Writing The Way Back Home, my 13th novel, was an epic journey for me. I knew I wanted another Derbyshire-based story, I knew I wanted to see Django McCabe again. And I had the perfect set-up – an artists’ commune where not all was as it seemed. I had the perfect research opportunity – here in Hertfordshire, near to where I live, friends had moved in to an apartment in a grand old country house that had been, in the 1960s and 1970s, an artists’ commune.
But then, with no warning, I was stricken down with Writer’s Block. I never believed Writer’s Block existed. I thought it was a lame excuse by lazy authors who’d rather watch daytime television. I had written 12 novels – not necessarily with ease – but the process had been straightforward nonetheless, regardless of what was going on in my life. But…
I. COULD. NOT. WRITE. A. THING.
Not a word. And it made me ill. After all, what could I do if I didn’t write? I’m a single mum and the sole provider for my two children 11 and 13 – what on earth would I do to make a living? After 18 years in this one job, I’m ill equipped to do much else.
If I’m not an author, who am I?
Was that it? Did I only ever have 12 books in me?
For six barren months I spent every working day in front of the screen, clutching my acidic, twisted gut as I fixated on two words goading me: ‘CHAPTER ONE’.
However, throughout this entire period, what loomed large was Windward, the house in The Way Back Home – an imagined artists’ commune in the Derbyshire dales. I could see the colour of the stone, I could smell the oil paints on the palettes in the studios, I could hear drifts of the music from the upstairs rooms. If I really concentrated, I could listen in on faint snippets of conversations between people I so wanted to know. I had to get there. And somehow I did. I dug very, very deep. I was so far in ‘the zone’ whilst writing it that, on reading it back, there were vast tracts of this novel that I had no recollection writing!