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, Thorne Moore shows off the tidiest desk any of us has ever seen, and reveals the beautiful spot where the writing really happens.
This is my desk. If you believe this is how my desk really looks most of the time, my work here as a fiction writer is done. Look, I’ve even put some flowers there, to make it appear really civilised.
Okay, photograph taken, I can put back all the empty envelopes, bank statements, shopping lists, postcards, used screen wipes, mugs, dead batteries, screw drivers, seed packets, plastic bags and random bits of wire that should connect somewhere but I’ve forgotten where, that are currently piled up just behind me. Or I might keep it clear for at least one more day.
So this is where I write. Or rather, this is where I sit and let my fingers tap at my laptop keyboard, assuming I can find it under all the rubbish. But writing isn’t just about putting words on paper on screen, it’s about thinking what those words will be, and mostly, when I am sitting at my desk, I am merely copying out the text that came into my head elsewhere.
This is my real writing space. My lane, all 230 metres of it (250 yards in old money). It was once a farm track down from the main road, and it’s gradually returning to that status, although the farmer in charge of the fields on either side doesn’t use it. No tractors or cows come trundling along it anymore, just us and the postman, so I can walk back and forth without having to hop out of the way of traffic.
That’s what I do. After dinner, unless we’re having a hurricane downpour, I walk for 30-60 minutes, thinking what I am going to write in the morning. After thirty years of walking it, I know it very well – every rut and dip, every tree, every inch of the banks, so I am not diverted by a need to stop and wonder where I am. In theory, perhaps, I should be walking it blindfolded (I could probably do it), in order to avoid any distractions, but oddly the distractions are part of the writing process. If you know a piece of land that well, you become very firmly rooted in the fundamental reality of the place – of growth and decay, of seasons, of equinoxes (?) and solstices, of the phases of the moon and the shift of the stars. You are put firmly in your place as a small and fleeting speck of dust in time and space. You are grounded, and that’s a very good thing for a writer.
My after-dinner walks through the spring, summer and into autumn, are taken in daylight, although I am always conscious of how far away sunset is. I note, day after day, the fading of the snowdrops, the opening of the primroses and celandine, the bluebells and campion, the Queen Anne’s lace and the enchanter’s nightshade, the dogroses, the honeysuckle and the bryony. I watch out for the toads in February and the April day when the swallows return. I watch the ancient ash trees and the solitary oak slowly come into leaf, long after the hawthorns. hazels and blackthorns of the hedgerow, or the willow along the stream beyond the bordering field. I watch them grow heavy with summer dust and begin to fade into autumn, swollen with ash keys and acorns. Ash trees are phenomenally generous with their seeds, which they dump all over my garden, but mean as Scrooge with their leaves – always the last to appear and the first to drop.
Walks from late autumn to early spring are a different matter altogether. Walks in the dark. Only if you do this every day do you appreciate the difference moonlight makes. When it’s waning and won’t be peeking over the horizon for several more hours, I walk in pitch dark and have to use a torch or I’ll finish up in a holly bush. When it’s waxing, who needs a torch in the evening? The best is the waxing half-moon because, when I walk along my lane that runs north to south, it will be shining directly along it.
And then there are the stars. I’ve got to know them very well. My house, at the north end of the lane, always has the pole star above it and the Plough swinging round it. Cassiopeia will be trundling overhead and gradually, as winter advances, Orion rises in the south, with Sirius in his wake. How some of the constellations came to be named, I do not know. Cassiopeia does not look like a woman, it looks like a W. Gemini doesn’t look like twins, it looks like a cat tray. The Plough, at best, looks like a saucepan, certainly not a bear. But there is no escaping what Orion is: a hunter, bow in hand, sprinting across the heavens. The best time is early February, because then he is framed perfectly at the end of my lane, and I can say that I have taken an evening stroll from Ursa Major to Orion and back.
In the process, I manage to figure out everything that I will writing down in the morning. All problems get resolved, all dialogue comes to life, all solutions jump out of the shadows. And when the shadows are very long and dark at night, it is an excellent prompt for crime fiction.