The Guardian used to run a nice feature on writers’ rooms, and Sinead Gleeson has a musician’s variation on it over here, so why can’t we? Herewith be Part the First of Writers’ Rooms, a very probably erratic series about, well, y’know. To wit:
Writers’ Rooms # 1: Declan Burke
“I have a room upstairs, away from the rest of the house. The physical distance is a psychological one too, but I also smoke when I’m writing, and that’s not good for everyone else. In fact, the writers’ room is the de-facto smoking room.
“All the essentials are here: tobacco, cigarette papers, coffee. And a PC. I don’t know if I would’ve been able to write on a typewriter. Or by longhand, for that matter. I write very, very slowly, making heavy use of the cut and delete buttons. I have about eight drafts of the story I’m working on now, and I cut-and-paste from one file into the next, grubbing down the lines and paragraphs as I go. I used to compare it to planing and sanding wood, but right now it feels like stone-rubbing. Is there such a thing as stone-rubbing?
“I like to sit facing a window, even if the blind is down or the curtains closed. Just to know it’s there is good enough. The view is of the back lane of a small housing estate, and beyond that, ploughed fields, trees, a golf course and the kind of steep, forested hill we like to call a mountain in Ireland. It’s a nice view, and it faces west, and in summer the sunsets can be amazing.
“I’ve had the same desk for about ten years. It’s a cheap piece of assembly-pack plywood, but it’s sturdy and it does all I want it to do. I wrote a line for A GONZO NOIR to the effect that I wanted to be buried in a cheaply varnished plywood coffin, and it was the desk I had in mind. All writers should be buried in their favourite desks. Some sooner than others.
“I like to be surrounded by books when I’m writing. I don’t feel any creative force coming off them or anything like it, I just like to know they’re there. Whenever things aren’t going well, which is a lot of the time, I can look on one side and say, ‘Well, at least it’s not as crap as that,’ and on the other and say, ‘Well, it was never going to be as good as that anyway.’ A wall of books is the finest wallpaper anyone can ever have.
“If you look to the left of the picture, the second shelf down is the Chandler shelf. No one else gets a shelf to him or herself. Not Elmore Leonard, not Lawrence Durrell, not Cormac McCarthy, not Kurt Vonnegut. Just Chandler. He’s not perfect, but then neither was Mozart. As Rossi says in the sequel to THE BIG O, ‘Genius isn’t supposed to be perfect, it’s not that kind of gig.’”