Where I Write: Michelle Jackson, Sarah Harte & Caroline Finnerty
The summer is well and truly in full swing and we’ve asked three of Ireland’s popular fiction authors Michelle Jackson (5 Peppermint Grove), Sarah Harte (Thick and Thin) and Caroline Finnerty (The Last Goodbye) to tell us more about where they write.
There’s no place like home – or bed
I know it sounds very sexy and lots of women authors have admitted to writing here but it really is my favourite place in the entire world – my bed! It is slightly ironic that I always write books that are set in faraway places and have a travel theme yet I can only write at home.
I have been warned by fellow authors that writing here will cause permanent damage to my back but I just can’t give it up. I even went to the trouble of converting the children’s playroom into a study – piled the shelves with my favourite books – got a nice black leather chair (second hand mind you!) I painted the walls a soothing lilac and hung family portraits around. It is a lovely room to keep stuff in because that is what it is now used for!
My children have expanded in size – not numbers – so the garage is about to be converted and a pool table put in it.
My lovely study is storing up the car insurance certs, credit card bills and old birthday cards etc, while I continue to pull the duvet up over my legs, prop the laptop on them and then off I go.
I do believe that there is more to it than furniture though. My bedroom is north facing so I never have to deal with direct sunlight – admittedly so is the study. My bedroom has a lovely view of the sea and the sky where Lambay Island meets the horizon. My study has a lovely view of our hedge.
My bedroom has a massive comfy bed in it and no matter what the weather is like outside I can remain the same temperature – okay so I have central heating in my study… who am I kidding! I just love my bed and there is nowhere else that I can write. It can be pretty frustrating when ideas are coming fast and furious and I want to launch into an article or another chapter of my novel but it doesn’t matter – unless I’m propped up with my six pillows and my curtains wide open it isn’t going to happen! Sometimes I feel like there is a vortex outside my bedroom window that is a portal for the creative consciousness and when I am sitting in bed I connect into it the minute my laptop is switched on. There are often times when I read my novels and I wonder how that happened – who wrote those words. It’s like I’m a typist or go between working for the vortex outside the window and whoever is living in the laptop and spewing out the words. So as long as I don’t move house – or bed – I hope that I will continue to be inspired and write many more books.
Editing however is completely different – I do like to go away to edit – especially if I have a deadline. I edited my second novel in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre and my favourite place of all to edit is Monart Spa in Wexford – but maybe that’s just because it’s one of my favourite places full stop. I will have to admit however that while editing in these wonderfully peaceful settings I did it – in bed!
Find out more about Michelle at her website www.michellejackson.ie or follow her on Twitter @mjacksonauthor
Where I write has changed a fair bit over the years. When I was writing my first book The Better Half I wrote exclusively in my basement. As this was largely unheated, a sort of rigor mortis used to set in as the day progressed and I would have to add more and more layers of clothing. In the winter I’d end up wearing a hat and a coat or a gilet. My nose would get red. In the evenings I would answer the door to my husband looking very strange in weird get-ups. He pointed out that he didn’t think it was altogether healthy for me to stay in the house all day during those dark winter days with no human contact, apart from seeing the post man through the window. He suggested that I ought to get out more and try to write in other places and to ‘meet people’ – his shorthand for saying, ‘You are becoming an agoraphobic weirdo making poor sartorial choices and I don’t like where this might be leading’.
So after that I started writing some of the time in cafés. The advantage of café writing is that you get to nosey poke at people coming in and it stimulates your imagination. For a long time I favoured the Village Café in Rathmines where I could be seen lurking in the corner. Sadly this café has closed so I have had to move elsewhere. I’m also lucky in that I can drop into a friend who has a technology company in Rathmines and hot-desk there. Everyone in the building is getting on with their own business things, and I’m writing, but I get to feel like I’m a member of the adult human race, people say ‘hi’ and I feel like I have company.
I still write at home a huge amount as after my husband and son have slammed out the door in the mornings there is great peace. I do my best writing after I open my eyes (I won’t say first thing as my family would scoff) or at least I get the most inspiration then. My favourite place to write at home is in bed. My husband likes to take the mickey endlessly, and makes out that it’s my bed I love, but as I’m tireless in pointing out – sometimes with eyes narrowed to slits – I do in fact come up with the best ideas while propped up with pillows, a cup of tea (made by him) by my side, pen poised on sheets of blank paper. Later in the day I input this material into my computer while chomping on fruit scones in cafés. Computers are fab (I cannot begin to imagine the re-writes without their deleting, cutting and pasting functions) but you cannot beat a pen and paper. I always have a pen and notebook in my bag; I get panicked if I’m without these basic tools. Sometimes when socialising I have been known to belt to the loos if I hear a good line or get an idea, and I have whipped out the notebook on trains, planes, in automobiles. In short, I write anywhere.
Find out more about Sarah at www.sarahharte.com
I’ll let you in on a little secret about me; I’m a dreamer. I always have been. I love nothing more than slipping inside my own head and letting my mind run away with itself. I will be driving my car and imagine getting stuck in a lift with Julian Fellowes and we are getting on so well with him that he writes a special part for me in Downton Abbey (preferably as the long lost Crawley sister). Or another one that I’m quite fond of is if I’m digging in the garden I start thinking about what I should do if I happen to come across some gold. So it came as no surprise to my husband when we first went to view our now house and we walked into a room with floor to ceiling bookshelves on one wall and windows overlooking the treacly canal outside that I declared I had found my ‘prefect writing room’. It didn’t matter that I had a string of rejection slips at that stage and I spent my days in a grey office block down the back of a business park for my job in the pharmaceutical sector, the dreamer in me imagined living in this house and sitting down to write in this room every day.
Anyway we bought the house and a few weeks after we moved here, I was talking to one of our neighbours who didn’t know that I was secretly writing. She told me that one of the previous owners had been a writer. I had noticed that the wall is stained yellow and apparently that was where he sat at his desk and chain-smoked. No matter how much we paint it, the yellow stain shows through. My poor husband had to listen to me as I danced around our kitchen yelling “It’s a sign, it’s a sign don’t you know! Didn’t I tell you it was a ‘perfect writing room’?”
What I didn’t factor in as I busy was getting carried away with myself, was having three children in as many years so now my ‘perfect writing room’ is now a playroom with a rocking horse, a rocking snail, miniature buggies and prams, doll’s cots, Peppa Pig shape-sorters and Lego blocks strewn around the place. There is no room for a desk so my laptop and I have been relegated to the kitchen table. Each morning I try to find a space between rock-pools of milk and encrusted mounds of Weetabix after the breakfast bedlam. There is always a basket of laundry to be folded at the one end. My dog Sam snores. The washing machine is clattering and raucous in the background and the hum of the dishwasher tries its best to compete. I am on a countdown against the baby-monitor for when the twins wake up from their nap. But on the plus side, the close proximity of the biscuit tin is great for procrastinating – every cloud and all that . . .
When the children get a bit bigger I hope to reclaim my ‘perfect writing room’ for its original purpose. It would be nice to have a permanent space for my notebooks, inspiring quotes and other bits and pieces. And it might also be better for the waistline to be a few metres further away from the chocolate Digestives.
Caroline Finnerty lives in Co. Kildare with her husband and three young children and their Labrador Sam. Her first novel In a Moment was published in 2012, her second novel The Last Goodbye was released in July 2013, both are published by Poolbeg. She is currently working on her third book. You can find out more about her on www.carolinefinnerty.ie or find her on twitter where she is @cfinnertywriter.