This week our guest author is Atulya Bingham, author of award winning Ayse’s Trail. Her writing room, a mud house in the Lycian hills of Turkey is absolutely breathtaking. What’s even more impressive is that Atulya built it herself .
Three years ago I decided to abandon a long career in teaching and complete my debut novel Ayse’s Trail. Now, it’s not always easy for writers to live from their work. There are two ways to mitigate that: either sell a lot of books or live very cheaply, hence my off-grid earthbag house in the Turkish hills. Building a mud house is easier read about than realised (I didn’t even know how to put a shelf up prior to starting). After a year of adventure involving plenty of dirt, friends, buckled windows, leaning walls and a trip to Taiwan to save my financial bacon, I finally had a roof over my head, though still no power or running water. This proved something of a challenge as a writer. On a daily basis, I had to run up the hill and charge my laptop at my neighbour’s house. Whenever I turned it on, I’d type as fast as I could before the battery went flat. There was no time for social media distraction in those days, which was something of a boon now I think about it. It wasn’t until six months later, I finally bought a pair of solar panels and installed plug sockets.
I only have one room, and it’s multipurpose. Much of my writing is inspired by nature so the window onto the forested valley acts as a portal for my imagination. Traditionally, the Turks prefer to sit on the floor or on raised wooden platforms, and so do I; my office chair is basically a kilim cushion, and my desk is a large round tray known locally as a sini. I have a notebook and a pen that I carry everywhere if I want to jot things down, and an earth wall covered in books that act as my offline resource library. I access the internet via a dongle.
My mud home is entirely round. To state the obvious that means there are no corners, so when I pause briefly from writing, my eye is drawn round the rough muddy walls indefinitely. What can I say? It’s extremely therapeutic. And I’m remote, therefore blissfully undisturbed and can write to the sound of squirrels, owls and crickets. When the muse finally goes quiet (which is usually in the afternoon) I stumble outside and chop some firewood or dig the garden. It’s wonderful to step into the wilds after being online for an hour or two and experience viscerally that the olive trees care nothing of your reviews, the agama lizards don’t use Facebook and your dog has no idea that you even sell books, never mind how many. I find the wilderness grounding and a constant reminder that we are not our creations, nor our successes and failures. We are only here and now.
Living in Turkey has influenced my writing almost as much as the natural world. Everywhere you go in Turkey, you are tripping over ancient history. It’s a landscape of lost cities and ancient relics which is enough to pique the imagination of any writer. My house is located in an area called Lycia, home of a rather mysterious ancient civilisation who were to some extent Goddess worshippers. With a large English-speaking community who have been interested in my work, I found it surprisingly easy to garner reviews in local and national press, so while it was never particularly part of the plan, in many ways Turkey has been a great business choice, as well the country of my heart.
Set in Turkey, Ayse’s Trail is the travelogue of a Turkish mother who hikes the Lycian Way and finds herself stepping into the ancient past. You can read more about it at www.atulyakbingham.com
Or if you are more interested in natural building and Atulya’s earthbag house then see the Mud Mountain Blog on www.themudhome.com