Beyond The Hedge

Writing for life
By Mairi Craw

The day started uneventfully enough to paraphrase the opening of my debut novel, 'Beyond the Hedge'. The television was on as a much-needed diversion while I was hanging out some washing on a grey winters morning. As I stepped in from the cold, I heard a daytime TV guest say to her hosts, "The reason I like being a writer is that it allows me to escape from everyday reality and live in a world of my own creation." That one sentence caught my attention as effectively as a snorting, angry bull on the rampage.

Having a melancholic streak, like many Scots, I'd been subject to searing self-doubt down the years and tended to view my own abilities with more than a little negativity, in spite of having good qualifications and a decent career. I can't remember when my confidence first came off the rails and the loss of self-belief was gradual. There were other external circumstances, of course, but by the time I realized I'd taken the wrong path I was too far from home, without a compass or the stamina to find my way back and try another route instead. Until that momentous day in 2001.

Some people would describe what happened as an epiphany and I'm not inclined to disagree. That morning I found my place on the planet. Every single experience that went before was preparing me for becoming a writer. I now realise it's never too late to dream large dreams. You can change your destiny IF YOU REALLY WANT TO. I thought I'd missed my true vocation, even though I hadn't a clue what it was. When I did get that wake-up call I donned my destiny like a big cosy jumper.

I started work straight away on a novel about the Scottish fairy folk my father had introduced me to as a small child. His delightful stories about Wee Alfie Elf and Pogo Pixie had stayed with me down the years. That single decision has brought an unshakeable positivity and determination; I've never once faltered in my belief in what I'm doing, even during the darkest hours of the treacherous journey towards publication. I can say without exaggeration that I live to write and I'm now happily engrossed in the sequel, 'Between Two Worlds'. I find working with words and imagery both uplifting and sustaining.

The very act of creating and building my parallel fantasy world makes for contentment and peace of mind the likes of which I've never experienced before. I enjoy sharing my characters and their lives with other people and the generous response from those readers whove been with me from the very beginning has helped me stay focused in a hugely competitive, dog-eat-dog profession. My love of animals, nature and music has proved an unending source of inspiration.

Many family pets, past and present, inhabit the pages of 'Beyond the Hedge'. I'm a veritable magpie when it comes to crystals and gemstones and they are well-represented in my writing, particularly in terms of their powers of healing and protection.

'Beyond the Hedge' does seem to make people feel better, be they 10 or 80 years old. It promotes the lighter, magical side of life but doesn't shy away from the dark side either. Many of the characters are recognisable as the sort of folk we interact with on a daily basis, even though in this instance they're elves, fairies or indeed birds and animals.

The book is illustrated by Johnny Milne, my art teacher from school whom I met again at a reunion in 2002. He was so taken with the story that he embarked on a series of drawings which are now such an important part of the book. They are unlike anything I've ever seen and I feel truly blessed that our lives brought us together again.

At that same reunion I met an old school friend who subsequently introduced me to her brother, the Scottish actor, David Rintoul. I immediately recognised him as the voice of the book. His dramatised reading of 'Beyond the Hedge' for its month-long radio broadcast in December on the digital station One Word is stunning.

His characterisations are perfect whether he's playing the beautiful, feisty Sylvanian fairy queen or a high-minded talking kilt and the bane of its life, a cheeky wee leather sporran! David is a true storyteller and his powerful delivery is enthralling. He has the ability to lift the spirits and give the soul something to sing about, but then I could be accused of being biased as hes reading my words.

The day I was struck by benign lightning, which inspired me to write my first novel, would have been Dad's birthday, something that convinced me I was on the right path at long last. I could so easily have missed the all-important sentence which changed my life had there been one more towel to hang on the washing-line. Now that's kismet as long as you (a) recognize it and (b) act upon it!

© Mairi Craw 2005. For details of where to obtain the book and the broadcast schedule, see

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