Neuk-set novel is the best

Alex Morgan
Alex Morgan

The best judges and critics of all – readers themselves – have bestowed an award on a new debut novel set in the East Neuk.

Journalist Alex Morgan has written ‘Tandem’, with the local setting inspired by her own childhood.

Alex, a former magazine, business, features and personal finance editor, is the first Scottish winner of the annual international novel competition by publisher Hookline – with the accolade decided by book groups from across the UK.

She describes ‘Tandem’ as set in a fictional seaside village in the East Neuk, which is a mixture of Elie/Earlsferry and North Berwick, where she grew up.

“It’s about love, loss, a celebrity penguin, and riding a bicycle built for two,” she added.

The story features Paula, who abandons her London life and runs away in the hope of escaping a painful loss – but finds herself involved in the tangled world of Sanders, a complicated 12-year-old who lives in the seaside village.

It’s a quirky tale of love and friendship, which shows life can never be simply black and white – with the attempted kidnapping of a celebrity penguin thrown in for good measure.

Mum of two Alex, who currently writes on personal finance, now lives in Cumbria.

Her dream has always been to write a book.

After eight years of trying, ‘Tandem’ has finally been published after she won the contest.

“I never expected to win the Hookline competition and I cried when I heard,” she said.

“It is unique in that the winner is chosen by readers’ groups and that makes it particularly special.My book was selected for publication by real readers.”

Alex’s first attempts as a novelist began 16 years ago.

“My first two manuscripts were awful, but they taught me a lot,” she said.

“I firmly believe the only way to learn to write a novel is to write one, realise it’s dreadful, throw it away and start again.”

Alex has already started work on her second novel, set in Edinburgh and combining two of her loves – journalism and historic houses.

“I’m not tempted to write a sequel to ‘Tandem’,” she said. “Paula and Sanders are fine for now, just getting on with their lives.

“But it might be nice to return to them in a few years to see what they’re up to.”