Jane Holland's best selling novel, Girl #1 was one of my favourite reads of 2016. Her latest book, Lock the Door, is out now. Today, she's telling us a bit about her writing space, in a beach hut!
When we lived in the Midlands, I rented an office in a town centre suite. I wrote about five novels there, over eighteen months, and loved the regular hours and the absence of domestic distractions. But when we moved back to the south-west, I couldn’t find any similar offices at a reasonable cost.
Since I find it hard to concentrate at home – a bit of a drawback for a novelist – I tended at first to go out and write, mainly in cafés. Indeed, I still do that, as I love a nice latte. But after an hour or so, the staff would begin to glare at me, so it felt awkward. I knew I needed somewhere more permanent. Then I read online about people who write in beach huts, and thought, what a fab idea!
I now rent a splendid beach hut overlooking a beach in Bude, Cornwall. It’s fifteen minutes from my home, and though parking is problematic in the summer, I have discovered all the ‘secret’ places where locals park without paying charges. The hut itself is very small – all the larger ones were snatched up at the start of the season. In a way though, that’s perfect, as it helps to concentrate my mind on the task at hand, i.e. writing my novel. I don’t need much to make a writing space: laptop, headphones (I listen to loud pop music while writing) and a drink. The hut fits a folding chair and desk, with a shelf for my gas stove and drink supplies. Beach paraphernalia gets squeezed under the shelf for when the kids visit. There are two cafés nearby, some deeply convenient toilets, and bracing cliff walks in both directions.
When I arrive, I follow a set ritual. If it’s hot, I set my deckchair in the sun. Then I unfold my desk and chair inside, open my laptop, and start to write immediately. I usually shut the door when writing, as it can get draughty, but also to avoid people staring in as they wander past. (People do love to stare incredulously at writers.) I work in short bursts, so break every half hour to go for a walk, make a drink, or sit in my deckchair. If my husband happens to visit while I’m sunbathing, I like to call this ‘thinking’ time.
Once installed, I write for several hours, sometimes all day. Folk in adjacent huts look on me as an eccentric, especially when I’m wearing my rainbow crocheted hat. I smile at them occasionally but try never to catch anyone’s eye, in case they speak to me and break the spell. And it is a spell. The view is dramatic and spectacular, especially when it’s windy and the white breakers roll in. The rhythmic noise of the tide acts like a metronome, pushing me on from sentence to sentence. I spent my formative years in sight of the sea, so there’s a comfortable nostalgia about it too. And I adore solitude that isn’t really solitude. Hiding in plain sight!
The kids think it’s pretty cool too. Our very own beach hut. Oh, I do love to be beside the seaside …
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT LOCK THE DOOR BY JANE HOLLAND
FOLLOW JANE HOLLAND ON TWITTER