“Every Writer faces the blank page or blank screen and simply has to make a start. It is a great encouragement to us all, that the great writers have all had to begin like this.”
This is the moniker which adorns the cover of the book and it is an intriguing thought. I’ve always been interested in the behind-the-scenes, the back stage and the process behind my favourite works of literature, art and film. I am thrilled when I am offered the opportunity to delve beyond the product presented and see the ‘real’ story of how that thing was created and that is exactly what A Space to Write offers.
On the surface, this book is a collection of interviews conducted by Amanda Harris which tell us, in short where the featured authors choose to write and that in itself, is fascinating. A series of small intrigues emerge which reveal a little of the authors’ individual characters and they begin to reveal who has influenced them and the origins of their own writing spaces and even share some early drafts of their work. I hadn’t known for example, that Michael Morpurgo had spent a long while searching for his ideal writing space before coming across a photograph of Robert Louis Stevenson writing propped up in bed and thereafter took to the practice himself. With interviews with writers such a Patrick Gale and John Cleeve to name a few, one closes this book with the sense that these writers may all start with the same task – filling that blank page – but that the way in which they go about this by no means has to be the same for everyone.
As a writer myself and indeed as a reader, reading this book was an important reminder that writers are not alone in their quests of creation but rather are united by the same need to have a space to generate and write their ideas and that these spaces are of equal importance and significance as the ability to put a pen to paper in the writing process.
Throughout this collection of captivating interviews and superb photos by Steve Tanner, in addition to centralising the writing process Harris also centralises place, or rather space. One thing that all the authors featured have in common is that their writing space is in Cornwall. One really gets the sense that Cornwall plays an essential part in their writing process and that were they writing in any other location, the work would be dramatically different. This book then, is as much a celebration of the space and place where writing happens as it is a celebration of the process of writing itself.
I certainly closed this book with a greater awareness of the spaces I choose to write in and I found myself unable to escape the impact that these have on my work, an important lesson for me as a writer which will definitely also impact on the way I read and think about books by my favourite authors. Who is doing the writing? Where are they doing the writing? Will become essential questions I will consider as a result of reading this book. It is vitally important in the shifting world of literature that we remember the people and the places at the heart of the great writing we enjoy and this book is a reminder of that.
I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone interested in how a book makes it from idea to published product and indeed anyone who is interested in just where great writing happens. A truly enjoyable and undeniably illuminating read.
Foreword by Michael Morpurgo, Photography by Steve Tanner and Interviews by Amanda Harris. Published by KEAP Cornwall in 2015 and available now from The Story Republic.