Early Riser

I had bought this book a while ago on a whim and it had been gathering dust on my shelf as I was concerned that, from its zany blurb, I would not like it. It was the sort of book I thought I would just get out of the way and move on. 

Turns out, it is actually one of my favourite books of the last few years. Seriously, it’s awesome. The plot is tight and keeps you guessing all the way through. Yes it’s zany and mad but that doesn’t matter because the alternate world is so imaginative and Fforde seems to have painted it just right somehow.

For me, it’s as if it all just aligned perfectly. A bit like a more sophisticated, adult oriented Roald Dahl book. Funny. Clever. Cool. 

Expedition

This documents expeditions to places people have never ventured before and I got this while attending a live talk from the man himself. Loved it! The kid in me sometimes wishes I’d gone down the same path as him. The TV shows that the book is based on really inspired me and I would love to get some expeditions under my belt. Life’s too short!

The book itself is well written, impressive considering it was done on the hoof while on location and in between various trips. 

Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts

This is one of those epics that stick with you. I had been told about this on the grapevine repeatedly by different people so I knew I’d end up reading it. It could stop a few doors such is its page count so it took a while but not once did it feel like it was dragging. A deeply philosophical piece or work that just keeps going and is the sort of book that could only be written by someone with some years behind them (although I think he may have been reasonably young when he wrote it?)

Either way, one of the real classics. Thoroughly recommend. 

Dark Pines

One of the most enjoyable novels I have read for a while. Perfectly paced, interesting characters and a genuinely good story. Also interesting, having just read a book on hearing loss, that the main character has to wear hearing aids. I didn’t plan that!

Love the author, Will Dean’s, bio as well… Having settled in rural Sweden, “he built a wooden house in a boggy clearing at the centre of a vast elk forest, and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes.”

Good man.

The Perfect Working Space

It was that bird’s-eye view that appealed to me, observing everything going on without being in amongst it all.

The discussion around where to write is somewhat of a cliché in the blogging world, but it is an interesting topic nonetheless. After all, finding the right environment to craft your literary masterpiece is an important decision and one of the first ones I had to make when embarking upon the novel.

I commenced the actual manuscript when I was living in London having just arrived from the leafy countryside of Yorkshire (full of awe-inspiring and quiet locations to put pen to paper). Although I knew I was leaving a menagerie of prime writing spaces behind me, I was confident that the urban mess of the capital would provide at least as many ideal spots, if not more. My assumptions were perhaps a tad naive.

There are some incredible spots in London, no doubt. In an ideal world I could head up to the top of the Shard and sit at my own personal desk looking out over the city each day, sipping on fine wine and eating a selection of luxury fruits served by quiet but efficient servers with perfectly ironed clothing and impossibly good looks. Thinking about it, that all might actually have been a bit too distracting.

In reality it took me several months to find a spot I was happy with. In my mind, I had envisaged a quiet and trendy cafe in some stylish backstreet with Hugh Grant types popping in for their morning Espresso every now and again. And I did find a few contenders. None of them however felt quite right. For a start, in some of them the coffee practically blew my head off producing hands so shaky that I had trouble hitting the keys of my laptop. This left me with an unacceptable typo rate. Added to that, the seats were often made of the finest wood which, although very pleasing to the eye, was not pleasing to the buttocks.

I shifted my attention the various museums dotted around and their respective cafes. These often proved far too busy and too far afield to be a viable option. Libraries seemed like a possibility for a while, but again, for me at least they seemed a little cluttered and obvious. I wanted somewhere a bit more exciting; somewhere different. I ended up gravitating towards Westfield shopping centre, near the BBC (now sadly relocated to a more central location). You may feel this would be busier than anywhere, but for a time, I sat in the rafters outside the cinema with a takeaway Costa and began happily typing away. It was that bird’s-eye view that appealed to me, observing everything going on without being in amongst it all.

Before long I found somewhere else and this was to be my main writing space for the rest of that year. It was a pub funnily enough, one of these gastro pubs attached to the shopping centre, complete with chaotic revelry on a weekend. Fortuitously, my week day schedule meant that it was practically empty at the times I wanted to write and their comfortable tables and chairs, coupled with just enough activity to be stimulating but not intrusive meant that I got a lot of work done. I even scored the occasional free drink as staff got to know me.

In the end, a writer’s space is very personal and of course everyone works differently. Take the famous authors for example. Roald Dahl had a tiny shed in his garden that he called the ‘Gipsy House’. I found a video on YouTube once showing him going through his set-up complete with armchair, blanket and what is essentially a wooden board he puts across his lap before he is ready to go. Apparently Charles Dickens preferred to work at his own desk which he shipped with him whenever he was going to be away for any length of time. Ian Fleming of course had a luxury retreat (the Goldeneye Retreat) in Jamaica which is fairly outrageous and JK Rowling apparently finished her final Harry Potter book in a Scottish hotel.

Since that year, I have written everywhere from poolside at a Spanish villa, in a cabin in the Canadian Rockies, and at various cafes in my hometown. Unlike the jobbing author who writes full-time, For me, the process of writing is almost that of a leisure activity. Working at a traditional desk feels too much like I am doing ‘work’. Having said that, writing the creative aspects of a novel are altogether different from going back over things and editing. Once I had reached this stage, the desk in my flat was more appropriate. Despite the obvious distractions that the home environment presents (PS4 and Netflix being the main culprits), sitting in the office and hunkering down to focus isn’t really that bad once you’re on a roll. For me, I prefer winter evenings, ideally when it is raining outside; far more of a cosy experience where one can put on several warm layers and reimmerse oneself in the story that is already set out. Working in the height of summer for me is not very productive; either that’s just me or the sign of an underlying thyroid issue.

I’m about to embark on the next draft so I suspect this is where I will do the majority of the work from now on, but of course if The Shard were to offer me one of their penthouse offices, that would be difficult to turn down.

One can live in hope.

W