Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Dearest Charles:

I have fallen in love with Papa Stour.

Who is Papa Stour, you ask? Ha ha, you transparent Straw Man! Papa Stour is not a person, it's a place. My heart belongs to Gerard Butler. And sometimes to Vin Diesel. And, of course, to Jayne Cobb, the hero of Canton.

Anyway, it's a place. An island. One of the Shetland Islands in Scotland, to be exact. And oh, do I love it, and I loved it at first sight.

It was a story idea, of course. I've been writing almost every day for weeks, it seems like, but on different ideas. A few pages on this one, a few pages on that one. A long spurt on one story in particular. But, of course, there's always YET another idea glimmering in the back of my mind.

This one had been percolating after a dream I had. Not necessarily a good dream, and I knew the story wouldn't necessarily be a nice story. Plus, I knew the location had to be very specific. I needed an island, a real island, but not a warm, sunny, lay-on-the-white-sand-in-a-bikini island. Not a touristy, come-see-the-dolphins-and-all-our-lovely-merchandise kind of island.

I needed... populated but not heavily populated. Picturesque but nothing like a tourist trap. Cool if not outright cold, and definitely cold water. I wanted it to even have a broody feel, if possible -- not dangerous, but... isolated and weather-roughened, which would feel otherworldly to someone used to cities and well-lighted, well-traveled, noisy and well-populated places. Worst of all, cliffs and beaches.

Plus, I totally wanted it to be in the Scottish islands. What? I love me some Scotland. I've been in love with Scotland since, like, the second grade. And, ya know, they have the best legends about fantasy creatures.

So, I kept shoving this idea to the back burner. Seriously? I didn't think any real island would have the qualities that would really make this story sing. The island itself would be so important, would be a character in itself -- sometimes helping, sometimes hindering, sometimes a friend, sometimes the antagonist -- that not finding the right one (or worse, just making one right the hell up) would throw the whole thing off.

But the idea niggled, and I finally bit. I googled the Scottish islands, then narrowed it down to either the Orkney or the Shetland islands. Then, because I had a Shetland pony when I was a little girl, I decided to look there first.

As I'm reading a little wiki info on Shetland as a whole, I learn that some of the islands are inhabited, while some aren't. I looked at the list of links for inhabited islands and out of the sixteen, one jumped out. I don't know why. It just did.

Papa Stour.

I could tell you it was the unusual name, but... let's be real. We got East and West Burra. We got Tondra. And much more eye-drawing, we got Muckle Roe. But I click on Papa Stour, and I never look back.

Every next thing I find out about it is perfect. For the story of course. It has that perfect British Isles weather -- rainy and foggy enough that the sunny days are to be treasured to their fullest measure. It's definitely isolated. It's a forty-ish minute ferry ride to the nearest more populous island. Speaking of population, it's currently (as far as I can divine with the 'net) down to nine. Yes. Single digit. The all-time high was over 300, but that was many moons ago. Sparsely populated, much?

Best part? Cliffs and beaches. Sometimes at the same time! In fact, I found one picture -- regrettably un-right-clickable, which I understand, but it's not like I was planning to use it for profit! -- that shows exactly the place where the inciting incident of the whole damn story takes place. Exactly. When I saw that picture, I could practically see my characters there.

Unfortunately, the island wasn't just perfect for my story. It's... dammit, it's perfect for me.

I wanna go there so bad I can almost taste the sea breeze. I want to walk its entire coastline -- all twenty-one miles of it, though the island itself is just over three square miles. I want to look out over the skerries and stacks as the waves either lap them or pound them. I want to stand snug in my little house and watch the mist and let my imagination run wild. I want to see if the residents are friendly and inviting or a little standoffish, because island people are some of the most fascinating people in the world. I want to take the ferry over to the Shetland Mainland (enjoying the ocean the whole trip) for all my supplies and stop in at a pub for a pint.

And, on weekends, I could totally explore the rest of Scotland. I mean, I'd already be there! If I had the funds to be there in the first place, I would likely have the funds to go walkabout.

So... maybe one of these days, I'll make my way to my new love. If it will wait for me, I will come to it. My heart is already there. Some day, my love. Some day.