I am very keen on my bed – I do a lot of thinking when I am half asleep under a mound of goose-down. But once I’m up I’m firing on all four cylinders. I never understand people who can’t have a conversation until they’ve had three cups of coffee and a shower. I’m annoyingly chirpy and gung-ho as soon as I’m vertical.
Once I’ve tried to force-feed my youngest – the only one of my three boys left at home – and done the school run, I take my miniature Schnauzer Zelda to the beach. She’s named after Zelda Fitzgerald and is just as feisty and troublesome as her namesake but I’m hoping won’t come to such a sticky end.
This is excellent thinking time. There is a proven link between the physiology of walking and creativity – one unlocks the other. And I definitely find the stories unfurling as I wander along the sand. I love this part of the process: it’s rather like a film inside my head. The trick, of course, is to remember it and write it down when I get home. One of the big frustrations of writing is you can see everything so clearly, but when you try and pin it down on paper, it doesn’t feel quite the same. But that’s why you have to keep editing and polishing, to bring the story to life again.
Once home it’s a cafetiere of coffee and often I will Facetime my brother in Australia before I start writing. We talk about food, mostly. We can literally talk for hours about the best way to roast a chicken or make a gin and tonic. We both have three kids each and are both freelance, so we face similar work/life balance challenges and cheer each other on.
Then it’s to the laptop. I aim to write between 1000 and 2000 words a day. I simply can’t make this sound glamorous. It’s hard work and you have to concentrate. As well as actual making-things-up, there is social media to keep on top of, events to plan for, publicity, copy-editing, proof–reading, depending where you are in the cycle. Right now I'm about to start research on my next book and I'm very excited. I aim for a good balance of emotion and description. I want to make my readers feel.
I try and arrange something social workwise at least once a month. I love a mad night out and have lots of friends who are happy to be lead astray. It’s great to mix up people from different genres. Recently two of us organised cocktails with a totally random guest list and it was just brilliant. And I have a bunch of author friends who are based in the West Country. We meet for lunch every couple of months and always have a Christmas party.
Solitary writing and parties. Balance: that’s what it’s all about.