I used to love that regular feature about writers’ rooms in the UK Guardian. It combined the pleasures of being nosy and having a peek into someone else’s home, with insights about how other writers work and whether they operate in pristine conditions or total chaos. Some writers surrounded themselves with mountains of books and papers while others looked as though their writing room was about to feature in Architectural Digest. Michael Morpurgo worked in bed, Wilf Self had about a million Post-It notes on the wall and a map of London stuck to the window blind. I bet they all went round with the hoover before the cameraman arrived.
I’ve decided to resurrect this great tradition and will be featuring the writing spaces of a number of different writers from wide range of genres over the comping weeks. To kick it off I’m showing my own hand first – and no I didn’t wiz the hoover round (I just kept the camera above floor level!) but I did tidy my desk – out of shame as the surface was completely invisible!
I built my space about four years ago – it’s a loft conversion. I was sick of having my work over-spill into the open plan living space downstairs. At the time I was combining writing with running a management consultancy, co-running an online business and I also needed space for sewing and painting.
I have a round table where I sew, paint, and keep the reference books I’m using for my works in progress. Right now I’m making a quilt – one of my characters is quilting so I thought it would help me get in tune with her. I cut the pieces out on the table but as I’m hand sewing I tend to that in the evening downstairs when I’ve finished writing.
The books I’m dipping in and out of for reference at the moment include Great Victorian Cities by Asa Briggs, a book about the Anheuser-Busch dynasty and the Bradshaw’s Railway Handbook of timetables. I write using Scrivener so my Dummies guide has to be to hand. I don’t tend to listen to music when I’m actually writing – but if I’m in the mood I have a choice between Spotify on the Mac, and my CD and vinyl collection – both of which live up here.
The small desk is in front of the window – where the only distractions are the occasional naked person in the flats opposite! and the coppery glow of the gin stills housed in the rather ugly shed just outside. It’s the distillery for Sipsmiths gin – they have three stills – named Constance, Prudence and Patience (clearly not Temperance) – and they are proving to be great neighbours having invited the whole street round for a tipple when they moved in.
Both my novels A Greater World and Kurinji Flowers were written in this room (supplemented by some locational writing and a few writers’ retreats). I’m now working hard on novel number 3
The greatest thing about my work space is that when I’ve finished I can shut the door and come downstairs with no evidence of my work in the rest of the house – although I do admit to the occasional day when I linger in bed with a laptop, like Michael Morpurgo!
NEXT WRITER”S ROOM – Alison Morton, author of the Roma Nova series.