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November 21, 2012

Writer Wednesday: Zoe Brooks

First I would like to thank you Donna for hosting me on this Writer's Wednesday. In this post I want to talk about the games authors play to enable them to write.

A few days ago the BBC aired a programme following writer Ian Rankin while he wrote his latest book. I was hugely impressed that Rankin agreed to doing a video diary through the stressful process of writing the first draft of a novel. I know I would never do it and I wondered whether Rankin having writen dozens of successful books did not have the barren patches and bouts of self doubt that we mere mortals endure. But no, there was Rankin running out of steam at page sixty- five, reverting as his wife put it to being a selfish teenager, and running off to the cafe to read a newspaper which he claimed was research.

In February, when Rankin was still struggling with the novel, his wife took their children on holiday to allow her husband the peace to write. Virginia Woolf said that "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction," and, I would add, an understanding husband. I was unable to write after I became a mother, partly because of the constant distractions and partly because I shared my room with my son and the television. I now have a room at the top of the house in England in what used to be my son's room (he now lives in London) and a whole house in the Czech Republic.

But even if you have a room of your own, as Ian Rankin can vouch, it doesn't mean you can concentrate on your writing. I have always had the ability for high concentration, which I inherited from my mother - there is a family saying "Never talk to a Holtom when they are reading" because we won't notice you. Even so I have difficulty achieving the concentration levels I need in order to write. Rankin is not alone in seeking the stimulation of coffee, many writers do. WH Auden drank endless cups of tea and so do I. The German writer Schiller had to have rotten apples in his desk, the smell of which for some reason stimulated him to write. My story editor friend Hannah stopped writing scripts because she chain-smoked when sitting at her laptop.

Rankin uses favourite rock albums as the background to his writing. I will play the same CD over and over again - it is about using the music to set a mood and to exclude other noises. My favourite band for this is Dead Can Dance, which I discovered when I wrote my first novel Girl in the Glass three years ago. I have played their music while writing Mother of Wolves and my latest novel Love of Shadows. I will be playing it in a few days when I sit down to face a blank screen and the beginning of my next book. I am not playing it to be entertained, I don't want to think about the music, which is why I play the same cd over and over again. It is about getting into the right part of my mind.

But sometimes, no matter what music is playing nor how many mugs of tea I drink, nothing is enough. The external world still intrudes. On such occasions I will close the curtains, even though it may be broad daylight outside. If that doesn't work, I have two options. The first is to walk away, to pick up my basket and go picking mushrooms. The second is to go to bed (no matter what time of day it is) and allow my subconscious to take over. You'd be surprised how many authors do that (or maybe you wouldn't).

I would welcome any comments about what you do to enhance concentration - favourite music, routines, whatever. I might just try them.

About the Author:
Zoe Brooks is a British writer and poet who spends half her life in a partly restored old farmhouse in the Czech Republic, where she writes all her novels and poetry. She aims to write popular books, which have complex characters and themes that get under the reader's skin.

Zoe was a successful published poet in her teens and twenties (featuring in the Grandchildren of Albion anthology). Zoe has just published her latest novel Love of Shadows, which continues the story of the young healer Judith and her Shadow Sarah, whom we first met in Zoe's first book Girl
in the Glass.
Connect with the Author:

Amazon author page

The views, beliefs, and opinions expressed by guest post authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views, beliefs, or opinions of Girl Who Reads.

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