My life as a writer tends to be interrupted by real life, like cooking, defrosting the freezer, and taking a dog to the vet. Time-consuming, unproductive – only on the surface. Such mundane activities invariably surface in a book.
Second, only to ironing, I hate cooking. Google wouldn’t agree, constantly presenting me with pictures of food… yes, I’ve been surfing ideas for Maria, who does like cooking. I must have been convincing. One reader of Two Face the World asked me for the recipe for Ashhaven Tart. Sarah has a clue how to make fleur pastry? Come to think of it, it was Maria who pinched my method of defrosting a freezer fast using a fan heater.
Dogs have been part of my life since my father got fed up with burying run-over cats under the rhubarb. Little did he know one of them would lead me backstage in a theatre. My fault for running a dog-training club and being the obvious person to ask, but did I have to volunteer? No, but I did, and the knowledge I gained was invaluable. It was also fraught with pitfalls, like the night somebody reserved a front-row seat for their Chihuahua that my Border Collie decided he should turf out, or when friends came to watch. Seated carefully in the darkness at the back, they failed to allow for the canine sense of smell.
Talking of smell, I like travelling – I just like it, Him Indoors collects leaflets and films video for my research. The canine in Chile was trained to sniff out drugs, but he liked the food better, and who had made the last-minute decision to take an old dog-walking jacket with treats in the pockets rather than a good one that might be spoiled stuffed under an aircraft seat? Sarah. It’s a wonder I’m not still in Chile, in jail, which reminds me…
Part of my life as a writer involves interviews, usually on radio or social media, and one of the boringly predictable questions is “what is the best advice you’ve ever been given?”. The truth came from Mary Stewart (This Rough Magic, Nine Coaches Waiting) – “always have the couple in a romance meet in the first chapter, even if they don’t like each other at first”. The second suggestion, from someone who’s name I’ll leave out in case he’s taken his own advice, was “commit a newsworthy crime”. The idea spawned The Spy, the antihero journalist in the Royal Command Family Saga.
Now, Lesley, whose idea this was, didn’t suggest a photograph but Tom did; of the author’s workspace. A study? A Woman Cave? (Men have them in garden sheds.) Obviously, somewhere equipped with a desk, swivel chair, computer with paraphernalia, notebooks, a pinboard… this is developing fast, but it’s imaginary. My “office” is a king-size bed scattered with anything but a notebook and pencil, and anyone delivering vital coffee is likely to trip over my laptop cable. Hence, the only photograph is of me. Thinking, or to put it accurately when I receive my characters’ instructions to their scribe, is done walking the current dog/dogs by the river.
Why do I write? I find it impossible not to create imaginary worlds for the people who inhabit my head. Somewhere hidden in a box is the first “book” I ever wrote. I was eight-years-old and the only plus is it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. If it’s published, posthumously, do me a favour and ignore They Gave Me Macushla; I’ve visited Ireland since and there isn’t a “bare rugged hill” in sight.
A lovely glimpse into your inner and outer world, Sarah. When you feel brave enough, an image of that ‘anything but a notebook’ strewn king size bed would be welcome (No, not after the style of Tracey Emin.) Your voice is as distinctive here as in your books, and I promise I’ll never ask for a recipe, though you do make them sound mouth watering. Thank you for sharing your books and this window into your life.
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It’s less a question of plucking up my courage to photograph the bed – so glad you cancelled ideas of Tracey Emin – as being isolated with nobody handy to sort out my phone so I can, once again, send photographs to my laptop. Him Indoors probably knows the location of the ordinary camera, but the battery is sure to have run down –
Lovely, Sarah. This is so you. I seem to remember Macushla – vaguely, from the mists of time – a pony? So many happy memories and some sad ones. Can’t wait for your next book, so get on with writing it. 🙂
I AM writing it! I know you like a title and a cover. You can make me a cover – doubtless with Sharon’s expert help – when Sophia and the rest tell me what it’s about. Most of them have changed their names at least twice, and that’s before I was halfway through chapter two. It’s what comes of Him Indoors staying indoors with a strained ligament and me walking the dog by the river.
So many great little episodes in your life. I love the drug-sniffing dog one. How terrifying.
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Not the most terrifying of my visit to South America. Flying back, having visited the Falkland Islands complete with stamps in our passports, the airline decided to drop down in Buenos Aires to – wait for it – clean the aircraft, and no, we couldn’t stay on board. The Argentinians disliked the passengers from Peru, but not as much as they hated us. They kept me waiting on the stairs, lugging a suitcase, sneered at my passport, and then conducted a body search. Only Him Indoors pointing out that the dog had already been with a sitter for three weeks kept me out of jail that time.
Always great to get a glimpse into the lives of people in our group. Fascinating and enjoyable ☘️🎈
Thank you, Patrick. I feel I already know you very well.