Sandstone Press

Ricky Monahan Brown: Borders Book Festival

On Friday, 14th June, I attended my first book festival event as the author of a full-length, stand-alone book. The Borders Book Festival was the perfect place for me to take my bow – the venue was the National Trust for Scotland’s beautiful Harmony House and Gardens in Melrose. Since our return to Scotland from the United States in 2013, my partner Beth and I have often enjoyed travelling through the Borders, from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Walter Scott’s home at Abbotsford near Melrose. My book, Stroke, features a pivotal scene set on the Moray coast, and Sandstone Press has recently relocated to Inverness, so I always think that it’s great to take a live literary event out of the central belt – in this case at the other end of the country.

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Author Ricky Monahan Brown and David Chipakupaku from Sky News at Borders Book Festival

Since the release of that first full-length work, I’ve often been asked what moved me to write the story of my catastrophic haemorrhagic stroke, and subsequent survival and recovery. There are so many possible answers to that question - they’re all true, and they all swirled together to form one huge surge of motivation. Once that first book has been written, though, the question of why I’m ready to write a second is maybe more easily answered now that I know what sharing the first book has involved.

Attending the Borders Book Festival really brought that into focus. My favourite part of sharing Stroke has been the way that readers have taken the story within its pages and brought their own empathetic imagination and insight to that story and made it their own. That’s what moves me to want to share more stories in the future. David Chipakupaku, up-and-coming journalistic talent from Hawick and a comfortable, sympathetic chair, picked up on a number of strands in the book that I hadn’t previously had an opportunity to discuss, such as the particular image of the stoic, mustn’t-grumble Scotsman and the perils of presenting that face to the world.

One of the themes of Stroke is that everyone’s stroke experience – everyone’s experience of life – is different, so it was a huge pleasure to hear other people moved to share parts of their stories both in the marquee and afterwards at the signing in the festival bookshop. In fact, the whole experience was a pleasure. So much so, that Beth – the real hero of Stroke – and I returned to Melrose the next day to enjoy the Festival some more as book-lovers.

Now, I’m really looking forward to my next opportunity to spend time with readers at a book festival. Maybe we’ll see you there…