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My writing room

I've been busy at work on the sequel to Knife Skills For Beginners, specifically on 'edits'. Until I officially became an author, I had no idea how laborious the editing process can be, with many rounds of 'structural edits' and rewrites, aimed at bringing your story up a notch and making sure it pleases the largest possible audience. It was reassuring to discover that all writers go through this process, not just beginners. 

Orlando Murrin - Writing Room

During last summer we had a few alterations made to the house and the building work took longer than anticipated. (Why is it that building work always takes longer than anticipated? You'd think that either builder or client would know - from bitter experience - it always takes twice as long as it should.) The upshot was that I was uprooted from my writing room for two months and had to camp out in a dusty cavern with sheets for curtains while I beavered away on a draft of my novel. This taught me that yes, it's perfectly possible to work in horrible surroundings, with hammering in the background and constant interruptions. If I'm honest, I was glad to be able to bury myself in my project rather than watch the destruction happening a floor above. 

Now that calm has been restored, I appreciate it all the more. I am told that readers are interested in writers' rooms, so here is a virtual guided tour, to accompany the photographs.

We live on a somewhat noisy street in Exeter, and my study is on the second floor. From my desk I can look out on the street below to left and right, or obscure the view with shutters. On my desk are an illuminated globe and, inevitably, piles of books waiting to be read. I work on a large iMac and have a very sophisticated keyboard set-up, to prevent hand strain and injury. My mouse is a RollerMouse Red Plus Wireless, and my keyboard a Matias Notebook Pro; both were recommended and supplied by The Keyboard Company in Stroud. I hear of writers suffering horribly from tendonitis and worse, which can be avoided if you have the correct kit.

Behind me is a woodburning stove (I get extremely cold when I sit and write, so this is used for half the year). To my right is my piano, a Yamaha upright fitted with a silent system so that it can be played through headphones, and thus prevent divorce. I only play when I'm having time off from writing, but because of my desk set-up my hands are kept in good shape all the time and I can pick up quickly where I left off. I'm currently working on Black and White Rag - the signature tune of Winifred Atwell (though alas I will never be able to play it with her speed and sparkle). 

To my left is my kilim chair, which is where I extend myself when reading. If I'm there at four o'clock in the afternoon, I'm usually joined by Benjamin the cat. At his recent annual check-up the vet said he was the textbook weight for a cat of his build and age, but he feels heavy when he's sitting on your lap (agreeable as it is to have him there).

On the walls I have my favourite pictures, including a large tapestry I finished in the 1990s, into which I sewed my sorrows and anxieties of the period. Among other artworks are two paintings of our hotel in France and a sketch of a very knowing cat by Louis Wain. And the floor is usually strewn with cat toys; not that we're obsessed.

The house is filled with bookshelves - Robert has thousands and thousands of books - but books still overflow everywhere. Nowadays I get sent uncorrected proofs by fellow authors, in the hope of a nice blurb to print on the back, and it's bad form to give these away or put them into circulation. I haven't the heart to put them in the recycling bin so they accumulate instead.

Our kitchen is adjacent to my study, so when I'm writing a cookbook, I can nip adroitly between the two spaces. The aforementioned building work included the installation of skylights, so if I look up I can see clouds moving overhead, and another one in the kitchen, and take photographs of food in natural light.

Like many writers, I enjoy writing by hand, in the old fashioned way, and I own three fountain pens: by Mont Blanc, Waterman and Shaeffer. The latter two were inherited from a very dear friend who adored letter writing. I favour Diamine ink (Prussian Blue) and for special occasions I keep a supply of Lake Tomoe writing paper, from Japan. It is fine, featherlight and smooth, and one's nib glides across it like silk. If I were a poet, I would write exclusively by hand.


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