Top crime writer Don Massenzio is currently hosting a series about where writers weave their yarns and construct their chronicles and has kindly asked me to throw my hat in the ring (not literally, hats should be handled with the utmost of care) and share my little writerly space.
I mostly write here, in my bedroom. It’s a large, airy space with the added bonus of having my bed nearby in case I fancy a bit of a snooze halfway through. This is my desk – nothing special, but with enough room for my laptop and notes and, of course, my favourite mug for the endless cups of tea that are essential to the creative process. There are a few special things there too, beloved photographs and my little box of treasured things.
On the left is a picture of me and dearest Mumsie, an endlessly tolerant and patient woman who not only went through the pains of having to bring me up, but also suffers the dubious dignity of appearing in various guises throughout my work.
In the middle is my box of precious things – it is only small as there are very few physical items I actually deem to be precious, but the contents within are special to me, in one way or another.
At my right hand are my grandparents, perhaps my greatest inspiration and without doubt the most exceptional people on the planet. My grandfather, James Wastell, first introduced me to the wonders of storytelling when he would recite boundless tales of derring-do from his naval days, when my younger brother and I were small (alright, smaller). From smuggling, falling down anchor holes and setting fire to HMS Boxer, we gladly listened to the same stories for many years and still delight in them now, when he can be coaxed into sharing them. Not only was he the (ahem) finest electrician in the Royal Navy, he was also a notable footballer (capped four times for England) and is descended from the Grand Master Mason who built the roof of the legendary King’s College chapel in Cambridge.
My nan, Doris, is unassumingly wise, quietly vicious and the best cook in the world. She has taught me a great deal over the years, not least the importance of being able to serve up a decent meal but also gave me some of the best advice I have ever received. When I was being bullied by a particularly nasty girl at school she advised me to ‘slip her a sly one’. My introduction to casual violence at a young age has served me well and, do you know, I have not been bullied since. Never underestimate the wisdom of Nan!
Next to my desk are a few favourite books, books I am currently reading and some other things of note.
The Buddha and kneeling terracotta warrior, Jeffrey, both come from China, a trip Mumsie and I took about ten years ago after I won a channel 4 gameshow hosted by Tony Robinson. I think the little hippo came from a Kinder egg, he is furry and I really like him.
The photo is of me as an actual Deputy Head Porter with the wonderful Dr Holmes, the College Chaplain. I especially like this picture as it makes me look really tall – actually I am only 5’1″ but luckily Dr Holmes is vertically challenged also. This photo was taken by the Professor who became the inspiration for the ill-fated Professor K in First Lady Of The Keys.
My friend Julie is an artist and on one visit she brought along a heap of these little square paintings and asked me to look through them and picked the one I felt most drawn to. This is the one I picked.
A nice smelling candle is always a super compliment to writing. This particular one is mandarin and spice. I always have a copy of the complete works of Oscar Wilde to hand (who doesn’t?) I knew from a young age I wanted to be a writer, but after reading Wilde I knew I wanted to be a great writer. This book serves as inspiration to continually up my game. The other thing is a Nintendo 2DS. Puzzle and mystery games are my guilty pleasure. I am currently playing a Sherlock Holmes one, if you must know.
Some hats! I love hats. The green one looks as it if it is trying to make a bid for freedom. No such luck, green hat! The bowler hats used by Paul Butterworth and me for PorterGirl are safely tucked away in special boxes, you will be pleased to hear.
The radio is always tuned to Classic FM and is on whenever I am home. PorterGirl is mostly written to the accompaniment of Gershwin, a bit of Vivaldi and sometimes Brahms. Duck-Duck is guarding a packet of Dutch shortbread. He serves no other purpose and is therefore a duck of leisure. My copy of Private Eye is delivered every two weeks and I pay tribute to its fine journalism in both my blog and first book.
I don’t believe in writers’ block. When I am struggling with a concept it means that something, somewhere along the line isn’t quite right, so I stop and have a think about it. Walking is great for thinking and living in rural Cambridgeshire I am blessed with some beautiful places to walk. Those fine-looking piggies are reared by my local hostelry and will end up on the plate when they are fat enough. The rivers that wend their way through the woodland lead to all kinds of mysterious locations and inspiration is only a hop, skip and jump away. These are my thinking places.
A writing space can be anything from a gap large enough only for paper and pen, or an elaborate snug filled with every comfort one can imagine. But never forget that the only real writing space is that precious and infinite expanse that resides between the ears. It’s the only space that matters.