• The Dark Room

Where I Write Part One

Writing.ie | Magazine | Interviews | Where I Write

By Julie Murphy

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With Roald Dahl’s writing shed recently in the news, we posed the question: “Where do you like to write?” We asked some of Ireland’s top authors to describe how they create an atmosphere conducive to successful writing. From minimalist offices with nothing but research notes to messy family rooms over-looking the beauty of the Irish landscape every author is different. But it is this variety that fascinates…

DARREN SHAN revealed to writing.ie:

Being a penniless young writer on the dole, I wrote most of my “Saga of Darren Shan” in my bedroom in my parents’ house. I had a small desk at the foot of my bed, where I had done all of my homework a few years earlier when at secondary school. Every morning I’d get up, shuffle a few feet down the room, sit and begin writing! It was a very cramped room, with loads of shelves overflowing with books, comics and videos. (Remember videos?!?) I had a small CD/cassette player (remember cassettes?!?) which I’d bought for my 21st birthday, which was always on, as I always like to have music playing while I work.

These days I have my own house with a very nice, spacious office with a sweeping view of the river Shannon. I have a big CD jukebox in one corner – it can hold up to 200 CDs, but I usually load it with no more than 8 or 9 at a time. To be honest, while it’s much nicer having the extra space, lack of clutter and nice view, it doesn’t make much difference to my writing. When I start tapping on the keyboard, the world fades out around me and it doesn’t really matter if I’m squeezed into a cell or in the middle of an expansive gallery – the world of the story is all I really notice.

SHEILA O’FLANAGAN, whose ‘All For You’ recently won the Easons Irish Popular Fiction Award at the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards told us: 

My first books were written in a converted garage which had minimal heat and insulation. It concentrated the mind wonderfully but it was hard to type with cold fingers.

A few years ago I decided that the time had come for an upgrade and so we built up over the garage and it’s in this added room that I now write.

The most important thing to me was having lots of light and being able to look out over my garden. (It’s not that I have an amazingly gorgeous garden, my fingers aren’t all that green, but I like feeling as though I’m outside even when I’m not.) So my writing area has lots of windows. It also has lots of space for books, although I try to keep them out of my line of sight because otherwise I’d probably stop writing and start reading instead….

I have quite a big desk because when I’m going over the drafts I like to have lots of room to push paper around.

I love where I write but I also have a secret additional place where I do a lot of editing. And that is outdoors, on the terrace of my holiday house in Spain. It’s very, very peaceful there and I get a lot less interruptions so it’s an ideal place to do what I call ‘technical writing’ – which is all the tidying up that has to be done after the initial story is put down on paper.




Far removed from the cluttered writing desk, book-bulging office or Spanish terrace is CLAIRE ALLAN’S laptop and sofa combination. Sitting in her own corner of the sofa, surrounded by cushions and a weekend glass of wine at her side, author and journalist Claire Allan admits that “silence makes me a bit edgy or a bit sleepy.” Instead she keeps the TV on at a low volume and sits amid the usual noises of a family at the end of a long day. To ensure that she is indeed spared the silence that might lead to the above –mentioned edginess or sleep Claire admits that she will often find herself to be the climbing frame for a child who wants to read over her shoulder or sometimes grapple for ownership of the tool of her trade – her “trusty laptop”.

This “trusty laptop” is the second of her writing career and she explains that the first “gave up the ghost after book 3”. Although that sad machine was on its last legs and admittedly had keys that rarely worked Claire confesses that she misses it – claiming that “we had a special bond.” Claire’s preferred hours of creativity are between 8pm and 10pm. Although she says that this can vary she believes that she is “more productive and less distracted at this time”. Almost apologetically wishing for an exotic writing space to share with us, Claire divulges that she does “dream of a view, a nice desk and pale blue walls with sash windows” but gladly accepts that “home will have to do for now.”

About the author

(c) Julie Murphy, December 2011.

Julie Murphy is a student journalist from Dublin and is currently doing an MA in Independent Colleges. She graduated from UCD in 2004 with a degree in English and Philosophy. Since graduating, Julie has worked in a number of industries from tourism to broadcasting. In 2007/2008, she worked in the BBC while living in London and before returning to Dublin to continue her education Julie spent six months travelling. On her travels she visited South America, New Zealand, Fiji and Australia and her experiences there inspired her to fulfill her ambition to study journalism.

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