So how is your summer holiday so far? Is it really only the second day? The two year old is missing his father and sister, (she's staying on the Suffolk coast with her cousins), so we spent the morning at the purgatory that is the playbarn. 40 or more screaming sugared-up toddlers whirling like dervishes through a multicoloured padded climbing frame. By lunchtime it was me who needed the padded room ... Ironically I chose last night to re-read 'The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.' Deepak Chopra's Law number One: spend thirty minutes in silence at the beginning of each day. Clear your mind. Just be. If only! I think perhaps that is the one thing I find hardest about balancing work and family - the inability to think in a straight line during the day. The toddler has an unerring sense for when I am thinking about work - 'Meee!' 'Moooore!' and 'Mumeeee!' are repeated in succession and at increasing volume until I pay attention or am hit over the head with an Action Man. We did better with one of Deepak's later instructions, communing with nature by yomping through mud and puddles along the water meadows this evening while the hound happily pronked through the waist deep grass up ahead. Both dog and young master are temporarily exhausted, so there's time for a quick post.
Optimistically I took along pen and papers to the playbarn this morning, hoping to flesh out the love interest for the third book. Nothing like daydreaming about heroic, brooding Spaniards to switch off from the chaos around you. Visions of Javier Bardem danced in my head ... Have I mentioned that in addition to scoring the books with music, I tend to 'cast' them in the early stages to get the ball rolling with the characters? As the books progress the characters tend to change, take on their individual look and quirks, but I find it really helps early on to have a physical picture of the 'type' of person you are writing about. The lead characters are shaping up nicely - this morning I kept thinking of the chemistry between Bogey and Bacall in 'The Big Sleep'. I happily spent the morning scribbling out a mind map of the new synopsis - I'm trying to make sure they stay at sizzling distance til the very end of the book.
What do you write with and in? I'm always curious about other writers' methods - it's really a lifelong quest for the holy grail of notebooks isn't it? For me beautiful bound notebooks are no good - I even tried Moleskines for a while (the choice of Chatwin, Hemingway), but I have loopy handwriting, think at tangents and tend to doodle so they were hopeless. The frontispiece of Suite Francaise reprints a couple of pages of Irene Nemirovsky's notebooks and her fastidious handwriting shames me. Paper was so precious to her during wartime, and I burn through the stuff. At the moment I have two filofax type notebooks bought in Japan - one small battered suede number that goes everywhere and a larger desk one. It suits me to be able to tear out pages and rearrange them or transplant ideas and fragments to the main manuscript (yellow legal pad for longhand, white A4 for drafts and editing). I have been known to scribble down an idea in eyeliner if it's the only thing I can find while driving, regularly steal my children's crayons, but if I am sitting down To Write always use a Montblanc - the single most romantic gift the pilot has ever given me, far more precious than diamonds could ever be. I had a lovely email from Joanna Trollope today and she also writes longhand it turns out. If you normally write straight onto computer, give longhand a whirl - it's amazing how it slows you down and taps into something. There is just something really sexy about the slide of nib and ink on paper ... I'm sure 'The Big Sleep' wasn't written in pencil.