I live in two different worlds. I’ve been a writer by trade for six years, and in that time have produced five books and a brace of children.
I’m lucky: I’ve got an awesome and supportive family, and a job that takes me from Dark Age Constantinople deep into the Otherworld. I’m not by any means the only author who leads a double life, but at times the surreal nature of it all reaches psychedelic proportions.
Zebras lost in the snowIt’s Monday, and the circus has arrived in Shropshire. The animals are wintering in the field next door to my friend’s house and we’ve been invited over. I’m embarrassingly excited, but the hills are hidden by freezing white fog and our chances of actually spotting the zebra are minimal.
Instead, we go for the time-honoured option of drinking tea and playing inside.
This morning has been fun, but my unfinished book is starting to haunt me. We drive home the back way through forests and hills all wearing snow, past the village whose name I stole for Hidden Among Us.
Birds wheel against a silvery sky, and I edge closer to my other life, thinking of an immortal race, and a merciless king who transforms at will into a white swan.
At home, I persuade my sleepy toddler to nod off, then sneak downstairs and post a review for the book I read last week, ignoring the kitchen floor – it looks more like a swamp anyway.
Even a seasoned multi-tasker can’t do everything: our house looks like it has been hit by a splatter-gun attack of mud and small tractors, and a mysterious trail of dried up crispy noodles leads into the sitting room like a fairytale breadcrumb trap.
It seems like five minutes have passed before it’s time to head off on the school run, and we get stuck behind an antiquated Landrover hauling a trailer of sheep. Every time I try to overtake, the driver speeds up. Gah. I’m the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland: I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!
The day ends on a thrilling note – with the aid of yesterday’s chicken giblets, Will finally manages to trap the wild beast which has been terrorising our cats for months. Ha! We have a neutering voucher from the cat charity: tomorrow, the feral tom will face justice for his many crimes.
The miscreant catOn Tuesday, Will has a meeting that starts at 7 a.m., so I do the preschool drop-off. After a panicked debate about who is going to deal with the stray cat, Will takes the feline miscreant to work in his van where, blissfully unaware that he is about to lose body parts, the cat snoozes until Will deposits him at the vets.
The rest of us scramble out of the house in good time – all the school uniform shirts have turned a mysterious shade of blue, but never mind.
I arrive back home and – wow – it’s hard to get my head into the right space. Years ago, I used to get out of bed at 6.30 and write in a semi-dreaming state, struggling to hit my stride if I performed any task more demanding than making coffee.
Well, all that’s changed.
After a while, I give it up as a bad job and head to the gym. The physical torture helps, and afterwards I start writing properly – but Will forgets to pick up the boys, and I leave the house at a run, arriving ten minutes late.
I’ve only managed two hours of writing, but there’s not much I can do about it now, and I retrieve the rehabilitated tom-cat from the vet. I hope to tame him, but he has other ideas, bolting like a mad rabbit at the first opportunity. Frankly, I can’t blame him.
Once the boys are asleep, I write late into the night, wrapped in a blanket on the sofa as the temperature in our old house drops through the floor.
Ludlow has lost at least a hundred potential stray kittens today, and we’ll no longer be taking our cats to the vet with infected bites and chewn-up ears. Will brings me a hot water bottle, and I’m making progress at last.
|Monday's Creative Achievement.|
I give myself a breakOn Wednesday, I’m woken too early, still worrying over the knot of unwieldy plot-threads I abandoned in the small hours.
I keep meaning to get up before everyone else and sneak in some work before breakfast, but at this rate I’d have to start my day in the middle of the night.
Stressing is pointless with an entertaining two-year-old in tow, so I give myself a break.
The little one and I walk into town, footling about in the marketplace until it’s time to head home and collect his brother from preschool. In rare quiet moments, I drift away to the other world I inhabit, teasing out tangled narrative threads, weaving them into a picture that makes more sense, and we play football in the snow.
Progress at last…I make headway with the book on Thursday, thanks in part to yesterday’s daydreaming, but also because the boys’ granny and grandpa have offered to pick them up from preschool this afternoon and will also have them to stay overnight.
The entire day stretches out before me in luxurious swathes of uninterrupted writing time.
It’s quiet here without the children. Too quiet. I can’t complain, though. Me and Will even head out for dinner – what an incredible treat!
The boys have two fantastic sets of grandparents, with one set on the other side of the country. We live close to Will’s parents, and they help us out a lot.
I’ve married into a writing dynasty: Will’s mum, Karen Wallace, has written practically a book for every day of the year with a mantelpiece full of awards to show for it, and his dad, Sam Llewellyn, is the best-selling author, sailor and publisher of the Marine Quarterly.
I’m fortunate they understand how this game works – I know other writers whose families don’t look on what they do as a proper job.
A snow checkOutside, the snow falls thicker, faster – the sequel to Hidden Among Us is set in midwinter and the story in my mind settles into a clearer shape, as if the snow has brought it into sharper focus, made it more real.
On Friday, I’m able to start work without doing anything first: hallelujah. But by half past ten, there’s a blizzard blowing sideways past my bedroom window, and cars are skidding off the road. The boys are brought home early by Landrover, or we’d risk not seeing them till March.
Saturday’s Random House Blogger’s Brunch is given a snow-check, which is a real pity because I was looking forward to meeting my fellow book bloggers.
After heroically leaving work early to give me the chance to catch up, Will plays in the snow with the boys, then sets off to sink a couple of pints with a friend. I write into the night again, but this time I slip into that other world so easily, helped on the way by a fall of snow.
Fitting it all in is not always easy, and like many parents there are times when I would pay with my own teeth for Hermione’s magic egg-timer just to buy a few more hours in each day – but the children and my writing have just become opposite sides of the same coin.
Also, living in two different worlds is also the perfect excuse for always losing my keys, wallet and phone – or so I like to think.
Photos by Katy Moran, All Rights Reserved