There are writers that can both focus and find inspiration in public places – cafes, on crowded subways. And there are those who can grab a few minutes of their day and make them productive, snatches of text and inspiration here and there. I am not one of those. There are occasionally times when I am going about my day and characters intrude, say something or do something I had not anticipated. But for the most part, I go to them. I need the time and space to travel to the place that I am writing in, to have room for my mind to drift and settle there, and then I write what I see and hear. I need a dedicated place and I need to be alone. Right now that place is on my front veranda, with the scent of birch from the woodshed and the zipping back and forth of birds, chipmunks and two red squirrels.
I started writing because I loathed summer. An unsociable teen-ager, I was quite content with the isolation of my semi-rural home. Country mornings could be pleasant enough, the smell of stables and leather, shady tree-lined trails. But those long, hot afternoons, the Prairie light just not letting go, dragging so long into the evening that we had to have blinds over our windows so we could sleep. Curtains drawn during the afternoon. That Somerset Maugham stuffiness to everything.
Like all sensible creatures, I got in the habit of hiding from the sun. Found the shadiest room in the house: my Dad’s den. Where the old Smith Corona typewriter lived. I soon found the afternoons drifted by faster if the keys clacked their way through landscapes of demons and detectives and monsters and horses. Romance and violence. Who knew where a girl’s mind would go? The power to create was addictive.
So many years later and I still find summer the easiest time to write. I surround myself with the beautiful things the season has to offer – the scent from my prolific Apothecary’s roses, colours of goldenrod and asters, birdsong – and retreat from what each year seems like a yet evermore merciless sun. Not the sun’s doing of course, she is just minding her own scorching business, it’s the likes of me and my species that have torn down all the blinds.
This summer I am moving on from my winter books of an apocalyptic future and am wandering into the past. A new novel, a western fable that rambles through revenge and romance, monsters and violence; a novel that wonders if there is a different way of being in nature that is life-giving. It is reassuring to me that after all these years, there are still so many fine characters to meet in that landscape of my childhood imaginarium.