Where and when do you do your best writing? Guest Post by Fran Brady

I drift awake as fingers of light probe the curtains. Where am I? Not at home. Then a glow of delight starts somewhere in the region of my belly and creeps up my body. It washes my face in a grin. I remember where I am.

I inch out of bed, reach for my dressing-gown and push my feet into the rubber sandals that will double as slippers and paddling shoes for the next fortnight. My husband is still fast asleep: I know by the click at the top of each breath.

At the bottom of the stairs, my dog stirs in his basket and watches me. Time to get up? No, not yet: just the early shift. He drops his head on to his paws and is asleep again in seconds.

The kitchen is filling with light. Curtains are never drawn here. Moonlight on the water demands an audience. As I wait for the kettle, I watch a corncrake strutting on the handkerchief of lawn. The rest of the garden must be left wild by law to ensure this bird’s habitat and now I reap the fruits of compliance. Later will come boatloads of twitchers with cameras, tripods, binoculars and picnics. Have you seen one? they will ask as I pass them on my way to the shop. They will hear them: who does not? Crek! Crek! The sound is everywhere on the island but seeing is a different matter. I watch as the bird slips into the long grass and begins its mating call, ever-hopeful.

Looking out of the kitchen window
The coffee smells wonderful. I smile at the mug and raid the heap of home-baking by the breadbin. Hurrah for grateful houseguests! I choose a slab of cherry and almond cake. The sitting-room with windows on three sides is also full of light; chilly, though, now that my bed-warmth is dissipating. I switch on two bars of the electric fire and fetch my leggings and thick socks from behind the couch where I hid them last night. I liberate my laptop from its charging cord and settle on the sofa facing the east window. As I sip my coffee and savour the cake, waiting for the computer to boot up, I watch the sun push up behind Ben More. It reminds me of watching my grandchild being born, the head crowning from the birth canal, full of promise.

I finish the cake and blow a couple of crumbs off the keyboard. I close my eyes and let the words, phrases, scraps of dialogue and ideas for plot development that were fermenting in my head as I fell asleep rise to the surface. Then I open them and begin to type. After a while, I stop, read, frown, change, delete, cut and paste. The last mouthful of coffee is forgotten and goes cold. It is not quite seven o’clock and the sun has risen over the Sound of Iona.

The door slides open and, looking up, seeing no-one, I think: Dog. No dog appears. What on earth…?  A small child appears round the side of the armchair: my granddaughter, that crowning head beginning already to fulfill its promise. She sidles in, reading my do-not-disturb signals, and comes to sit at my side without a word. I carry on tapping the keys and stroking the cursor pad. She picks at a few cake crumbs on the sofa and peers at the coffee dregs with disgust. A few minutes pass in which I try to remain in laptop world and she tries to remain still and silent.

Our house
We both give in at the same moment. Then we are laughing and hugging and she is telling me about her dreams of the night and her plans for the day. She asks me what I have been writing but, before I can begin to tell her, she is demanding A STORY. I take her over to the window and we watch the fishing boats coming home and the gulls keening over them. Once upon a time, there was a little girl who went on holiday with her mummy and daddy and grandma and granddad and some other people to a big house on a tiny island….

“And Tucky woof-woof” she interrupts. At the mention of his name, Tucker the dog decides it really is morning now and comes through to join us. We will just have time for a story before the first breakfaster invades the kitchen. My writer’s sunrise world has gone for another day.

I spend two weeks every year at a big house on the Hebridean Isle of Iona. Over the past twenty years, my husband and I have taken over fifty friends and family members with us and enjoyed wonderful house-party holidays. My fourth novel (a work-in-progress) is set in that beautiful area (well, it would be rude not to!) in the 1920s. Researching it over several years’ has been enormous fun and I am more in love now than ever with ‘Iona of my heart; Iona of my love.’ (from a poem attributed to St. Columba who landed on Iona in 563 and brought Christianity to Scotland).

Fran has published two novels and one children’s book. She is also currently (and experimentally) uploading her third novel in installments on to her website, advertising it with links on her Facebook author page.


Wendy H. Jones said…
What a beautiful picture of a snapshot in time. I could picture it perfectly. Thank you for sharing.
Umberto Tosi said…
Thank you for having us by your beautiful island retreat for coffee and such a candid sharing of your writing experience and family life, dog included. Being an inveterate night-owl, wee-hours writer myself, I appreciate this intimte peek at your early rising creative process. Your writing cycle sounds much the same as mine except with clocks turned upside down. Congratulations on your successes and good luck on that novel-in-progress!
Fran B said…
Thank you, Wendy and Umberto. It is always a pleasure to share my passion for Iona and/or my passion for writing. The chance to do both at the same time was irresistible!
Lydia Bennet said…
Thanks for sharing your writing pleasure with us Fran! Good luck with your book set on Iona. Research is always fun, especially so if it's about your passion.
Chris Longmuir said…
A lovely piece of writing I really enjoyed it.
Lovely pictures and a lovely piece of writing. Gigha has the same effect on me and for similar reasons, I suppose.

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