After being Missing In Action on my social media these last few weeks, I have finally come up for air and can say that I had a super fun reason for being MIA: I was getting my new writing bolthole in order!
If you’re not sure what I mean by “bolthole” then here’s my best description…A bolthole refers to a place you love to escape to, usually small, definitely peaceful; it’s a place that may or may not be secret…Mine isn’t a total secret because those of you following me on my social media know that for the last three years I have kept a little cottage near the sea, on the south coast of England, in Dorset. It was a place that I (and my boyfriend and my dogs) used often for writing, holidays and breaks, and even Christmas and New Year’s on occasion.
Then, last fall, I decided to find myself a new mouse-house, something a bit different from what I had. In the soft-focus daydreams of what my next writing bolthole would look like, I imagined a cute cottage that was closer to the sea, had a larger garden and a thatched roof – and voila, I found it! And I love it! And so do the dogs. (And the boyfriend.) So in between books I’ve been busy getting it cosy.
My mouse-house by the sea is the perfect place to be at any time, frankly, but especially when I have writing deadlines and am in what I call “scarecrow mode” (because my boyfriend says I look like a scarecrow when I’m rushing to meet a deadline, keep reading to find out why). Scarecrow mode means that I’m basically writing day and night and don’t have the time or mental space to deal with distractions – even normal ones like washing my hair (so, yeah, I can go for days without washing it and end up, according to my boyfriend, looking like, you guessed it: a scarecrow!).
When I’m in scarecrow mode I don’t want to see anyone, think about what to wear (so I’ll grab whatever is closest to reach), or have to cook meals at regular hours. I just want to write and walk my dogs and maybe read a bit and that’s it. I honestly can’t do much more than that when I have a book to finish! Anyway, at my cottage by the sea I can do whatever it takes to meet my deadlines without bothering anybody – or anybody bothering me.
I will have three books published in the U.K. next year (yup, 2019 and 2020 will be buuusssyyy!), so, basically, I will be in full scarecrow mode for the foreseeable future…plus I’ll have to take care of my book babies and their launches – something I’m super excited about! I can’t wait to see my new series, Royal Rebel, in U.K. bookstores and I REALLY CAN’T WAIT TO MEET MY READERS once I start doing school visits, book tours, festival events, etc. (And, yes, I’ll wash my hair for my events!)
Other Fab News: My new bolthole writing desk arrived two days ago and I love it. It’s a armoire desk, meaning that on its top half two large vertical cupboard doors open to reveal a built in desk. There is space for a large computer inside of it and a keyboard can rest on the pullout shelf below it. I thought this was the ideal solution for my cottage because this way I can work in my sitting room all day, but, then – say a friend comes round for tea – like magic, I can shut the doors and within seconds my manuscript, paperwork, notes, etc. can conveniently “disappear”. It also has another super cool feature: it has pretty pin-boards attached to the inside of its large cupboard doors, which are perfect to use as a mood board for whatever book I’m writing. Love!
As for what the rest of my writing mouse-house looks like…well, it’s a very old cottage, built a very long time ago, so in addition to its sweet thatched roof it has low ceilings, little wood-paned windows, a stone floor in the kitchen, and sunny rooms. It’s super cosy; a girlfriend described it as being like Snow White’s cottage in the forest – only without the seven dwarves, which I think pretty well describes it! I have lots of books everywhere (of course!) and there is a large wooden table in the kitchen where I can draw. A lot of the antique furniture I bought at the Paris flea-markets (when I was living there as a model) is scattered throughout the rooms; it’s fun to see it here, in my English cottage by the sea, adding a touch of French glamour. Every piece and painting has a special story about when and where I bought it and I cherish every piece. Which reminds me…
Just a note to those of you who are starting out with your writing: you don’t need to have your own cottage or a huge office to write. When I started writing Model Under Cover I was living in Paris and wrote (in pen and on paper, because I didn’t have a computer!) the first draft to the first book, A Crime of Passion, whilst living in a teeny-tiny top floor garret of a 17th century building in the heart of old Paris. And before that, when I was writing and illustrating my first published book, a picture book for young children called Nigel of Hyde Park, I did it all whilst living in another teeny-tiny one room garret, also in the heart of old Paris. Later, when I moved to Germany to live with my boyfriend, I put some IKEA furniture into an old disused room (and left the old curtains and carpet and awful wallpaper!) and wrote all four of my Model Under Cover books there…my point is, just start writing where you are. If you have your own bedroom then write there. Clear some space on your desk and get cracking! If you don’t have your own bedroom, then do what I did as a teen: write at your local library. I loved working and reading in my local library and spent as many hours there after school as I could. Jane Austen famously wrote her books (all of which I love – if you haven’t read any Jane Austen then do!) at a tiny table in her family’s sitting room. I’ve read that she would quickly cover up her manuscripts with blotting paper as family members walked in and out, so they wouldn’t read what she was working on.
I find that now I need more peace and quiet than I used to in order to get more work done. I have more emails to answer, more books to plan for, more accounting to deal with (ugh!), more of everything, in fact, that goes along with being a published author today. And maybe I’m just older and like things to be more quiet. So, yeah, I’m excited about using my mouse-house by the sea. Most of all, though, I’m just super happy to be able to write books I love, for readers I love!