Strange and Curious Inspirations, a Guest Post by Sandra Ireland, Author of Beneath the Skin


I absolutely love a psychological thriller and am looking forward immensely to reading Beneath the Skin, by Sandra Ireland. Whilst Beneath the Skin is working its way up my TBR pile, I invited Sandra onto Linda’s Book Bag and luckily she agreed to write a guest post all about her writing inspirations.

Beneath the Skin was published by Polygon, an Imprint of Birlinn Limited, in September 2016 and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

Beneath the Skin


Taking a job in the studio of an Edinburgh taxidermist probably isn’t Walt’s wisest decision. Suffering from combat stress and struggling to outrun the demons from his past, he now finds himself confronted by the undead on a daily basis.

His enigmatic boss, Alys, and her sister, Mouse, have their own uneasy relationship with the past. Someone doesn’t want to let them go. Can Walt save Mouse’s eight-year-old son, William, from becoming the next victim? And can he save himself?

Deliciously disturbing, this psychological thriller peels back the skin of one modern family to reveal the wounds no one wants to see. It deals with the effects of trauma and how facing up to vulnerability is sometimes the only way to let go of the past.

My Strange and Curious Inspirations

A Guest Post by Sandra Ireland

On a recent trip to Edinburgh, I got off the train at Waverly Station and joined the throng of passengers heading for the exit. Head down, shuffling my tickets and anticipating the perils of the automated ticket barrier, I almost missed a very curious sight.

About to board a train on the adjacent platform was a man not to be missed. Tall and elegant, he had long black hair and a bushy beard, a top hat and the most impressive Victorian frock coat. He was in conversation with the guard. There seemed to be some problem with the transportation of his luggage- a battered Gladstone bag and a very large, hinged cabinet which was strapped to a trolley.

This briefest of encounters was enough to spark my imagination. A hundred questions and scenarios sprang to mind. Was he an actor, an undertaker? A street performer? Was he a tour guide at the Edinburgh Dungeon, or simply en route to a Halloween party? And what on earth was in the cabinet? I’ll never know, but not knowing is the handiest prompt in the writer’s toolkit!

I have a notebook which contains detailed descriptions of many such episodes. Station platforms are, unsurprisingly, a hotbed of inspiration. Hotels are useful too, or city streets late at night. Here’s a sighting from a recent book festival: Two little girls in green pinafore dresses, one with red hair and purple top hat, the other in a straw boater. They were accompanied by a young woman who didn’t seem to be their mother. Was she an au-pair? Did these children have a very chaotic/Bohemian/privileged home life? I immediately saw them as quirky characters in a children’s adventure story.

I suppose inspiration is no more than that- a colourful image, a fleeting impression. I see it as playdoh for the imagination! You can twist and shape these little incidents until you have the makings of a story. My debut novel Beneath the Skin began life as a chance soundbite from a BBC documentary: a taxidermy artist revealing that every time she meets someone knew, she imagines what’s going on beneath their skin. The idea was both fascinating and repulsive, and I knew immediately that these were the feelings I wanted to exploit in my novel. So rather than attempting to come up with a fully-formed storyline, I let the characters and the narrative evolve from that single curious source of inspiration.

And the man on the station platform? Well, he might just find his way into my next book!

About Sandra Ireland 


Sandra Ireland is an award-winning writer, poet and artist. Born in Yorkshire, she was brought up in the North East and lived for many years in Éire. Her work has appeared in various women’s magazines and publications such as New Writing Dundee, Dundee Writes and ‘Furies’, an anthology of women’s poetry. Beneath the Skin is her first novel and was inspired by a love of all things curious and unseen.

You can find out more about Sandra by visiting her website and following her on Twitter.

5 thoughts on “Strange and Curious Inspirations, a Guest Post by Sandra Ireland, Author of Beneath the Skin

  1. You see all kinds of sights at Waverley! During the festival there was a man in our carriage who looked liked he’d stepped out of Braveheart. Except for the mobile phone he was on the whole time!

    Liked by 1 person

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