Truth is, a new home is not the easiest of things to find, even (I imagine) if you are looking for a standard 3 bed on a housing estate somewhere close to a station and a good school and have half a million pounds to spend. But for an author, with a more modest budget and a rather stranger wishlist, it can be a minefield. Estate Agents seem to speak an entirely foreign language.
Estate Agent (eager to welcome a potential new buyer): How many bedrooms?
Author: Two or three if I can afford it... or one would be fine... as long as it also has room for all my books and a private, quiet space to write.
EA: Just for yourself, then?
Author: Plus my muse. And the cat, so it can't be on a busy road.
EA: (tosses a couple of properties on the side of the busy A38 back into the drawer.) Location?
Author: Peaceful (didn't I just say this?) so I can disappear into my fantasy world. Also, I need to be close to a station so I can commute for my Royal Literary Fund Fellow posting, and to London to see my agent/publisher.
EA: Er, you do know Cornwall is rather a long way from London...?
Author: I only need to commute in that direction when I actually have an agent/ publisher.
EA: Ah, so you're looking for a holiday cottage/second home? (Pulls out a few overpriced 'luxury lodges' that come with thousands of pounds per annum site fees and a holiday restriction).
Author: No, it'll be my only home.
Author: £200,000 max. (Feels the need to add apologetically: "I'm not exactly JK Rowling.").
EA (trying not to sound too disappointed at this apparently miniscule house-buying budget): So are you looking for a house, a flat, or a bungalow?
Author: Anything, as long as it has the right "feel" so I can write there. And I'll need somewhere to park my car while I am working at home.
EA (throws the tiny cottages with dodgy parking that have been weekend homes back into the drawer): Does the parking have to be off-road?
Author: Yes (duh!). I also have two bicycles, so a garage or shed would be ideal.
EA: Anything else?
Author: Did I mention the cat? And I sometimes ride horses and enjoy walking in the woods, so somewhere to store muddy boots, etc.
EA: What about these? (Having guessed my age as possible "early retired", pushes across a pile of ugly 1950s - 1970s bungalows).
Author: (totally uninspired, but at least they have gardens and some have garages) I'll take a look at the outsides and let you know.
EA: Good. And maybe this would suit you? (way over-budget newbuild on a housing estate/sea of mud, not even got the roof on yet.)
Author: Er, no.
EA: What do you like, then, exactly?
Author: I'd like to view this one! (quirky property just returned to market, looks interesting if a bit expensive).
EA: Ahhh... sorry, we can't do a viewing there that day, we're very busy (presumably trying to sell the practical but uninspiring bungalows, dodgy houses on the edge of the main road, and tiny overpriced holiday cottages without any parking).
Author: (getting slightly depressed now) I think I'm going to have to widen my search a bit to find what I want...
EA: That's the right thing to do! (Maybe she'll become someone else's problem?)
So what would you look for in the ideal fantasy author's home?
Here's my current wishlist:
* Dragons, obviously.
* Countryside views, so village or edge of a town - but not where there are plans to build 1,000 new houses in the neighbouring field!
* Good local community and nice neighbours, where I'll feel safe living alone.
* Garage, ideally. Plus off road parking.
* Easy drive/walk to a mainline station for when I have a publisher, paid work, or a major UK book tour.
* Peace and quiet for working on my books at home.
* Private garden for when I am not to outside appearances working, but actually dreaming of plots/characters with the possibility of rushing back inside to the computer as soon as inspiration strikes or my current plot tangle sorts itself out.
* Gothic windows would be nice with an inspiring view to gaze at whilst waiting for inspiration to strike... or maybe no view at all so I'll get more writing done?
* Close to other writers and artists for coffee and sympathetic chats when inspiration goes AWOL.
* Good cycling and walking in the area, with horses/riding/livery stable nearby.
* Stone walls for that essential castle-like feel. Better still, a small castle with a moat for keeping out other people's kids and confused EAs.
* Open fireplace for burning the furniture in hard times, and possibly roasting roadkill on a spit if things get really desperate.
* Maybe a listed building in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so the neighbours can't indulge in endless 'home improvements' that result in an ugly conservatory/extension across your inspiring view and overlooking your once-private garden (disturbing your muse with their building noise and mess while they do so).
* Oh, and a unicorn would be nice...
Wish me luck!
Katherine Roberts writes fantasy and historical fiction for young readers with a focus on legend and myth. She also writes historical fiction with a touch of romance for older readers under the name 'Katherine A Roberts'.
Find out more at www.katherineroberts.co.uk