My first novel, The Dead Summer, was started with pen and paper at my garden table on a blazing July day in 2009 as barely more than a doodle. Much of it was written sitting in a red rocking chair known as ‘the Moon’ while my newborn daughter dozed or played in the living room of my home in East Wall. When I realised that I was writing something that I liked enough to finish, a netbook was purchased and my first novel began its adventure proper.
My second was more mobile. The Dark Water began life at a different kitchen table in Drumcondra as I waited for the birth of my second daughter. And it went from there via Florida to Timoleague, West Cork and then back home where it was eventually finished with a late-night, last-minute edit in bed for the simple reason that I was too scared to finish it alone downstairs. Not because of my own skills as a purveyor of all things spooky, but because my daughter’s toy kitchen had decided to start ‘cooking’ things very loudly at 1am. By itself. A real case of life imitating art. Or dodgy batteries. Believe what you like.
After a while, the writing thing sort of took over – I found myself writing speeches and articles and short stories and blogs. Eventually it became apparent that I needed to settle down somewhere so with my battered, second-hand desk, I claimed for myself the front sitting room. Where the bikes and trikes and clotheshorse lived. Where the stuff we only use at Christmas lived. Where the blind was always drawn and lost things were most likely to end up.
Since claiming this territory, I’ve tried to implement the use of the title ‘study’ for my new kingdom but my family are having none of it. It’s still ‘the front room’, or ‘ the room with the other TV’ although ‘the room where Mum does her work’ does sneak in every now and again.
In my study (I remain firm!) there’s still the ‘good’ dining table, the overspill of books from the main living room (but room for so much more), the camp bed, artfully disguised under a heavy throw. There’s a TV – well a girl needs somewhere to watch ‘Downton’ in peace. There’s a lumpy divan under a rug, there’s the ‘moon’ chair, in case I get nostalgic, and there’s my work. My netbook, my notebooks, my pens, my printer, an old-fashioned lamp with dodgy wiring. There’s also a microphone and a recordy-boxy thing because I do the odd voiceover – it would be a shame to waste thirteen years in radio, after all.
On the walls, there’s a photograph of a side street restaurant in Rome by night taken on a blissful pre-children break, and a framed copy of the cover of The Dead Summer – a surprise Christmas present. I discovered it one Christmas morning propped against the front door; delivered by a close friend who had operated on my husband’s instruction to have it printed and framed in secret and who then travelled across the city in the snow to make sure that I’d have it on December 25th.
And until I get the Dyson out, there’s plenty of crumbs and raisins and other food detritus courtesy of my girls who use this room in the afternoons as their own, commandeering it for marathon sessions of Peppa Pig and Bubbleguppies. It’s where my husband hides out with the Sunday papers. It’s where guests bunk down. It’s now one of the most-used rooms in the house. Right now I can turn and look out at a display of autumn leaves – all oranges and yellows and browns and golds littering the quiet road outside so beautifully. For Christmas, there’s a set of starlights to hang in the window.
And I spend my mornings here writing to pay bills, then become mum and maid in the afternoon, and each night, when the house is quiet, I trek back in with a cup of tea in hand for an hour or two to create a novel which will hopefully have another adventure all of its own.
Where I write, surrounded by photographs of friends and family, where the ideas thankfully still come and where I’m far enough from the biscuit barrel to resist temptation, reminds me constantly that I’m really a very lucky person indeed. But a little bit chilly in winter. And in need of a chocolate digestive, come to think of it.