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Does anyone recognise this girl? This is the photograph I held in my hand six years ago and which sparked off in me the writing of A Place of Springs.

I’d joined a creative writing group in Norwich to escape the builders who had taken over our small flat. After every session, our tutor, Patricia Mullin gave us homework to do and one day she spread out on the table a selection of photographs and press cuttings. We were each to choose one and to write a short story based on the imaginary character and life of the person in the image. When my turn came, I was holding the picture of a young girl with sad eyes; she was playing a violin or viola. ‘This is Irena and she comes from Sarajevo.’ I said.

The Siege of Sarajevo broke out in 1992. For the next five years the West watched the massacre of the Muslim inhabitants on our television screens, the world’s politicians apparently powerless to intervene. These images continued to haunt me long after the conflict ended.

My short story takes place in London where a Yugoslav girl meets a musician she had known in Sarajevo at the outbreak of the Siege. We have only a sketchy idea of what it is that leads to the violence that ends the story, but these two characters, Irena and Daniel, remained in my head. A few days later, the words seeming to tumble out, I sat down at my laptop and barely stopped until I had written over fifty chapters.

That was six years ago and, my novel took shape, fast at first and then more slowly through the lengthy process of research and editing. Last autumn I finally found the title – A Place of Springs – (from Psalm 84).

Hannah Colby

A Place of Springs

A Place of Springs is a complex novel of epic scope, which explores the physical and psychological damage inflicted by war.

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