Author visit: Anne Pettigrew

Today’s guest is Anne Pettigrew, author of Not the Life Imagined, a multi-layered, darkly humorous novel exploring gender discrimination, sexuality and the power of friendship in sixties Scottish medical students.

Welcome to the coffee shop, Anne. What would you like today?

I love elderflower presse (discovered it at a wedding when I was driving!) and carrot cake. I think of it as one of my five a day!

How delicious – a very refreshing drink and I can never resist carrot cake! What have you been reading lately?

I recently finished All That Remains by Dame Sue Black, a poignant account of her life as a forensic anatomist at disasters. For light relief, I have started a book by a new found Italian author, Mario Giordano. Auntie Poldi and The Sicilian Lions is a witty, atmospheric summer read. Great characters. Well, he is a psychologist!

That’s another two added to my towering TBR pile! It’s always good to discover new authors. If you can imagine your dream literary dinner party which writers would you have to invite?

A tough one. Probably Christopher Brookmyre (a funny social commentator and expert in murder and mayhem).  And please re-incarnate Joanna Baillie, niece of Anatomist William Hunter, descendent of William Wallace and feted in her day as a ‘Shakespeare’ though now forgotten. Wrote plays of personal tragedy in a masculine public world. Hosting all the great literary figures of the day in her London salon – Coleridge, Sir Walter Scott, Wordsworth etc – mightn’t she have tales to tell?

They sound fascinating guests so that would be an amazing evening. What’s a perfect day for you?

Sunny, but not 40 degrees. A morning walk along a beach, lunch with friends and Prosecco, a doze and a good book or film after dinner. Or a day when the plot falls into place and you feel you have written something that someone somewhere might actually enjoy reading!

Sounds perfect! Who is your hero?

Leonardo da Vinci. I read about him at primary school and could not believe how anyone could be so clever as to think up helicopters, diving machines, write in mirror writing and yet still paint amazing pictures. Holding some of his drawings in the basement of the Ashmolean in Oxford on recommendation of my art tutor was incredible. Very few of his paintings remain. After reading books on him, I suspect he had ADDHD. He was always abandoning a project to move on to something else. 

Yes what an incredibly multi-talented person he was. One of my favourite places to visit in Tuscany is Vinci, the village where he was born. There’s a museum showing some of his inventions and the countryside around is like the background to some of his paintings. Did you enjoy reading as a child? What was your favourite book?

Being quite unwell as a child, I spent a lot of time reading books. Far and away my favourites were John Verney’s Friday’s Tunnel and February’s Road.: Well before their time.  The zany Callendar family battled with spies, developers, international crooks and all manner of global problems. I’d read them with a torch under blankets during the night – couldn’t wait to see what happened next. A joy. Blyton didn’t have Verney’s edge. Have to add Winnie the Pooh too.

And what’s the story behind your story?

Few books exist about female doctors except as pathologists, pioneers or token women. Having been a student in the sixties, I vowed to write a novel set then. After retiring, I enjoyed Creative Writing classes at Glasgow University. My Not The Life Imagined evolved to take in discrimination for boys too. My aim was an entertaining book covering serious issues like surviving mental health and #MeToo but with some dark humour: you need a sense of humour to survive medicine!

How do you write – are you a plotter or pantster?

I have a plan. Trouble is, my characters don’t seem to know this and misbehave…

Haha I know how that feels! What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given as a writer?

Read your work out loud. Definitely sorts out clunky dialogue.

A very useful tip. What are you working on next?

Having finished Not The Deaths Imagined (sequel to Not The Life Imagined), I am penning a novel set in Oxford during the Iraq War. There’s a professor murdered. A student goes missing…

Ooh this sounds great! Thanks so much for joining me today and best of luck with the new book ☕️

About Anne

Glasgow born Anne Pettigrew was a Greenock GP for 31 years and a medical columnist in The Glasgow Herald and medical press.  A Glasgow medical graduate of 1974, she also gained an Anthropology Masters from Oxford (2004) Finding no literature about modern women doctors, she wrote Not the Life Imagined aided by Creative Writing tuition at Glasgow University. A winner of several short story prizes, this is her debut novel at 68. It was runner-up in the SAW Constable Silver Stag Award 2018, and has been submitted for a Saltire Award 2019.  She’s just signed to blog for the inspirational and innovative Literary Globe website.  

Narrator Beth wryly charts sixties Glasgow medical students through changing, and at times stormy, relationships over two decades with a backdrop of contemporary events (Free Love, The Ibrox Disaster) and scientific advances (DNA forensics, HIV emergence) interspersing scenes of medical and personal noir with humour. A Ten-Year reunion is a watershed: devastating crimes past and present are exposed. Relevant to present-day narratives concerning mental health and MeToo. it has been described as ‘A fresh voice. Well-written and lively…’ by Simon Brett OBE, FRSL, CWA Diamond Dagger winner.

Find out more or buy the book here

Connect with Anne




Twitter @pettigrew_anne     


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