My guest this week is author, Derek Birks. Born in the UK, Derek spent his teens in New Zealand. After returning to the UK as a teacher he took early retirement several years ago to concentrate on his historical fiction writing. Derek lives in Hampshire.
Show us around your writing space, Derek.
“The most important element in my writing process is slap bang in the middle of the desk and is, of course, my coffee mug! Without it nothing much would be written at all and if it’s empty then I probably am too.
Almost as central to my writing is my laptop which is quite a few years old now. I don’t tend to unplug it just in case it never ever fires up again. I have to use a larger screen though otherwise I’d never see what I’m writing!
All around the fringes of the desk are various post-its and sheets from notepads. I have many notepads and try never to be without one so that I can jot down anything that springs to mind when I’m out. Hence there are loose sheets all over the place – some with highlighting to remind me that a particular part is important but others filled with background research from books or site visits.
To the left is an anglepoise lamp which I need when I start writing early on a winter’s morning – often I don’t notice it’s still on at midday!
Lurking behind the coffee mug are my headphones which are used when there are other folk in the house. There are two reasons for using them: firstly, I listen to music when I write and sometimes it annoys others, but more to the point it keeps the noise of others out of my head! Music is the only distraction I can work with – this has been true as long as I can recall.
To the right of my laptop is an open folder crammed with bits and pieces of regularly used information such as maps or year calendars. Further to the right against the wall are the books I’m using currently which are all about aspects of the Wars of the Roses. Holding these in place is a rather gruesome/impressive artefact which might be Mayan but is in fact something produced by one or the other of my children when they were too young to know any better.
Above this idyllic scene are two shelves laden with my books, other writers’ books, folders with previous drafts of my books – with the editor’s crossings out and notes all over them – and loads of Ordnance Survey maps which I find invaluable.
There you have my ’tools of the trade’ and the arena in which they are wielded. I rarely write anywhere else though I can rough out scenes even in the most hostile environments. I get a lot of ideas whilst swimming but sadly I have yet to perfect a technique for writing underwater!