I’m not one of those people who knew from the age of seven that they wanted to be a writer – it slowly dawned on me instead – but now that I am it sort of makes sense; I have the kind of mind that’s always interested in something new for a bit then moves on to something else. Useless in most professions but good for writing. Although I’m happy working with other people, I’m very good at being by myself for extended periods, and above all, I could never hack getting up before the sun has, and slogging along on a long commute.
That being said, once I am up, I do my best work in the morning. I bought my tiny cottage from a painter who’d put a cute shed in the garden to work in. I added a small wood-burning stove so I can work out there all year round, and if I’m writing a book I’ll do so from around half eight to two or three o’clock. If things are going well I hate stopping to eat so I eat quick bad food and get back to the shed as soon as possible. Besides, it’s usually warmer there than in the house. I have Radio 3 on in at least two places at once – it’s a companion to my working life.
In the afternoons, or if I’m not writing, I’ll do other sorts of work – emails and admin, or maybe research something for a future book, but even though I know these things are all important for being a writer, I can never convince myself that anything other than the actual writing is work, which means I feel guilty a lot.
On the road
From time to time I give a talk in a school, which might mean being on the road for a while, but that’s a good chance to put some music on and think up book ideas. While paying full attention to the laws of the road, of course. School events are usually fantastic fun. Usually. And even if they’re not, you get some great questions – the best one this week was ‘Who’s your favourite god?’
My village is full of ‘home workers’, so I might nip down to the King’s Head for lunch, especially on days when my brother, Julian, comes over. We’re working on two or three things at the moment together, and a pub lunch saves time. Or so we tell ourselves.
Once a week or so I’ll walk through the fields to the next village where my great friend the writer/broadcaster Kevin Jackson lives. It’s wonderful not to have to take the car to go somewhere. It’s only a mile or so and takes me past the zoo where, if you’re lucky, the lions might be roaring. Having talked amiable nonsense about writing/publishing/anyoldthing for a few hours, I’ll wander home again through the now dark fields, wondering when I’m going to remember to put new batteries in my torch.
On Fridays I pick my daughter up from school in North London and then head for home trying to avoid the Friday rush hour. Weekends are usually quiet, though we just had a big bash for my 45th birthday. Otherwise, Alice has a singing lesson every weekend and once in a while we head for the woods to shoot our longbows at innocent paper targets.
Travel is a big part of being a writer these days, whether it be to a book festival or a conference of some kind – it’s good if not vital to be out there yakking about your books. Next month my American publisher is flying me out to Chicago to a librarians conference. I’ll be promoting my most recent book, Midwinterblood, at various events, including a thing called a coffee klatsch, which is sort of like speed dating – five minutes with ten librarians, in which you’re supposed to sell yourself. And then on to the next table of ten for another five minutes. It’s utterly exhausting and great fun.
It’s also wonderfully humbling – once 60 people have said, ‘who are you?’ you can forget about any notions that writers are very famous.
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick is published by Indigo. Midwinterblood has been shortlisted for this year’s CILIP Carnegie Medal, one of the most prestigious prizes in children’s literature. The winner is announced on 19th June.