Emotional Geology

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Rose Leonard is on the run from her life.

Taking refuge in a remote island community, she cocoons herself in work, silence and solitude in a house by the sea. But she is haunted by her past, by memories and desires she'd hoped were long dead. Rose must decide whether she has chosen a new life or just a different kind of death. Life and love are offered by new friends, her lonely daughter and most of all Calum, a fragile younger man who has his own demons to exorcise.

But does Rose, with her tenuous hold on life and sanity, have the courage to say yes to life and put her past behind her?...


“Lyrical, intriguing and haunting.” Isla Dewar

“An un-put-downable page-turner.” WELL? magazine

"A hymn of praise to the damaged, to the incomplete, a wonderful thing of hope."

"One of the most outstanding first novels I believe I've ever read."
From a review at The Bluestalking Reader

EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY was shortlisted for the 2006 Waverton Good Read Award, given by the readers of Waverton village in Cheshire to the best first novel by a UK author. It was also runner-up for the PURE PASSION award. North West Libraries chose EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY as one of 20 books on their PURE PASSION - Recommended Reads booklist, promoting the best of romantic fiction in its many forms.


I started writing EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY just as a treat for myself. I was 47 and I couldn’t find the sort of thing I wanted to read in bookshops which were awash with chick-lit at the time. I was fed up with middle-aged women being portrayed as Somebody’s Mother, Somebody’s Wife, only allowed to pull the hero if they were thin and looked 39. So I decided I’d write a book for grown-ups - a thinking-woman’s romance that dealt with real issues, had believable characters, a yummy hero, but no easy answers. I made my heroine – as a matter of principle - 47. This was suicide in terms of finding a publisher, but I didn’t care - I was writing to amuse myself.

I had a wonderful time writing an off-beat love story about a sexy, middle-aged, manic-depressive textile artist and an equally fragile younger man, a teacher. (I wanted to put an intelligent, creative woman in the spotlight and ignore her age, just look at her heart and mind. I wanted my hero to do the same and I thought a younger man would be more likely to do that.)

Sitting in a dreary Norwich suburb, I set the novel on the beautiful, remote, Gaelic-speaking island of North Uist, off the west coast of Scotland, a place I knew well from family holidays. I sent the manuscript to Transita and – gasp! - they liked it. Even more miraculous - they didn’t want to change anything. My heroine wouldn’t have to have a face-lift or lie about her age! And so EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY became one of the first, ground-breaking Transita books that featured older heroines - a very new idea in 2005.

EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY defies categorisation. It’s a novel that occasionally breaks out in poems. It’s a study of the relationship between “madness” and creativity. It’s a love story. It’s comic, it’s tragic and some of it’s Gaelic. It was written with passion and paint-stripper honesty because I knew the book would never be published and frankly, I didn’t give a damn. I was having too much fun.

That title

The Cuillin mountains seen from Elgol, Isle of Skye

People often ask me about that title.

EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY is a book in which nothing much happens. All sorts of tumultuous events occurred in the past, but what the characters are actually dealing with in the present is fall-out. So I had the idea of using geology as a metaphor.

Rock is a concrete record of the past, of what happened to the Earth – a build-up of pressure, seismic upheaval, erosion. When you look at rock you're looking at layers of time.

I think our minds and our memories are like that - a record of what we’ve been through and the toll it has taken - so the “excavation” of the past (which is what happens in the novel) becomes emotional geology.


One of Linda's quilts. This type of quilt is
known as an "Orphans & Widows" quilt
because it's made from leftover blocks
and samples made in workshops.

[Warning : SPOILERS!]

Poems in a novel? Why?

The poems portray Rose’s state of mind. “Gavin falling” (p. 111) is her recurring nightmare. “Sleeping on the sea” (p. 115) is the dream she has when she spends a chaste night with Calum, so it’s sensual but not sexual. It's all about Rose feeling safe, "moored to this man."

The actual sex poem (p. 235) is me ducking out of writing what I call “plumbing” (and thereby avoiding a nomination for the Bad Sex Award), but I also wanted to convey how Rose felt when making love with Calum. I wanted to show it entirely from her point of view and I did that as a poem.

“Fool’s Gold” (p. 267) is meant to convey a manic state of mind as Rose works late into the night on Gavin’s memorial quilt.

The problem with conveying mania from the inside, i.e. from Rose's point of view, was that I had to portray a state of mind unfamiliar (and rather alarming) to most people. As mania is a way of thinking and perceiving, I wanted to find a different vehicle for expression. The poems evolved spontaneously as a solution to this problem, but I always thought they'd ensure the book would never be published. Even when I found a publisher I waited for them to ask me to cut the poems, but they didn't, which is just as well because I wouldn't have done it. The integrity of the book meant more to me than publication (which some fellow writers have found hard to believe.)

The other reason the poems are there is because it's a book about a poet, about an anthology (called "Emotional Geology") and its therapeutic effects on both its author and readers. The novel is also about an exhibition of poems and textiles, so I thought poetry needed to feature. The poems should have been Calum’s of course, but as I wanted the reader to believe he was a gifted poet, I didn’t try to write them! I hoped my poems would disguise the hole where Calum’s should have been. I also hoped the descriptions of the quilts and Rose working on them would fulfil the same function, as they were a response to Calum's poems.

Readers have told me they can "see" the quilts. I hope they also "hear" Calum's poems, even though they aren't there.