The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency author tells YOU how to write
I write a number of books each year and frequently have two books on the go. I also travel a great deal – literary festivals and book tours – and have to be able to write in all sorts of places. I write in hotels, in planes, in trains. When I am at home, though, I am quite particular about where I write. I have a writing room, where I am surrounded by books, notebooks, letters and all the clutter of the novelist’s life. I sit at a writing table I had specially built and write on a computer – an Apple Mac by preference. If writers in the past were fussy about the paper and pens they used, then some of this fussiness has transferred to computers.
The actual process of writing is something I have given some thought to. I think that I go into a mildly dissociative state. I am aware of my surroundings, but not really engaged with them. I would not describe it as a trance, but in some ways it is like being in a trance.
I don’t have to make a conscious effort to think about what I am going to write, it comes out on the screen, fully formed. I feel that I am merely acting as the conduit to something that has been formed in my subconscious mind.
I write rather fast – at about 1,000 words an hour. If I sit down to write for three or four hours there will be something like 12 typed pages ready at the end of the session. I often get up at four in the morning and do this. Then I go back to bed at seven and get a further hour of sleep.
I almost always write to music. I believe it has a positive effect on the brain and makes it easier to perform certain tasks – a view shared, I believe, by some psychologists and neuroscientists. At the moment I am writing the seventh novel in my Isabel Dalhousie series: I play Mozart for that. It sets the mood perfectly. When I’m writing a book in the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, I listen to somebody like Ayub Ogada, that marvellous East African musician. Interview by Kathryn Miller The Double Comfort Safari Club, the 11th book in The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, is published by Little, Brown.