FEATURE – Harriet Smart, Edinburgh-based novelist

Reckless Griselda by Harriet Smart

Reckless Griselda by Harriet Smart

What is it about Edinburgh that inspires so many writers? Perhaps it’s the unique and dramatic setting, motivating the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott. Maybe it’s the grand architecture and cobbled streets, firing the minds of authors like JK Rowling to create magical places like Hogwarts and Diagon Alley. It could even be the city’s dark underbelly and unique characters, brought to life so memorably by Ian Rankin and Irvine Welsh.

Whatever it may be, Edinburgh’s particular charms have cast a spell over another resident author. Harriet Smart is inspired by the city’s rich and colourful past and has authored a string of historical novels as a result.

Harriet has lived here since 1988, after graduating from St Andrews University with a degree in Art History. During her fourth year of studies, work on her dissertation developed her talent and love for research and writing, and she turned her passion to fiction, penning the first of several novels.

“I loved researching – burying myself away in dusty archives,” she says, recalling her early steps into writing. “As I began reading about the past and people’s lives, I started to create stories about them.”

A Garland of Vows

A Garland of Vows

A Garland of Vows, Harriet’s first novel, was the result. A critically-acclaimed romance set in Edinburgh and Birmingham in the late 19th century, it was snapped up by a publisher.

“I was lucky,” she says. “I struck up a relationship with an agent early on, and they helped get my books published.”

Five novels later, Harriet is now going solo.

“I’m an indie publisher,” she says, laughing. “It’s so much more plausible to self-publish now, and the stigma around that is nearly gone.”

“I’ve just submitted my first eBook for the Kindle. Reading is becoming more consumable with things like print-on-demand, and I’m keen to tap into that.”

Harriet is nothing if not prolific, and has three separate projects currently underway. As well as a Regency romance (“feauring Austen-like characters dealing with the aftermath of a one night stand!”), she is writing what she hopes will be the second in a series of Victorian crime novels.

And Edinburgh’s history is the inspiration for her third project, a young adult novel set in a 1900s upper-class finishing school.

“Edinburgh really is inspirational,” she says, “I couldn’t live anywhere else.”

“It’s such a cosmopolitan city; there’s definitely a level playing field here.”

Unsurprisingly, Harriet loves the city’s parks and historical places.

Dean Cemetery

Dean Cemetery

“St Mary’s Cathedral is a wonder,” she says. “Edinburgh has some quite beautiful graveyards too – the Dean and Grange cemeteries are such peaceful places.”

In addition to her fiction, Harriet is also the co-director of Anthemion Software with her husband Julian. They have created the successful and highly popular Writer’s Cafe software for authors, which we’ll be featuring in a further article soon.

She leaves for an appointment, her head full of ideas and enthusiasm. Edinburgh’s spell has bewitched another author, and Harriet Smart’s intriguing characters tread the historic streets alongside its other fictional residents, filling the city with yet more literary life.

Read more about Harriet’s writing on her website. You can find here on Twitter here.

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