Essie Fox's latest novel, The Goddess and the Thief, was published by Orion in December and today she's invited us to have a look at her writing space.
This is my desk – a very old Dickens and shabby too, having been bought in a junk shop more years ago than I like to think. The writing surface used to slope, but now it’s adapted to lie quite flat so that I can work more easily. Though I have to confess that, before this month, when I made a New Year’s resolution to spend more time in my writing room, most of my novels have been tapped out in the confines of my bedroom walls. There, I would sit my computer on top of a little breakfast table, with me propped up on pillows behind, no doubt appearing to be some kind of latter day Barbara Cartland. But, no secretary to take my dictation, and definitely no Pekinese dogs. One Jack Russell is quite enough.
My “office” (so much more professional!) is a room set at the back of the house, situated on the raised ground floor and overlooking the garden. (Lovely in the summer months when the window can be opened up and the sounds of birdsong fill the air.) The walls are all lined with shelves of books, just a few of which are visible here. Yet more titles and films have arrived of late, or else been collected over the months. They are now piled up, right here on my desk, in readiness for me to start work on a brand new novel.
If you look closely at the spines you’ll see that the common themes are Brighton, and magic, and ghosts, and the history of cinematography – and cabinets of curiosities. Another clue is to be found on the glass of my computer screen, with the photograph of an actress from the early years of the film industry. She is there because, when I start a new book, I like to have one image that is in some way linked to the story’s core, to inspire me whenever I set to work. (However, while writing my very first novel I had a picture of the moon, which was what I felt I was striving to reach!)
Other props upon my desk are those left over from last year, when writing The Goddess and the Thief – my third Victorian gothic novel, which was published in hardback recently. That story has scenes in India, hence the elephants and the Hindu gods. I think you can just make out Ganesh (the little pot-bellied elephant god) in front of my family photographs.
Finally, there is a coffee cup. I always start the morning with a good strong brew of freshly ground beans, with a dollop of frothy milk on top. It’s a sort of mini ritual. That space between waking and starting to work when my mind needs time to concentrate – though of late I am very tempted to take that coffee back to bed.
How long will my resolution last?