A HELENSBURGH author is hoping her latest novel proves a roaring success to help shed more light on a mysterious and rare Russian animal.

Polly Clark’s second book, Tiger, is an immersive tale which encapsulates the majesty of the Siberian big cat and entwines it with tales of those who live so close to the wild beast yet know so little about it.

Following on from her debut novel, Larchfield, which is set in Helensburgh and charts the struggle of a young writer adjusting to a new area alongside the life of famous poet W.H. Auden, Polly has produced an altogether different adventure for her readers.

Using a former job as a zoo keeper at Edinburgh Zoo partly as inspiration, she spent time in the vast northern Asian province learning the harsh realities of life in a punishing climate and getting up close and personal with the creatures themselves.

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This first-hand experience of the environment enabled Polly to add impressive authenticity to her creative writing flair and bring her readers within touching distance – on paper at least – of the ferocious tiger.

She told the Advertiser: “I went out to Siberia to see them and they are just so rare, it’s not often that you get to see them in the flesh.

“What is fascinating about them is that they are the biggest cat in the world and they have this legendary long memory. If you try to attack a Siberian tiger, it will remember you and devote its days to finding you and killing you.

“They are the apex predator and they keep this climate of fear. You see their tracks and their kills and it’s a really powerful feeling of being in their presence. They’re known as lords of the forest and you really feel it even though you can’t see them.

“I’m really interested in this idea of revenge. No other creature does that except humans.

“It was amazing going out there, but it’s not a destination you would ever want to visit. There are no tourists, it’s 11 different time zones away, with temperatures of -35 and no phone signal. I really wanted to just know what that hellish place was like.”

Despite the absence of a hometown link in the story, Polly has been enthused by the area’s reception to her latest novel after it was officially released this week.

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She said: “The town has really embraced my work and the excitement about it has gone way beyond my expectations.

“There just seems to be something about my writing which people have taken to and as a local person I feel so welcomed and encouraged by that.

“It was a lot more intense writing the second novel. Larchfield took four years to finish, whereas Tiger is bigger and more complicated but it only took one year to research and edit and put it all together.

“It was a lot of work and I didn’t really do anything else.

“My daughter Lucy is a pupil at Lomond School and I didn’t pay a lot of attention to her while writing it because I was just in it.

“Since it was done I’ve actually felt quite bereft for a while, you are lunged into this other place and then it’s over. I found that quite hard, so I’m looking forward to getting out and chatting about it again, it takes me back in, in a way.”

Behind the bewitching human stories in the novel, there is also a vital, if unintended, message which focuses on the natural habitat of the Siberian tiger.

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And Polly hopes readers can both enjoy getting lost in the tale while alerting their conscience to the importance of preservation.

“The response is very passionate, they are swept away and that is all you want as an author, if you could make the readers feel like that every time then that would be perfect”, she added.

“I do feel like I have done what I set out to do, which was transport you. I would like people to think about the tigers, the book is not about conservation but you can’t read it and not think about that.

“As a writer it did make me think about the natural world and the environment and other people have said that too. I feel like I care about protecting these animals and I hope more people feel that.”

As for Polly’s next venture, work is already under way on a new title.

She explained: “There is another one cooking in the background but because each one is different, they’re not following on from the last one, it takes a huge swathe out of your life.

“It’s quite tiring and I would like to have a bit of a rest, but you don’t often get that chance as a writer.

“My next novel will have a sailing theme, so maybe Helensburgh will feature again.”