Carol Wyer won The People's Book Prize Award for non-fiction in 2015 and writes regularly for the Huffington Post. Her new book, Life Swap, is released on 22nd April.
I often joke that I hide away like writers from some bygone era, swaddled in voluminous, knitted garments to stay warm, scribbling away in my garret but in truth that’s what I do.
We moved to what we call the “windy hill in Staffordshire” five years ago, won over by the undulating fields of cows that surround the house, the 280-degree views of woods and the nature reservoir that shimmers in the distance. It is a proper rural retreat and ideal for coaxing my muses into action and ruminating.
My official “office” is off a separate staircase in the house and has a skylight that lets in plenty of light but prevents me from becoming distracted by the views. There’s an en suite shower and a small bedroom next door, ideal for an insomnia sufferer like me. I often work well into the night and it means I can grab a couple of hours sleep without disturbing my husband.
However, the room in the attic is only where I type my books and do all my editing. It is a stark contrast to where I start the journey for each novel. The creative process begins with several old-fashioned exercise books and sharpened pencils and the first drafts are always penned in France.
We used to live in the beautiful area of the Tarn and Garonne in the south west of France but sold our property back in 2002. Nowadays we rent for six to ten weeks each year. There is one gite in particular that has a constant appeal for us. It’s a sweet pigeonnier attached to an old farmhouse, with only one bedroom, one bathroom and a tiny kitchen and sitting area but it is idyllic. The entire property consists of rustic tumbledown stone buildings and oozes French charm. Le Pigeonnier is part of a small working farm and so clucking chickens sitting on our outside table and bleating lambs head butting the gate, eager to be fed, wake us each day. On an evening we sit quietly and watch roe deer grazing in the field.
I usually hunker down in the shade of the ancient oak tree and write, accompanied by the drone of bees in the fields or cicadas chirping. The relaxed atmosphere and warmth from the sun encourages thoughts to flow. I use that time to draft my scripts. I scribble them all down in my notebooks, dividing them into sections for characters, descriptive passages and plot ideas. I like spider charts too so my book looks like a jumble of ideas to outsiders but to me it is logical.
Once I have all the information mapped out, I sit back with eyes closed and let the story unfold like a film in my head. It’ll be halted many times, rewound and replayed and I will change the ending a few times or the characters themselves but finally I’ll have my novel, twists and all, ready to commit to paper. I then start writing the actual story in earnest in yet another notebook. I’ve always written out my work longhand. I prefer to scribble out and draw red arrows all over the work than keep scrolling up and down on a computer.
When I’m ready, I return to the UK, shut myself away in the garret and type it all out. I have to pinch myself regularly to make sure it isn’t all a dream. Ouch! It isn’t.