Iwas born in the north-east of England, a Celt through and through: my family and ancestry is both Scottish and Irish, and I was raised on an imaginatively rich diet of Irish myth, poetry, music and history. Waylaid into studying psychology, I spent several years as an academic neuroscientist/ psychologist specialising in the field of anxiety and panic, and working at the Hôpital Pitié-Salpêtrière in Paris and the Institute of Neurology in London. After a few twists and turns, including some unwise years advising a tobacco company on smoking and health and safer cigarettes, and the acquisition of a master’s degree in Creative Writing, I moved to a croft in the north-west Highlands of Scotland. There I returned to my roots, in practice as a therapist specialising in narrative psychology, myth- and storytelling, as well as in other creative imagination techniques and clinical hypnotherapy. My passion during those years was, and still is, creating transformation in individuals and groups.
My husband David Knowles and I founded literary publisher Two Ravens Press (now under new ownership) in 2006, and in 2012 launched EarthLines magazine, a full-colour print publication for writing about nature, place and the environment.
My first novel The Long Delirious Burning Blue was described by The Independent on Sunday as ‘Hugely potent. A tribute to the art of storytelling that is itself an affecting and inspiring story’ and by The Scotsman as ‘… powerful (reminiscent of The English Patient), filmic, and achieving the kind of symmetry that novels often aspire to, but rarely reach.’ I am slowly working on a second novel, The Bee Dancer (written with the support of a writer’s bursary from the Scottish Arts Council), a contemporary ecological retelling of the myth of Psyche and Eros. My major focus right now is to complete If Women Rose Rooted, Like Trees: a narrative nonfiction book about women, Celtic myth, place and belonging which will be published in spring 2016.
‘The Wild Woman … lives in the green poking through snow, she lives in the rustling stalks of dying autumn corn, she lives where the dead come to be kissed and the living send their prayers. She lives in the place where language is made. She lives on poetry and percussion and singing … She is the moment just before inspiration bursts upon us.’ Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves
I continue to write nonfiction essays and creative short prose pieces, but my other passion is for the work that I do with myth, storytelling and what I call narrative ecopsychology (please click on the link for more information) to help people along their individual paths of transformation. All of my work springs from an intense connection to the land, which is rooted as much in the mything and storying of place as it is in the physical environment. For many years I was a crofter, both in the far north-west Highlands of Scotland and in the Outer Hebrides, sandwiched between mountains and sea in one of the wildest and most remote places in the country. (On a clear day, we could see St Kilda from our kitchen window.) We produced a large proportion of our own food, keeping sheep, cows, pigs and a miscellany of poultry; a large thriving polytunnel, and a herb garden which allowed me to indulge in my love of ‘weedwifery‘: the amateur practice of herbal medicine in the Celtic traditions. That long, hard work, which required us to be outside in all weathers, as well as a continuing daily need for long walks to explore rocky shoreline, bog and mountain, has given me a deep and nourishing sense of connectedness to place that I feel drawn to share with others.
We have just completed a further migration westwards, returning to Ireland where I lived (in Connemara) in the 1990s. We now inhabit an old riverside cottage near the magic mountain of Errigal, in Donegal. You can follow our collaborative creative project, which traces the story of our migration and our ‘re-placement’ there, at the Riverwitch website. These days we own just a small patch of land, and so I am focused more narrowly on the keeping of bees and hens, and the growing of vegetables and herbs.
You can contact me here.
My literary agent is Kirsty McLachlan, at David Godwin Associates.