WHEN West Linton mum of two, Joan Haig, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2015, she booked herself into a creative writing retreat tucked away in the Scottish Highlands.

It was a chance to rest, take stock – and write something as a gift for her children.

For a week, Joan spent her days writing and revising what was to become her first novel and her evenings with fellow aspiring authors as they shared their life stories and their work in the retreat’s cosy roundhouse.

One of the main attractions to Moniack Mhor, based 14 miles outside Inverness, was the opportunity to meet and be mentored by top authors who provided teaching and personal tutoring on the course.

Joan was encouraged by positive feedback from children’s writing legends Melvin Burgess and Joan Lennon.

Following her successful treatment, Joan completed her manuscript for what was to become Tiger Skin Rug.

And she sent it off to the publishers, with Scottish-based Cranachan Publishing signed her up.

Joan admitted Cranachan was her first choice.

She said: “I enjoyed their other titles but also fancied the idea that I might get to visit the Isle of Lewis, where they are based.”

Drawing on her academic research into migration, her childhood in Zambia and the South Pacific, and her travels, Joan’s book Tiger Skin Rug follows three children on a magical adventure as they fly into the night on the back of a mysterious tiger to help him keep an old promise.

Setting off from dreich and drizzly Scotland the children travel to London and Coventry then on to the backstreets and lush green forests of India – as they explore the secrets surrounding the tiger and discover what it means to be home.

Joan is committed to promoting diversity and positive cross-cultural relationships.

Her academic publications have focused on stories of minority identity and belonging, and she now works part-time supporting study-abroad students visiting Scotland.

Joan explained how she approached diversity in her writing.

She told us: “I think it’s so important not to feel limited by your own identity in creative work – although my own life influences are clear, I wrote from the point of view of a young Indian boy growing up in the twenty-first century.

"I wanted his character to encounter and learn from a range of others from different backgrounds – I loved imagining walking in their various shoes.”

Joan's sons, Andrew (11) and Adrian (9), are her proudest champions, not only providing their ideas and comments on the plot but also drawing their own designs for the front cover.

And her sister Marian worked helped in creating the inside illustrations.

Acclaimed children’s author Melvin Burgess describes Tiger Skin Rug as ‘charming; full of magic, hope and friendship’.

Tiger Skin Rug was published this week by Pokey Hat, an imprint of Cranachan Publishing.