TS. This is an author whom it seems picks each individual word as she writes. Elegantly written prose, she scrapes the words down to their most beautiful meaning. She knows her characters and locations and wears them like a second skin.
Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.
JT. My writing ‘dens’ have changed over the years! I have a small area in the house that I call my study (seen here) and I’m writing this in there now. The desk is usually untidy with research notes, spiral note books, scraps of paper and of course my laptop. Around me are shelves of non-fiction books, dictionaries and loads of files full of research for the various novels I’ve written.
But I often get more writing done if I go ‘out to work’ and away from the house and its domestic distractions! So I do a lot of my writing in libraries or places of retreat. My favourite one is the Lit & Phil in Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Northeast England)– a wonderful old 19th century building with floor-to-ceiling bookcases and wee cubby-hole spaces in between where I can sit and work, drink coffee and try not to get distracted by the fascinating history books around me!
Q. Do you have any special rituals when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)
JT. I quite often go for a 50 minute walk first thing in the morning, partly for exercise and partly because doing something physical often kick-starts ideas. I think about my characters as I walk and this helps me know them better and decide what to do with them next! As I’ve indicated, my desk at home is not a tidy space but all I need is the laptop and the current file of notes beside me for reference. Sitting down at the desk and getting started is the hardest moment, as I’m a great procrastinator! And I have to have ‘rewards’ along the way such as a huge cup of proper coffee in the late morning and lots of tea in the afternoon (especially since I started writing my INDIA TEA SERIES!)
Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?
JT. When I was eighteen years-old I caught a bus in London and three months later arrived in Kathmandu! It was the heyday of the hippy trail across Asia in the 1970s and I got to see some amazing places that are now too dangerous to visit. I saw the ancient Buddhas of Bamian in Afghanistan before they were destroyed. The trip was the inspiration for my mystery novel, THE VANISHING OF RUTH.
Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?
JT. I try and get started by mid-morning and write for a couple of hours. Then I’ll start again after lunch and write till late afternoon/early evening. I don’t write any later than that. The evening is relaxation time or catching up with other jobs, social media, emails etc. But in some ways a writer is never off-duty, as I’m often mulling over ideas or doing background reading. It’s not just about the physical writing.
Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?
JT. Oh dear, you are asking a hardened procrastinator! Routines are good. Make sure that sometime during the day you sit down at your computer/desk/kitchen table and put some words on paper. It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect, just write something. Then you have material to go back over later and build on. I find that re-reading what I’ve written the day before and editing it, helps me get back into the story. And while you’re there, put your phone and computer on silent so that you aren’t tempted to check messages or answer them!
JT. I always begin with the historical period and the social scene, so I do a lot of reading around the subject and then my characters begin to be conjure……
Join us on July 14th for Part Two of this fascinating Interview
MY BLOGS feature INTERVIEWS with best-selling AUTHORS! Did you miss the past few months? June: Mehreen Ahmed. July: Janet Macleod Trotter, author of Tea Planter’s Daughter and in August we say ‘hello’ to Cheryl Hollon.
Check out more Motivational Moments…for Writers!