by Margaret Chrystall
ONE of a new generation of "indie authors", Flora Kennedy has spent a lifetime in professional writing but now enjoys presenting her creative work with her own stamp.
After a career that began as a teen journalist in the south of Scotland before a shift into advertising copywriting that took her across the world, Flora had to come home to write her novel The Wild Folk.
"I had written poetry and short stories while I was living in Australia and New Zealand," she said. "But storytelling in the Highlands seeps into your bones and, now I’m back in Scotland, my writing feels different from what I did over there. It’s as if I’m writing in a different voice."
Flora – who now lives on Benbecula – just down the road from her mother’s family home in North Uist, will be one of three indie authors from the Highlands and Islands reading from their work at the joint XpoNorth Emergents and Highland Literary Salon event on Tuesday (June 9).
The gathering at the Phoenix Ale House is the opening event for the writers’ strand of XpoNorth.
Indie authors are writers who have often bypassed conventional publishers to self-publish a book – usually online and it’s a route that more and more writers are choosing.
It’s inspired Flora, who – along with Tuesday’s fellow guests John AA Logan from Inverness and LG Thomson from Ullapool – was part of a group of North writers invited by XpoNorth to attended an indie author event at London Book Fair in April.
"It was phenomenally successful and had lots of workshops and great speakers talking" said Flora.
"Both the indie author and indie reader thing is taking off really quickly.
"Indie authors are attracting indie-type readers who might quite like different kinds of writing and want to be a bit more wild in their thinking or who may not be reading mainstream media any more. And they come across books they might like through their ‘tribe’ online."
Writer Flora’s therapeutic contrast to her dayjob – handmade knitting designs she sells online – have now featured in hit US TV drama Outlander.
Flora said: ""I read the Outlander books about 15 years ago when I lived in New Zealand and loved them.
"So it was a real honour to have some of my designs used in the costumes of the TV series..
"The costume designer Terry Dresbach is incredibly gifted and made a decision that when possible she would use local Scottish artisans.
"So she has been effectively supporting handmade which is something very close to my heart – the whole handmade movement. She then put it all together in the Outlander costumes in an incredibly beautiful way.
"American viewers of the series have even been taking stills from their TV screens and then sending messages to me asking ‘Are these your gloves?’.
"I had literally hundreds of emails from Outlander fans looking for one of my patterns, so I just recently released it.
"There are Outlander knitting groups on Facebook and apparently the New York Times had an article on how the knitting in Outlander had inspired even more people to take it up."
And the now huge #outlanderknitting ‘tribe’ who are now buying Flora’s Kindle knitting patterns she’s published on Amazon are also now finding her fiction too.
She said: "I’m noticing with my Inner Wild Etsy shop that people who are buying my knitwear do have a similar feeling about the world as I do.
"So therefore they are also attracted to buy my novel."
Born in Glasgow, Flora grew up on the Isle of Coll and in the village of Strathblane, but spent much of her career in Sydney and New Zealand working for companies including Saatchi & Saatchi and Ogilvy Mather.
While living in Australia, Flora’s poetry was published in Australian literary magazines and in New Zealand her debut novel, Forsaken, was accepted by Penguin NZ. Her short story Tenderness was included in Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival’s Worth The Wait eBook of short stories. Her current novel The Wild Folk sees her recurning to the island of Coll as the setting for a story of murderous family secrets.
Flora also has plans to revive a series of books she published in America with stories to be read out loud to dogs.
"I wrote the stories thinking about what dogs would like to hear," laughed Flora."I’ve used words that really turn dogs on so that the owner is then rewarded by the dog’s response.
"And on a serious note, they are a really good way to rehabilitate rescue dogs and to get your puppy to trust you.
"The stories mean you are sitting with them, reading them a story with their name in it while they listen to your voice."
Three guest Highlands and Islands indie writers, Flora Kennedy, John A A Logan and L G Thomson will read from their work at a free event on Tuesday at the Phoenix Ale House from 7pm, hosted by both XpoNorth Writing & Publishing and Highland Literary Salon. To find out more about Flora: www.florakennedy.net To find out more about XpoNorth: www.xponorth.co.uk