Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Wilkie Collins, Bulgaria and Me

I spent the winter of 2009 looking after my parents' holiday house in the remote mountains of Southern Bulgaria. Somewhere in the middle of February, after some particularly heavy snow fall, I found myself completely snowed in and without electricity. I was trapped indoors with nothing but tinned food and dry crackers to feed me and a cheap, old, dog eared Wandsworth Classic to occupy my mind.

It was there, cuddled up by the fireside, wrapped in a blanket, reading Wilkie Collins's 'The Moonstone' by candlelight, that I was first inspired to write 'Death Takes A Lover'. It was the perfect setting to enjoy this classic Victorian mystery. Kardjali - a remote and forgotten corner of Bulgaria, abandoned by the young folk, littered with ruined and tumbled down homesteads, where wrinkled old ladies walk up the steep hills with their kerchief'd heads carrying heavy loads of firewood on their backs, or sit cross legged on the ground watching their cows graze the rocky fields, while their husbands drink and gamble their pensions away at the local cafe. Time had come to a standstill there (somehow it had even managed to roll back) and this bleak world of Victorian hardship and inequality which I read about, seemed more relevant to me then than anything I might have otherwise watched on television.

Time had come to a standstill for me too. I was not so young anymore and life had been leading me in the wrong direction. So before my dreams of becoming a writer had been fully frustrated, I decided to stop, take a sabbatical and go on my snowy retreat. So there, in the white and desolate Rhodopi Mountains, stuck in the past, trapped by the weather and by my own longings and yearnings and anxieties about a life half lived, the story was first conceived. It's a story about missing the boat. About hadship and inequality. About working and idling, lusting and yearning. A story about death. A story about love.