Every now and then, one of our Crime Cymru authors is brave enough to offer us a glimpse of the place where they write. This week, Alis Hawkins surrounds herself with personal mementoes and the tools of her writing trade in her newly spring-cleaned study.
Before we moved to our current house seven years ago, I was a peripatetic writer, alighting here and there in our house wherever it seemed warmest. That mostly ended up being in the kitchen which meant that I couldn’t leave my notes and research lying about but had to clear it all away before the evening meal.
A move from Canterbury to the Forest of Dean allowed us to buy a bigger house and, since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a dedicated writing room. But, now that I don’t have to tidy up every day, there is a downside – papers and books lying all over the place in piles and drifts!
As I couldn’t face presenting the readers of the Crime Cymru blog with that kind of untidiness I gave my study a much-needed spring clean so the photos on this page represent the new, tidy space rather than the paper-and-book-strewn reality of this morning.
So, this is where I work:
As you can see, I’ve invested in a variable height desk which means that I can stand or sit to work. Generally, I stand to do admin and all non-writing stuff – social media, emails, Crime Cymru business etc. – and I sit at the desk or in the chair below to write. When I’m sitting at the desk, I sit on an exercise ball which stops me slouching. It’s uncomfortable sitting with your back unsupported for any great length of time but that’s OK because I always get up every 45 minutes and move around. It’s not quite the Pomodoro Method – I’m just convinced that sitting for long periods is bad for you. Or for me, at any rate. And, far from breaking my train of thought, I often find that my work rate speeds up after a movement-break.
As you can see from the photo, I use the wall behind my desk as a kind of pin-board. From the left we’ve got:
- The cover image of Those Who Know I used when I did a Facebook Live ebook launch event back in May (you can still see this on my Facebook page: Alis Hawkins Author)
- A blutaked-together collection of quotes and congratulations which my other half, Edwina, blutaked to every vertical surface in the house to celebrate the acquisition of None So Blind after I’d been without a publisher for seven years. (I wrote four books during those years, three of which are now published.)
- A postcard reproduction of my favourite Bridget Riley painting bought for me by my son, Rob, after we’d been to see an exhibition of her work in London, back in the mists of time when one could still do that kind of thing. (February).
- A photo of my beloved sons, taken at the world ultimate frisbee championships final in 2016. My elder son, Sam, has played international ultimate since he was at school and is currently one of the captains of the GB mixed team.
- A poster for a play Rochester Cathedral commissioned me to write as its contribution to the town’s Dickens bicentenary celebrations in 2012. The play was called Hero or Zero and involved Dickens, time travel and a game show… I co-directed as well as writing it and had an absolute blast.
- Half a picture painted by Rob at primary school.
- The black-framed painting is also by Rob – I liked it so much I had it framed. Despite the fact that he’s produced much more accomplished work since, it remains one of my favourite pictures.
On the desk as well as another photo of the boys and one of Edwina, there’s a bowl of stones. I can’t help bringing interesting pebbles home from any beach we visit. These are the small ones which I like to play with while I’m thinking.
Amazingly, there isn’t a cup of something hot on the desk – probably because of the spring cleaning, to be honest. Having said that, it’s more likely to be a glass of something cool these days as I recently gave up tea and coffee after being a byword for tea drinking in my family.
Under the desk, as well as files full of research stuff and tax details (urgh) the eagle-eyed amongst you might have spotted a lightbox. I have SAD – seasonal affective disorder which lowers my mood quite significantly in the months when there’s more night than daylight and, to counteract it, I take St John’s wort and use a lightbox to fool my brain into thinking I’m not living through winter in northern Europe.
There’s also a battery recharger as I use rechargeable batteries in my bluetooth mouse and keyboard. Can I just tell you that the Apple magic mouse is the loveliest mouse ever in the history of mice – the winsome Stuart Little included. It’s just a thing of tactile beauty and effortless functionality. I’ve had mine for years and, despite dropping it on numerous occasions and carrying it about in a rucksack from one end of the country to another, it stoically just gets on with being reliable. Worth every penny.
The piece of white board propped up against the leg of the table is what I use to as a lap tray for my keyboard and mouse when I’m sitting on the exercise ball – I made it myself by trimming down and glueing together two bits of hardboard from the back of a defunct Ikea bookcase. It’s not exactly cabinet making but, still, I’m quite proud of that.
The round black object on the right hand side of the desk is a wifi booster which I bought so that I can work in the garden and still have wifi – I love working outside and I’m out there with my laptop at the smallest hint of sunshine – even if I have to wrap up in multiple layers. Being outside, surrounded by green and growing things has definitely become more important to me as I’ve got older and I really dislike not being able to hear the birds singing when I’m working in my study. But, in the winter it’s too cold to leave the window open so I just have to spend my work breaks outside listening to the feathery wildlife.
And, when I want to slouch, this is where I do it – looking out into the garden. Interestingly, this is where I do 100% of my editing, never at my desk. And if anybody can tell me why that is, I’d be really interested!
Those Who Know, the third book in Alis’s Teifi Valley Coroner series is out now in paperback.
Read more about Alis Hawkins.
To discover more of Alis’s books, follow the link here to her Amazon page.