On taking time to write
I love writing. The time when I'm sitting at my kitchen table, often early in the morning, feels like the best kind of indulgence. I'm telling stories and I can still convince myself that it's work. Even now on the train on my way home from the St Hilda's Conference in Oxford, I'm enjoying the enforced inactivity (apart from jotting this diary piece) and the time to think about my characters and how the plot might work itself out.
When I sold very few books I envied the successful authors their glamorous lifestyle - all that travel, the signings, the prestigious literary festivals. I was juggling my writing around the day job and kids and often the only time to write was a snatched half hour. I thought it would be wonderful to write full time. And now I am - at least I don't have a day job - but there are even more distractions and still my writing seems to get squeezed into stolen time when I probably should be doing something else. There are still family pressures and there's still guilt. Talking to Val McDermid on Saturday night and hearing her touring schedule I decided that the life of a successful writer isn't all that I imagined either.
Some of the distractions are fun - Harrogate was a fantastic time to catch up with other writers. I drank champagne with my great friend Margaret Murphy to celebrate her short story Dagger (shared with another Murder Squad friend Cath Staincliffe). Margaret's husband doesn't drink, her publisher had sent champagne and she had to celebrate with someone! The Come Die With Me dinner worked very well - my actors, amateur and professional, performed brilliantly to a sell-out crowd in front of some very starry guests - including a BAFTA-award-winning actor. And it was lovely to meet my agent and Scandinavian agent and some overseas publishers all under one roof.
But after all, it was a relief to have my annual writing retreat in the run up to the St Hilda's Crime and Mystery Conference. Each year, I arrive at the college early and have five days to focus on the novel. On Thursday night I met Group 2012, a writers' group based in Blackwell's Bookshop, Oxford. They asked my advice - 'Find a way to fit your writing around your daily life,' I said. 'There will always be distractions.'