BROADCASTER and journalist Kirsty Wark began writing novels nearly 40 years into her packed career, when she finally found the “peace and space” to do so.

Quite where she found this peace and space is difficult to pinpoint.

The Newsnight presenter has just finished recording the first season of The Reunion for Radio 4, and is also making a four-part documentary for the BBC – called Becoming Scotland – on how the cultural and social landscape of her home nation has changed in the past 50 years.

She has also just signed the contract for her third novel, which is due out in spring 2022, so is now starting an autumn of research.

Wark will be appearing online for the Borders Book Festival this Sunday (September 27) talking about her second novel, The House By The Loch, which was first published last year.

The story, set in Galloway, has been called evocative, compelling and haunting by reviewers – and also, interestingly, “a Scottish novel” by journalist and novelist Allan Massie.

Wark, speaking exclusively to the Border Telegraph, believes the book’s “Scottishness” lies in its use of landscape.

“I think the whole idea about the Scottish novel is about landscape being incredibly important to the novel, and being rooted in place,” she says.

“You get that going back to people like Buchan – and I’m not comparing myself to Buchan, obviously – you get that idea the atmosphere of the countryside plays into stories enormously.”

She adds: “If I think about the road from Moniaive, Goldsworthy’s Striding Arches at Cairnhead, that to me is just a quintessentially Scottish road.

“I think about that, these big spaces.”

Though her next novel will be set in Glasgow, where she lives with her husband, Wark’s fascination with “big spaces” will also feature.

“There’s going to be forays out of Glasgow because I need that breath, the breathing of being out of the space,” she explains.

“Because when you take your characters out of their milieu, which would be Glasgow to the countryside, how will they think? Will they be different in the countryside? What will be their preoccupations?”

Wark’s own preoccupation with Scottish landscape is evident in The House By The Loch, and its depiction of the Galloway countryside.

She wrote the scenes, she admits, with a “yearning” to be there.

She says: “Galloway’s an area I knew well as a child because my mother and father lived in Castle Douglas when they got married.

“Dad’s first legal job was in a firm called J Sturrock & Co in Castle Douglas and I was born in Dumfries.

“Although they were only there for less than three years, it made a massive impression on my father and Jock Sturrock was a terrific mentor of my father’s.

“It’s an area we went back to because when I moved to Kilmarnock it was only an hour and a half down the road to Carsphairn and Loch Kendoon, where he’d fished, so I know that landscape and also I know the emptiness of it.

“It’s just magical.”

Another of Wark’s preoccupations that comes out of the conversation is the one she has for churches and their dwindling role in Scottish communities.

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This interest was fed by her travels round the nation as she filmed Becoming Scotland and was, she claims, the most noticeable change in the country.

She says: “The very obvious change that you will see in every single town and village is boarded-up churches; churches that are tanning salons, churches that are community spaces… because the way that we live has changed radically in 50 years.

“I think, by and large, churches are not the place they were.

“They don’t bring communities together in the same way they used to because so many of them are lying derelict, empty.

“Yet they’re such a feature of the landscape in every town and often a very beautiful feature.

“I would hate for any of these churches to eventually fall into wrack and ruin.”

One church she visited for the programme was the Old Parish Church in Portobello, East Lothian, which has been bought by the community and is now being used to host festivals, events, parties and art exhibitions, among other things.

Wark calls it “wonderful, very reminiscent of the church I went to as a child".

She adds: “Religion was the central purpose in bringing people together in the past but I hope the legacy can still be a place to bring people together, especially after coronavirus.”

Listening to Wark, landscape and community seem to be the crucial pillars of Scotland and not only its literature but also its culture.

The landscape still exists – but what can replace churches in bringing communities together?

“There are other focuses,” says Wark, “like, funnily enough, literary festivals.

“I always say that literary festivals are a bit like church because what they do is they bring like-minded people together.

“They might not agree on everything but they believe in books.”

This year, of course, literary festivals have been unable to physically bring book worshippers together.

“I’m bereft,” says Wark of this fact. “Edinburgh’s obviously a great book festival but I think the Borders is the best book festival.

“It’s the great one.”

Fortunately, though she cannot actually be there, Wark found that crucial “peace and space” in her schedule to appear online to those who also worship at the altar of the written word.

To see Kirsty Wark online this Sunday, go to

The Borders Book Festival is sponsored by Baillie Gifford.