One of my more eccentric 'quirks' is that I have trouble telling people what I do for a living. When cornered, I try to get away with saying, "I work from home" - and hope they'll assume I'm mass knitting tea cosies or something similar. Well, that comment came back to bite me last month; I moved to a new house and found it had no landline and therefore no Internet. How have I managed to stay online? With a mobile Wi-Fi, Internet cafés and the generosity of friends; now I was working anywhere but home!
Ironically, it was at this point Johanna Grassick asked if I would contribute to a series of blog posts she was collating for Novelistas Ink, entitled Where I Write. My first thought was wondering whether I could get away with writing a post about the local Waterstones café, which had become my new 'office'. But while writing that post, it got me thinking about where I write and how much writers rely on the Internet for their work - research, keeping in touch with other authors and readers, as well as promotion. The flipside is that the Internet is a huge distraction - which is why writing retreats are so popular. Now I had my own Internet-free writer's retreat - only without the retreat bit!
So, does it really matter whether I work in a café, a spare room or my own study?
I wrote my first book, A Girl's Best Friend at my desk at work during my lunch break. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes was written in the sitting room of our first house (a tiny bungalow) with the computer monitor wedged inside a cupboard, the keyboard on my lap and dance music bouncing off the walls. Why Do Fools Fall in Love was written in several spare rooms, as we moved around the country, from Hampshire to Bath and back again. Breathless was started in Hampshire and finished via another spare room in Wales and then -
And then I claimed my first 'study'! We had moved to a rambling Victorian house, where the dining room was at one end of the building and the kitchen at the other. So I claimed the redundant dining room for my study. I had an entire wall of shelving so, for the first time ever, I could get all my books out of their boxes. Heaven! It had a huge bay window, with a beautiful view of Snowdonia, and I positioned a sofa there - with the idea I could recline and daydream about my plots while I admired the scenery. Of course I never had the time to do that! Incidentally, this was the first time I put a room from my own house into one of my books - my study also became Alicia's in Nemesis. The castle you might just be able to see to the left of this picture is Penrhyn Castle and it became the model for Hurst Castle in the same book.
Then we moved again. My books went back in their boxes and I ended up with another dining room for a study, which was probably the prettiest I've had, with views across the Menai Straits to Mount Snowdon itself.
What have I learned from these upheavals over the years? Well, despite my whinging, it turns out I can write anywhere. It doesn't matter if I'm in a spare room or a café. I don't need a study and I don't need an Internet connection - in fact, as any author will tell you, we get more writing done without it!
It turns out that all I really need to write is ... my laptop and me.