In late July I set off with my husband and dog for our large, very old house in a remote part of France for a long summer break. As Mr E had to get back to London in August for work, I had two weeks there with only the dog for company, and hoped to get some writing done.
The house has no TV, one old-fashioned radio that can pick up very few stations due to the mountains, and the satellite wifi connection is expensive, data hungry and difficult to set up temporarily. Also the village is tiny, I only know a handful of people there and my French is a work in progress. So conditions were perfect for plunging into my fourth novel.
I had few distractions apart from the books on my kindle and the mountains. For the first time, I also took the dog on many arduous mountain treks. He loved it – I had to drag him away from some high places with views that we stopped at, he was spellbound! Though I had to entice him up a few steep bits with pieces of sausage.
How did it go? Well, I managed to (mostly) stay off social media, not spending much time on my phone apart from taking photos, writing a synopsis using the Notes app and once a day checking out the BBC news app (no videos to cut down data usage).
The solitude, the tranquillity, the beauty of my surroundings all began to work their magic. I felt the characters coming to life, and the story started writing itself without much help from me…
My aim had been to get the novel well underway, which I did, though unfortunately my laptop keyboard had too many sticking keys so I decoded to write in longhand on graph paper. But that meant I was forced to keep going forwards and not edit too much, and also I could write in the garden 🙂
Yes, I sometimes felt lonely and I did miss not knowing what was happening in the UK (not the Brexit news). At times it was tempting to check out Facebook and Instagram, and peek at Twitter. The dog was good company though, and I tried to do yoga regularly to stay relaxed and keep on an even keel. All the rooms have windows facing the mountains; I set up my yoga mat in the living area looking out onto my favourite peak.
I wouldn’t like to live like this all the time, but it was marvellously refreshing to be cut off from the world and all my usual routines, and to focus fully on writing. Getting away from it all is a must for me as it is for many creative people. I have a feeling I’ll be doing more of this in years to come – I might even start a writing retreat here, who knows.
Before I go, a bit of news. My debut novel BLIND SIDE has been included in a recently published US list: British Thrillers That Will Keep You on the Edge of Your Seat. It’s no. 3, and there’s even a short video if you check out the link. I didn’t know quite what to make of this at first, but it seems like a cool thing to be on.