part of my stories, too.”
Joan has a non-fiction title coming out this summer with Fife author Joan Lennon, called Talking History: 150 Years of Speeches.
“It was inspired by my old religious studies teacher who used to ditch the curriculum and have us knit jumpers for Africa while her old record player crackled out famous speeches. Hearing voices from history can stir up so much emotion and conversation.
“I am also juggling two novels at the moment, and need to settle on one and finish it!”
Tiger Skin Rug by Joan Haig is published by Cranachan Publishing, £6.99. Talking History: 150 Years of Speeches will be published by Templar Publishing in July.