Turning point…

After a long, steep hike which has been rocky in parts and downright slippery too, I’ve reached that strange and magical turning point in my new novel when the story is truly telling itself.  I thought you might like to ‘see’ how this novel is being written.

At the moment, despite having a lovely office at home, I’m finding it difficult to focus there so I take myself off to a library with an expansive study area a 20 minute drive away.  There I sit, every day, with my fingers skittering over the keyboard at 80+wpm.  It’s funny how attached to one particular desk I have become – outraged if someone else is sitting there.

Speaking of sitting – I’m going to bang on about ergonomics now.  I have become something of an evangelist since suffering with acute RSI a few years ago.  It was a terrifying time for me – and consequently I sought out ways to ensure I do not harm myself when I write.  I can sit in the same position for 4-5 hours straight – so it’s fundamentally important that I sit correctly.  Here’s a picture of my work station today.

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As you can see, my laptop is propped up (today’s volumes are Chambers Biographical Dictionary, the Biographical Encyclopedia Of The World and the Oxford Guide to Literary Britain & Ireland if you’re interested!) – and I use a separate keyboard.  On my chair is my trusty ‘Back-Friend’ – yes, they are pricey but my goodness they are marvelous! The Back-Friend ensures support and good position wherever you sit (car, sofa, kitchen chair) and I wouldn’t consider writing without one.  And the little pink purse?  Bluetooth keyboards gobble up batteries so I use rechargeable ones – and keep spares with me.  Yes, I could keep them in a plastic bag – but a Radley purse is much more cheerful!  I’m not very good about taking regular breaks – hours can whizz by when I’m on a roll but I ensure I keep hydrated (hence the bottle of water).  I also try to remember to keep my feet flat on the floor and not cross my ankles.  Fourteen books on, and with lessons learnt the hard way, this is the advice I’m keen to impart.

Readers often ask me ‘what’s your daily word-count?’  Some days, the words can pour out at a rate of around 4,000 in 3-4 hours but other days, it’s just a trickle.  I try not to fixate on how much I’ve written – if my time with the novel is spent ‘in the zone’ I know that’s an exhilarating and productive place to be.  I continue to have only a vague idea of what’s going to happen in this 14th novel of mine – but I like it that way.  I know it would be easier to plot and plan my books methodically,  but I’d much rather the story unfolds for me as it will for my reader.

I think about the characters all the time now – Scott, Frankie and their families.  Here in the heart of Herts, I’m actually either in British Columbia or North Norfolk – a  parallel universe which can nourish or deplete my normal one depending on what sort of ‘day at the office’ I’ve had.

Latest news from Freya

I’m hard at work on my 14th novel and it is partly set in British Columbia.  My character, Scott, is from here – though I’d never been.  I had the opportunity to come out to research  and I’ve been staying in the gorgeous town of Pemberton – half an hour north of Whistler.  Before I knew this wonderful place existed, I’d started writing it.  And then I came.  And it was here after all.   It’s an extraordinary case of life imitating art.  Personally, this trip and this place has enhanced my life utterly…

A book is born

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Two years ago, friends moved into an apartment in a glorious Georgian mansion in Hertfordshire. I went to visit…

“This place is amazing,” I said.

“It was an artists’ commune in the 1960s and 1970s,” my friend told me. “Come and meet Mark, he was born here. He has the apartment that still has the original ballroom.”

“A ballroom?” Who one earth has a ballroom in their flat? Ding! A novel was taking root and I’d only been there ten minutes. I was led along an old interior service corridor, crumbling plaster on the walls, huge worn flagstones underfoot; off which were old doors to what are now separate apartments.

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And so Windward – the old house at the centre of The Way Back Home – came to be. Much more than simply a building, the house became a leading character in the novel. It was to be an artists’ commune and the novel would feature the families that had lived there.

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But I didn’t want it to be all bonkers artists wafting around in kaftans to the sound of a tambourine. I wanted characters rounded enough to illicit a strong response in the reader, whether it was fondness or dislike. I wanted to infuse a little unease, tension, secrets. Why should a commune be all peace and love, Man? I thought about grownups who should have been more responsible and kids who would have to grow up fast. I wanted love and rivalry, deprivation and plenty, cold and warmth, estrangement and desperate closeness to fill Windward.

I thought back to the summer when I was 15 – that heady, edgy time when there’s a constant vibration between feeling emancipated and mature – and so often vulnerable and disempowered. Exams are over. School’s out. We felt we could rule the world even if our parents told us we were still kids. I recalled the summer when I was 15. It seemed so carefree, as if it had been put into the calendar simply to provide fun for my friends and me after an eternity studying for exams. We had the sun on our backs and the world at our feet.

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But what if something changed the course of the lives of the teenagers at Windward? What if something happened the summer they were fifteen – that summer that should have been theirs for the taking? What if you were suddenly exiled from your childhood home and then, 18 years later, you came back?

Born and brought up at Windward, an artists’ commune in Derbyshire, Oriana Taylor had freedom at her fingertips in a home full of extraordinary people. The Bedwell brothers, Malachy and Jed, shared their childhood and adolescence with her. In the rambling old house and tangled grounds, their dreams and desires could take wing unchecked. But something happened the summer they were fifteen. It changed everything. The Way Back Home is their story.