If you peer through my study window you will see me sitting there. Chained to my desk. Hunched over an A4 lined writing pad, pen in hand. Hour after hour. Occasionally leaping to my feet to do star-jumps to get blood pumping to my brain. Nourished by a constant supply of intravenous caffeine and raw asparagus fingers. Later, a quick walk to the beach and collapsing into a well-earned coma all evening.
That’s on a good day.
On a bad day I sit staring zombie-eyed out of the window, in the desperate hope that the 2000 words I seek are hiding somewhere in the garden, skittering among the leaves. On a bad day I consider taking up street-walking for a living.
I wake between 4am and 5am. My brain-cogs insist on leaping into action before I can shut them down. I lie there for hours in the dark with my mind in the grip of brilliant plot-twists and sparkling dialogue. When the alarm trills at 7am I grab the pen and paper at my bedside, while my husband trots off to bring me tea and toast.
Yes, yes, I know. It sounds decadent. Writing in bed. But if I wait till I’ve showered and dressed and fed the cat and stacked the dishwasher, all those pre-dawn ideas will have vanished in a puff of smoke. I must get them down on paper first. Only then do I emerge after a couple of hours, ready to start my day at my desk.
Okay, I admit that in the cold light of day those pre-dawn plot-twists might seem a tad far-fetched and parts of the dialogue just downright clunky, but it gives me something to kick off from. I work solidly through till 1.15pm, break for a light lunch of fish or soup and then that’s when I hit the brick wall. I’m useless in the afternoon. From 2pm till 4pm forget it. My brain becomes a wasteland. So I tramp through woods or trek across the beach, letting my morning’s work settle in my head until I feel new ideas raising their hands. I try to get through a few chores at this time, deal with emails and social media, or meet up with friends. But by 4.30 I’m usually back at my desk and I work through till 6.30.
In the evening I slump on the sofa to read or watch box-sets, though I’m also up for an occasional trip to the cinema or lively dinner with friends. And I love to scrub up smart and head off to the bright lights of London for meetings or parties with my wonderful publisher, Simon & Schuster UK, but always I head back to my old friend - the desk-chain. I never talk about my book. It is too raw, too fragile, too easily bruised. And I have this weird feeling that if I did, it would all come spilling out of my head and I’d never get it back in.
But all this routine goes flying out the window the moment I catch sight of my deadline charging towards me at light-speed. I panic. I start leaping out of bed at 5am and work non-stop through till midnight. My husband sees nothing but the back of my head. I ignore the telephone. Friends and family think I’ve emigrated. I live, eat, breathe the life of the characters in my book to the point where I forget what is reality and what is fantasy.
Each day becomes an intense, painful and thrilling experience. And when I finally tumble into bed, blank-eyed and brain-dead, I can’t wait for it all to start again.
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The Betrayal by Kate Furnivall is out now (£7.99 in paperback Simon & Schuster)