Beginnings by Paige Shelton
So many beautiful bookshops, so little time! Author Paige Shelton takes us inside the inspo for her new Scottish mystery series–and gives us book (and travel) envy.
Beginnings can be strange. For me, there’s usually a vague spark of something, usually a color and some sort of shape in my mind that eventually lead to a book’s first words. But when the inspiration for the Scottish Bookshop mysteries lit, it came in the form of an imagined plaid kilt and a stack of books; probably the most vivid spark I’ve ever had, and probably the one I could least ignore. It was insistent.
Okay, I thought, sounds great but I’ve never even been to Scotland. Can I do this without travelling across the sea? Is Google maps that good? After I wrote some pages with way too many holes – parentheses with questions inside them like “what would that truly look like, how would it make me feel?” I knew I couldn’t do it, not without seeing it in person, immersing myself in the atmosphere, smelling the smells, feeling the feels, etc.
Somehow, plans came together, though we had to pull off a few scheduling miracles and battle a minor passport challenge (our fault, but that’s another story) to get it done, and my husband Charlie, son Tyler, and I managed to make it to one of the most beautiful places on the planet: Scotland.
I typed up a four page list of things I needed to see or experience, or questions I had and, fortunately, Charlie and Tyler took on the challenges with excitement and enthusiasm. Here are some of our finds.
This is part of the Grassmarket area, where I located my fictional bookshop, The Cracked Spine. We stayed at The Grassmarket Hotel, the building on the right. We probably heard five different languages being spoken in the small lobby as we checked in.
This is the real bookshop located in the same spot (or at least close to it) that I put The Cracked Spine. Notice the cars parked in the completely wrong direction (well, wrong to us). This was a huge adjustment – both for me and my fictional protagonist, Delaney. I still get a little dizzy thinking about it.
The stairs inside that shop. In real life, the stairs lead to more bookshelves. In the book, the stairs lead to another section of the shop, with a secret room full of old treasures.
The Edinburgh Castle is located up and to the side of the bookshop, both the real and the fictional one. The bookshop is located on the bottom floor of the building on the left of the picture. I would love to work at the bottom of a castle’s hill, so I thought Delaney would too.
The city of Edinburgh has more booksellers per capita than any other city in Great Britain. I would have loved to visit all the bookshops, but there wasn’t enough time. We managed to see a good number of them though and The Cracked Spine was born, created with a little of this one, a little of that one, some of that one over there, and topped off by a big dose of pretend.
Between all the shops, the architecture and the wonderful people, we enjoyed every second we were in Scotland. It’s a very welcoming place with a natural friendliness to it, or that’s what we experienced. The trip did the trick, and I felt like I could do Edinburgh and Scotland at least a little justice. I hope so. I would love to go back to see more, for research or not. It was a fast-paced journey and we did manage to explore more than just Edinburgh. I squeezed in some research for the second book of the series as well. It will publish next spring, and the following castle and staircase will play big parts in the story. That’s Tyler with the red shoes and questioning glance to his left, and that’s my shoe on the stairway. My shoe must have blended in so well that I didn’t see it – that or there were so many stairs that I was breathing way too hard by then to care whether my shoe was in the picture or not.
And, finally, we even made it to Loch Ness, and there was Nessie! Well, either that or it was a strategically placed sticker on the boat’s window. You decide.
Thanks to the women of Shelf Pleasure for letting me stop by today and share some of my inspiration for The Cracked Spine. I hope everyone enjoys the journey across the sea as much as I enjoyed writing about it.
Learn more about The Cracked Spine here.
See you at the bookshops!
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