Rather than a writing ‘room’, I have several ‘places’ I write. They are all – in different ways – governed by my dog, Poppy, a naughty Lab/Giant Schnauzer cross. If I sit down first thing in the morning to write at home, she decides my one and only desire in life must be to play with her. She brings a tennis ball, drops it at my feet and dances about barking, making stringing a thought together tricky. So I have found several places to write that work for us both.
My absolute favourite is what I call the ‘rotunda’ on Reigate Hill, on the South Downs in Surrey. It has a fabulous view over the valley and is the perfect vantage point to observe the changing seasons. I sit there jotting down ideas, characters and lines of dialogue, observing dog walkers, joggers and cyclists, while Poppy races about, sniffing in the bushes and playing with other dogs. The National Trust cows are often up there too – gorgeous furry Belted Galloways – and they take absolutely no notice of her or me. I can also see the planes taking off from Gatwick and like to imagine the delighted hellos and the heart-wrenching goodbyes that fill the airport. When I feel as though I’ll never have a decent idea again, I fantasise about flying off somewhere new and dodging all my responsibilities.
As a writing room, the rotunda is best in the spring and autumn. In summer, I can’t concentrate because I have to be on crowd control for Poppy – there’s nothing she likes more than scoffing up the picnics, cavorting off with a kite or seizing a model aeroplane. In the winter, if it’s raining, the dog refuses to go out at all, staring at me with a puzzled look as if to say: ‘Why do these humans want to go out in this weather?’
I tend to work in my own garden in the summer – I have a swing bench that is perfect for reading drafts of my novel on the Kindle and making editing notes. When I’m in the phase of getting words down on the page, I drop my kids at school and go straight to Starbucks to avoid the dog’s needs and wants. I sit at a table in the far corner every day and feel irrationally annoyed when someone else has taken it. I work for three hours and then I’m delighted to uncrinkle myself by striding out on the hill with Poppy. In the afternoons, she stretches out by the Aga in the kitchen, warming her paws as though there were nothing more pressing to do, while I carry on either writing or working on marketing and publicity for my novels.
In our house, at least, it’s definitely a dog’s life.
The School Gate Survival Guide by Kerry Fisher is out now.