Penicuik author hopes sister tribute helps others

Author Catherine Simpson and her sister Tricia, pictured in 1973.
Author Catherine Simpson and her sister Tricia, pictured in 1973.

A Penicuik author this week releases her heartfelt new book ‘When I had a Little Sister’, based on the diaries of her sibling who took her own life.

Catherine Simpson’s new book is out today, partly written at Hawthornden Castle. The book is about her sister Tricia, who died in December 2013, aged 46.

Cover for When I had a Little Sister by Penicuik aurhor Catherine Simpson.

Cover for When I had a Little Sister by Penicuik aurhor Catherine Simpson.

Speaking about the writing process, Catherine said: “Half the book was written at Hawthornden Castle on a writing retreat. Tricia left behind a lot of diaries. I was frightened to read them as I thought she would blame us as a family.

“Then I was invited to Hawthornden Castle. I decided to take Tricia’s diaries and read them. I took the two bags of diaries and spent the whole first week really immersed in the diaries. I came away with 30,000 words written.

“So the book was really born in Midlothian. At the castle. And I continued to write it at home in Penicuik.

“When I was going through the diaries, old photographs and belongings to get a sense and understanding of why it happened, it really felt like she was there with me.

Penicuik author Catherine Simpson.

Penicuik author Catherine Simpson.

“She loved music. And in the diary she mentions lyrics from songs which I would then go and listen to.

“So although it was sad and painful the book is full of funny things.”

Catherine, who herself was once diagnosed as clinically depressed, hopes her book helps others, and stands as a lasting tribute to her sister.

She said: “Tricia died when she was 46 but in my memory she changed when she was just eight.

“People just didn’t talk about it back then. But the internet has made a massive difference. People are sharing their stories online, which is so helpful to other people living through it.

“It shows them they are not alone. And it helps to hear other people’s stories about how they recovered, or how they are recovering and what helped them.

“I’m not even sure when I was little we had a name for it.

“I hope this book can add to that. What I want people to take away from this book is that they are not alone and they can speak about it.

“Personally it was to help me, which it has done. Then it was to help other people.

“And, of course, it’s a tribute to my sister. When we lose someone, the last thing we want is them to be forgotten.

“She was a lovely person who was dealt a really hard hand. I want her to be remembered in a positive way.”

This is Catherine’s second book. Her first, Truestory, based on her autistic daughter Nina, was released in 2015.

Catherine will discuss ‘When I Had a Little Sister’ at Lighthouse Books, Edinburgh, February 20 7.30 - 8.30pm. Tickets available via Eventbrite.