My magic trick

It works like this. I get up in the early morning, while it’s still a little dark. I tiptoe past the kids’ room and shut myself in my study. Then I start wA family at the beach in 1930riting. And words come. They don’t sit dammed up in my brain behind that invisible forcefield. They come out of my head, down my arms, into my fingers, out onto the keyboard, and appear on the screen. They come in their hundreds and sometimes in their thousands. Then I stop at breakfast time and get on with my day.

I’ve always been an early-morning writer, and I’m so pleased to be back in this space. Having suffered horrifically through the editing process (see below) it’s such a wonderful feeling of liberty to be writing forward again. The settings and characters are coming alive in my imagination, seeming more real every day. I have certainly written my way back in to this story.

Next weekend I’m off on a research trip in Tasmania. This is the first time I’ve researched Australian history for a story, and I’ve surprised myself by how fascinated I am. I managed to get hold of a book called E. A. Hoppe’s Australia, which is a collection of photographs taken over one year (1930) by a German photographer, and I’ve spent many hours poring over the pictures, soaking up the feeling, looking for those little details that will add the feeling of “realness” to the story.  In most photos, there are people looking back at me, and I’m trying to imagine them in those moments. What they were thinking, feeling; how each of their senses were engaged in that split-second when the shutter-eye closed and opened again. Slowly, but surely, I am falling under this story’s spell. And it’s wonderful.

Santa doesn’t have a security camera

This is what my six-year-old son told me this afternoon, when I was warning him that Santa was taking notes on his behaviour. In that spirit, I’m staying up really late tonight… way past my bedtime… playing around on the computer (alas, not World of Warcraft as the server is down for maintenance).

People always ask me what my favourite books etc are, so I have been sitting here this evening devising lists of my top ten everythings. Just click on the tab at the top if you want to see. There are books, poems, music, films, all kinds of things. Leave a comment if you see something you like (or really dislike), or, indeed, if you were at some of the same concerts as me in the 80s.

The thing that struck me as I was doing this was that I had trouble coming up with ten favourite books: even though I would have called myself an avid reader. By contrast, limiting myself to ten favourite songs was practically impossible (and the list is likely to be much tinkered with in the coming weeks). Is it that I have loved so many books that it’s hard to pick the real stand-outs? I’d like to think that was the case, but I suspect that perhaps I became a writer because so few books really satisfied me.

As a child, reading and writing were the same pleasure for me; I barely made a distinction between them and would often respond to a book I particularly liked by writing an unofficial sequel to it (intellectual property law not being my forte as a seven-year-old). Now I find I read a great deal of non-fiction rather than fiction; mostly for research, but I also love to read social science stuff. I would say that becoming a writer changes your relationship with reading forever (so be warned all you book-loving would-be writers!!) When I read now, unless it’s entirely out of my genre/s, I find that it just makes me want to get back to my own story, or I’m second-guessing what the author will do, or analysing how she created this or that feeling.

Well, we shall see if Santa brings me anything to read (if, that is, he has checked his security camera at some stage and decided I’m worthy of presents). I wish you all the happiest Christmas you can have.