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In remembrance of a friend



I'm so sad to learn about the passing of my friend and mentor, John Burnside. John was my tutor when I was studying at the University of St Andrews, and it was his advice and encouragement which made me stick to the roller coaster that is writing. I fondly remember our tutorial sessions, where listening to John's train of thought as he jumped from one topic to another with lightning speed felt a bit like trying to nail spaghetti to a wall, but I always left those sessions feeling that he'd bushwhacked a new path through the tangle of my mind and given me a better way forward with my work.


I remember when, just before graduation, John pulled me aside to tell me with absolute confidence that I would be a published author, and it was his voice in my head that gave me the courage I needed to send The Woman Before Wallis out into the wider world.


In the years since leaving St. Andrews, John and I stayed in touch by email, catching up for the occasional coffee whenever I could find an excuse to travel to Scotland. I sent him copies of all my novels on launch day - he'd always send back an email with his thoughts after he'd read them, and would want to know what I was working on next. Nine years later, he was just as encouraging and thoughtful as when I'd been his student.


I'm sorry to think that he's not going to read The Berlin Apartment - I think he would have liked it best of all my novels.


I could share John's obituary, which chronicles his many achievements as an author, a professor, and a stand-up human, but I think this Guardian interview he did a few months back sums him up best: witty, generous, and thoughtful. I will miss his rare and wonderful mind.


 

 

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