Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Researching Loving Susie in the Scottish Parliament

Lighting through the Garden Lobby roof
Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
©2009 Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body
Image © Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body – 2012. 
Licensed under the Open Scottish Parliament Licence v1.0.
The Scottish Parliament building is one of those 'Marmite' places – you either love it or loathe it. It's a whole lot more complex, though, than it appears at first sight. I love this dramatic view of the building at night. The boat-shaped windows you look down on here are, in fact, the roof of the Garden Lobby. It's a place my heroine. Susie Wallace, crosses and recrosses many times in the course of Loving Susie, because it provides access to the MSP office block. More importantly, it's also the area where journalists tend to congregate. The television cameras are set up here, usually so that they can interview MSPs leaving the debating chamber.

I was fortunate in the research for this book, because my husband, Robin Harper, was an MSP for twelve years, from its very first day till he retired three years ago. I know the building well and I know what MSPs have to do in their day-to-day lives. I've always found that good research helps to bring a book to life, and I hope that's so in Loving Susie too. Susie is under pressure – prominent politicians always are! The point is, she can cope with the pressure with the support of her family, and most particularly her husband, Archie – but when that relationship becomes stressed, cracks begin to appear everywhere.

West elevation of MSP Block
Pic - 
Adam Elder/Scottish Parliament 
©2004 Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body
Image © Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body – 2012.
Licensed under the Open Scottish Parliament Licence v1.0

Window seat in an MSP office
Pic - Adam Elder/Scottish 
©2004 Scottish Parliamentary 
Corporate Body
Image © Scottish Parliamentary 
Corporate Body – 2012. 
Licensed under the Open Scottish 
Parliament Licence v1.0.
Like the Parliament, Loving Susie can be read on many levels. It's not a political book. Perhaps I should have made it more political, in the light of the current constitutional debate in Scotland! 

But books are not written overnight and in any case, I prefer to concentrate on emotional complexity rather than polemic.

I leave you with two images of the Parliament that I think provide a visual clue about Susie's character. Here they are. If you want to find out whether you agree with me, you'll have to read it for yourself! It's available this week on Kindle Countdown for only 99p/99 cents! (19th to 23rd May 2014).


  1. Lovely post, Jenny. I was ambivalent about the 'new' parliament building until I went to see it and was completely bowled over. I have been on two or three more occasionas and love the place.
    Looking forward to reading Loving Susie, whcih I'm taking with me on holiday.

  2. Thanks Mary. I hope you enjoy it - and the holiday!

  3. I hate Marmite, Jenny, but love the parliament buildings. These photos show how beautiful and special it is. Loving Susie shows how well you understand the place and it's workings. Excellent! Not sure it would encourage anyone to be a politician, though...

  4. Thank you Gill. No, no-one seems to have any respect for politicians any more (with some honourable exceptions, of course!).

  5. Really interesting post, Jenny, and good for showing the context of the novel. Looking forward to reading Loving Susie, which is on my TBR list!

    1. Hope you enjoy it Rosemary! But I do know what those TBR lists are like...

  6. Thanks Rosemary - hope you enjoy when you do get round to it!

  7. Jenny! The overview of the Scottish Parliament is spectacular. We Americans do not understand Marmite, but we know good writing and you nailed it in Loving Susie. Thanks for a great read.

    1. So glad you enjoyed Loving Susie, Jackie. Thanks for dropping by!

  8. Wow! What a blogpost....wonderful.