Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Call Billy 07899232007: Have You Called Billy Yet? by Sam McColl

Release Date: 1st May 2018
Publisher: McEllisons
Genres:  Contemporary Fiction

Have you called him yet? 07899 232007

Edinburgh is meant to be a new start for the Gillespie family. Rachel has enrolled as a mature student at the university, while Andrew is spending more time with the kids. 

But Rachel's 'new start' morphs into 'new affair' with fellow student Ryan. Or is it Stevie? Either way, her lover is not what he seems. When his past surfaces in the guise of a name on a library ticket, the affair turns nasty. And then her teenage daughter unwittingly discovers the deceit and the family begins its spin into free fall.
Give Billy a shout!


Wow, that view. Soo inspiring! Not.

I live by the sea, in a hut perched above mature native woodland. It is spring. Just now the woods are a sumptuous blend of purple bluebells, wild white garlic, and delicate spring leaves of every shade of green against a wash of blues. In winter the sea glitters through naked trees, the pools of silver light on gunmetal water a gasp of delight.

I’m sitting at my desk, trying to wriggle myself into the mind of a fifteen year old, who is about to get wrecked with a boy she’d been obsessing over for months. He is twenty five. I need to know where it’s going. Will she have sex? Or will she panic at the last minute. Or will her mother come back from work early, and the drama of the scene be postponed? I have an ache in my tummy. I don’t plan the minutia of my character’s life. I know the broader brushstroke of her: that she’s a lovely girl, a thinker, that despite everything, she still wants the family to get back together. But I also know that the events of the past months have forced her way out of the comfort zone of happy endings and this new place is full of strange possibilities. With everyone she trusted now engrossed in their own despicable dramas, she has begun to look elsewhere for reassurance and love. And why not – she’s almost sixteen, old enough to make her own decisions and mistakes – and so it goes on.  

And yet, I must take the plunge. I must have her answer the door-bell, have her press up against him and see if I can find the one and only truth of the moment, and record it.
And then I look up from my screen, disturbed by the thwacking of rope on canvas as a sail is lowered. Through the glass door I glimpse my trays of parched lettuces. I should plant them out this afternoon. Yesterday I took the quad and flailer over the hills to cut broad pathways through the emerging bracken – and got it stuck on a sap-slick-slope and left it there, along with the key. I check my weather app, Abi’s dilemma draining from my concentration, like water down a plug hole… 

Inspiration doesn’t just happen. It’s a slow build. Dumping Abi, I decide on a place for another scene. I may chose the rocky coast north of Tarbert, or the skaggy beach in Oban, where fag packets and scratchings of plastic get me in the mood for, er death. Or maybe just sand… yes, sand… 

It’s many hours later, I look up from my screen, a silver moon is hanging there, over the sea, a pool of—oh for God’s sake, just don’t …
The following morning it’s raining. Good. I flex my fingers, rub my palms together in preparation and dive in.
Hours later, I’ve got something down: a U-turn.
“He’s not even coming is he? I make myself hot chocolate and get into bed, stare at the balloon pattern on my duvet. ‘Virgin’, my whole room shouts ‘virgin’. I hate my life. The twisted paper tip, which I should have chewed off, flares and drops, melts a small hole in one of the balloons. I take a puff and nudge it around, so what if I burn the house down …”
It’s a start.

I’m delighted to see a yellow crack in the cloud cover, a zag of reflection on the water and remember the quad I abandoned on the hill yesterday with a jolt …


For years I have resisted the whole blogging/posting thing. I should be writing novels, I’d say, when my friends and family brought it up – and besides, no one needs to know about the author – it’s the characters in my work that are significant.

But I’ve been surprised – I’ve found it satisfying and refreshing – so here I am, rummaging around in my murky past to find something to say about myself.

It’s my take on it, of course, and my novels are all about the different ways two people from the same family will see things, but this is my understanding of it – and out of it, I have become who I am.
I’m the younger of two sisters – we were raised in a family hushed and stunted by the threat of violence and became orphans when I was just twelve and she fifteen.

I would like to acknowledge something here – something which I couldn’t see at the time. No child is ever responsible for a parent’s violence – ever. For many years I wished she’d stop challenging him – I thought we’d have peace if she did. But the violence was his, not hers – she was a child looking for love, like we all were.

Our parents were killed in a car accident on their way back from a party one Saturday night and we were woken on Sunday morning by two policemen at the front door. We neither went to their funeral nor discussed them again, in fact we began a new school less than forty-eight hours after the crash. The occupants of the other car were fined a few thousand pounds for drunk driving, a fact I discovered while flicking through a local newspaper, some months later. We spent what remained of our childhood with our aunt’s family and it didn’t work out well.

Children do what they can to be happy, and I kept a low profile. Keeping my sister on an even keel was my all-consuming purpose in life. One false step or wrong word and she  would certainly bring my world to a terrifying stop, but far worse than that, she and my father created a war zone which excluded my mother and I as we watched frozen from the side-lines.  I both loved and feared my sister and I continued to both love and fear the people I drew close into my life for many years.
Eventually, with little sign of things calming down, I went into therapy and began to understand the vital part I played in the continuing soap opera that was my life. ‘It wasnae me officer’ just didn’t cut it. It was me, just as much as it was the people I chose (after all I was an adult wasn’t I?) to surround myself with, and if I wanted a different life, it was me that had to change.

I gave up cigarettes, my sister and my husband – cold turkey. It was the most painful thing I’ve ever done – like losing the reason to live. I could never have done it without intense professional support.
Leave this  paragraph out if you are averse to therapy speak! Between us we built what in the trade is sometimes called – a strong and nurturing ‘inner-parent’.  Once that was done we asked her to draw up some strong boundaries for my so-called ‘inner child’. This took months. It’s a bit like saying to a child – I know you’re thirsty, but coke will rot your teeth – how about a glass of spring water. You may even grow to like it – and you’ll definitely like the lack of rotten teeth. And I did. I do.

Finding myself with nothing to fear created a huge scary space in my life and very slowly I began to fill it with healthy options. And eventually I began to write.
With little meaningful education, it took two decades to understand and learn the art of storytelling and the process has changed my life. Amazingly I found an agent for my first novel, but it didn’t sell and since then I’ve had three agents, rewritten and rewritten a thousand times, completed two novels and am about to start the second draft of a new one.

In case any of you are wondering – I’ve not written my own story. I find that if I come close to characters I’ve known, I lose my unbiased observation as a writer. But I do know what it’s like to be too afraid to breathe, to straddle a wire fence, unable to decide which side to fall – onto broken glass or upturned nails, full to the brim with the futile hope that I won’t be hurt this time. I know what it’s like to watch someone you love beg to be battered.  And these experiences have helped me, sometimes, find a truth for my characters.

I have three grown-up children, and live between Tarbert and Edinburgh with my husband. 

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