My guest today is Martine McDonagh the author of After Phoenix and I Have Waited, and You Have Come. From September 2015 Martine will be programme leader on the new MA Creative Writing & Publishing at West Dean College near Chichester. Martine is very adaptable in her space – customising wherever she happens to be – but she’s the first author on here to wear a book-specific “writing jumper” !
I haven’t had a fixed writing space since I sold my house a few years ago, but wherever I am, it always ends up looking pretty much the same. The novel I’m writing now is set in Redondo Beach, California, various locations in Brazil, London and Brighton and has been written in all those places, plus a few others.
I’ve been in France for five months, the longest I’ve stayed anywhere for more than 3 years. My current writing room is in Auvers-sur-Oise, the town where Van Gogh died and is buried. He was here two months and painted something like 80 canvasses; my work rate is less impressive.
My writing set up has to be portable. I carry a spare keyboard and mouse and stack my laptop to eye-level with the clever use of books, and in this case a handy backgammon set.
No matter where I am, I am guaranteed to get cold and hungry when I write, hence my coat on my chair ready to drape over my legs, and the bag of nuts on the table. I’m already too much of a fidget to drink coffee, so the mug gets filled every 20 minutes or so with water or herb tea. Though if I want to work into the evening, coffee with cream works a treat.
I quite like some noise in the background, too much silence makes me start listening, but I can’t listen to music when I’m writing. My nifty Jambox speaker on the table is for when I need to get up and jump around to warm up or expend some physical energy.
The notebook holds part of my longhand draft plus any subsequent notes on structure etc; the printed draft is marked up as a guide for the new draft.
Also on the table, my camera, which comes everywhere with me. I take a lot of pictures for memory purposes and to post on Pinterest. And I keep it at the ready while I’m writing in case something exciting happens outside the window. When I arrived here in mid-winter I hung fat balls in the trees and have snapped a huge variety of birds as well as the resident red squirrel, who once stole 10 kilos of nuts overnight from the basement. Here’s him contemplating his next speedy getaway.
The little pile of stuff behind my computer is comprised of gifts I’ve bought for the children of various friends while on my travels, and failed to send…the candelabra was here when I arrived and wasn’t in the way so it’s stayed.
A few essentials not in the picture: books – my case always weighs a ton – and my writing jumper. I buy a new warm jumper at the start of every project to wear for the duration. This one is fraying at the sleeves now and yesterday snagged on the chair, pulling a long thread. I think I might be almost finished…