Alison Belsham Bloody Scotland 2016

The story so far

I hate the term aspiring writer. If you write, then you’re a writer. But as an unpublished author, one of the hardest things to do is to find your story—the story that suits your unique voice and that you can bring to the world with confidence.

I didn’t know what my story was for many years. Then, in November 2015, I flew to Berlin to get my tattoo. Tattooing is something akin to therapy, I think. You get to lie down on a couch for several hours and talk about yourself to a complete stranger. My first session lasted six hours and over that time we talked about writing and, of course, tattooing—a subject in which I have an obsessional interest. That night, as I lay on the crisp white hotel sheets leaving the outline of my new tattoo in indelible black ink, my story came to me.

A tattoo is something you have forever. No one can take it away from you. But what if someone did? The Tattoo Thief was born, in the small hours, in a Berlin Hotel room. A tiny beginning that has grown and grown into the most exciting story for me and that has spawned characters that I adore and want to write more and more about.

Alan Yentob listening to my pitch at Bloody Scotland

In September 2016, I entered the Bloody Scotland Pitch Perfect competition because it promised professional feedback—a commodity that is like gold dust to the unpublished writer. I wanted to know if the panel thought this story could work. As it happened, they did—and I’m hugely grateful to my wonderful agent Jenny Brown and my extraordinary editor Sam Eades for picking up the ball I tossed at them and running with it. I can’t wait to see where it takes us.

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