A GLOBETROTTING grandmother-of-three from Musselburgh is celebrating the publication of her first novel . . . about a belly dancer.

Set in the Turkish capital Istanbul, Dr Margaret Halliday chose the location for her book as she worked as a teacher in the country for seven years.

She decided to take up writing seriously five years ago when she was unable to live the same lifestyle because of multiple sclerosis (MS).

An avid writer of diaries throughout her life, during which she saw the world, she planned to expand them into short stories when she retired.

Dr Halliday, 69, who lives near Fisherrow, said: “I’m excited about my first novel being published.

“After writing three memoirs, I wanted to try fiction as I had completed an Open University creative writing course.

“Taking the advice, ‘you should write about what you know,’ I chose Turkey for the setting as I worked there for seven years.”

The Belly Dancer is a tragicomic romantic thriller set mainly in Istanbul in the early 1990s.

Gemma, a young English woman, finds herself involved in more than just teaching English soon after her arrival in Turkey. Her love of belly dancing leads her into a relationship with the beautiful Fatima as well as plunging her into a sinister, Mafia-run drugs operation.

Dr Halliday said: “I did not, however, belly dance or get involved with the Turkish Mafia and drug dealing – these had to be researched!

“Like Gemma, the heroine, I did teach English and visited Termal regularly, wallowing in the spa’s waters just like her, as well as indulging in the occasional massage.

“Now I am putting together a collection of short stories, working title, Stranger than Fiction, about some of my weirder travel experiences. I have a character who I’d like to write another novel about but need to work on the plot’s development.”

Dr Halliday has published three autobiographical books – Prana Soup, an Indian Odyssey, which describes her travels around India; Good Vibrations, which tells the story of a single 1960s mum in Scotland; and WWOOFing North and South, which relates her experience as a worldwide worker on organic farms in Scotland and New Zealand.

Born in England in 1949 with “green fingers and itchy feet”, Dr Halliday undertook a year’s training in Hastings Alexandra Park, followed by a horticultural course at the West of Scotland Agricultural College. She fell in love with Scotland, married a Scotsman and raised two children while working in scientific research and studying up to doctorate level.

She qualified as a teacher of biology and chemistry and taught in various schools and colleges in Edinburgh.

Dr Halliday said her marriage broke up in 1986, partly because of her “itchy feet,” and she went to live in Istanbul in 1988, where she taught biological sciences at Marmara University for five years.

After that, she taught English in Budapest and Damascus, exploring the countries and their environs in her holidays. Then she returned to Turkey and taught biology at a school for gifted children near Istanbul.

Her books are available via Amazon.

as ebook and paperbacks.