It’s me Briar!
You may have noticed that Jane has been writing about a lot of new books lately. Usually she writes about a mixture of old books and new books, and she is going to go on doing that, but because it is Independent Booksellers’ Week she thought it would be a good idea to focus on new books that your local independent bookseller is bound to be putting onto their shelf.
And to go with that, and author of one of those books has written a very nice piece for us. Jane thought it was a very good idea because she really liked her first two books, and she has just read her new book and she says that is very good too. And the other reason – and the reason I am here to introduce her – is because she lives with a border terrier dog like me!
Isabel Ashdown on why every writer should have a dog
Like many writers, I have a tendency towards the quiet life. That’s not to say I’m unsociable – I have many special friends and a wonderful family – but I like to be alone. When my husband has left for work in the mornings, and the children for school, it’s just me and Charlie-dog (like Briar, a fine border terrier) – and in the silence, the writing can begin.
I usually write all morning, pausing only to make coffee and carrying on until lunch time, and if I’m not careful I can keep at it right up until the children arrive home mid-afternoon. But given time, the sedentary, solitary lifestyle can have a profoundly negative effect on me, and my writing – shutting me off for too long from the world I long to write. So, to keep me sane, and healthy, and inspired, walking has become a core part of my working day, and living in the beautiful south coast county of West Sussex, I’m spoilt for places to wander.
I grew up by the sea, just a few miles from where I live today, and whilst I’ve travelled and worked elsewhere, I find I can’t stray far from the coast for too long. When you’ve grown up with the air of salt and driftwood in your lungs, with the sound of waves against shingle in your ears, it becomes part of your inner world. And so, naturally, my books have a strong coastal theme, the latest being set on the Isle of Wight during the infamous heatwave summer of 1976.
My research has made me a frequent traveller to the island over the past couple of years, and of course Charlie has been my constant companion. One summer we rented a coastguard cottage at the Needles, where each evening, I’d leave the family for an hour, to take the uphill walk towards Tennyson monument, to one of the many breathtaking high points on the island, looking out over the sea from all sides. Here, I could separate myself entirely, and think about the emerging story – and by this I mean properly think and daydream, without the distractions of daily life. I often find that it’s in the dreaming stage, when I’m walking, gazing, not trying to think, that the story is enticed to show itself in its truest form. More often than not some vital development would come to me, and I’d jog back down to the cottage with Charlie bounding along at my side (his ears buffeted by the strong Solent winds), eager to capture my thoughts in my notebook before settling in for a cosy evening with the family.
I know I’d never take these solitary walks if I was completely alone, and I, and my writing, have much to thank Charlie for. Now my 14-year-old daughter is waging a campaign for another dog (a mini dachshund, if she has her way), so if I eventually weaken, you never know – I might soon be spotted on the hills and beaches with a second canine friend dancing at my feet.
Isabel Ashdown is the author of three novels published by Myriad Editions: Glasshopper (London Evening Standard and Observer Best Books of the Year 2009) Hurry Up and Wait (Amazon Top Customer Reads 2011), Summer of ’76, and winner of the Mail on Sunday Novel Competition 2008.
In 2013, her essay on the subject of ‘voice’ will feature in Writing a First Novel, edited by Karen Stevens, in which novelists, agents and publishers discuss the joys and challenges of writing a first novel (Palgrave MacMillan).
Isabel writes from her West Sussex home which she shares with her husband, a carpenter, their two children, and a border terrier called Charlie. Find out more about her at www.isabelashdown.com , chat to her on facebook and twitter, or subscribe to her newsletter here.
I do like the sound of The Isle of Wight. Maybe Jane will take me there one day.
So she will be back then. And I will be back again soon.