Former vet, newspaper columnist and reviewer, Manda is also a prolific writer.
Her first novels were a series of critically acclaimed crime stories featuring lesbian detective Kellen Stewart, and her debut Hen’s Teeth was short-listed for the Orange Prize. More recently she has been better known for her best-selling historical novels – the Boudica Series and then the Rome spy thrillers set in the same era.
On top of that she lives in beautiful Shropshire. UKLesFic isn’t jealous at all…no, not at all…
One of the great joys of being a writer (as opposed to being a vet, which is what I was before) is working from home. No commute. No alarm clock. No structure to the day but the one that evolves as the day needs. This is how we evolved. It’s our nature: deadlines arise out of the world around us: the need for fire and food, for water and a warm, dry bed. Everything else is a modern construct and it doesn’t sit well on the paleololithic parts of our brains, which is just about all of them.
So my daily commute is four yards from my bedroom to my office, although the reality of being a dog owner – and 90% of the reason for having a dog – is that there’s an hour’s walk up on the hills first. Or, this being Shropshire, which has an abundance of amazing walking country, along the river.
The office, when I come back to it, has a north-facing window, which looks up towards the hills. Or, if I choose to look the other way, a view down into the garden where my beloved’s ability to persuade edible things to grow is finally bearing fruit (sorry, had to be done).
I’ve spent long enough doing this that I’ve wrecked my back and both hands/arms/wrists, so these days I have a desk that can be moved from standing to sitting and back again, a chair that cost almost as much as the house (possibly not, but it felt like it at the time), and various ergonomic keyboards and mice that will persuade my joints that I’m not really doing the same thing time after time after time. Which of course is a lie; I might be writing different books, but the letters are all the same. The important thing is that I persuade my body that I’m typing the letter ‘e’ at a slightly different angle every time I hit it. Hence the standing desk, and a rolled-up yoga mat that I stand on with bare feet. It’s the cheap equivalent of walk-stations – those hugely expensive US-designed delights where you walk on a treadmill while typing – which absolutely guarantees that when you hit the e or the spacebar or the delete key, it’ll be from a new direction. A rolled-up yoga mat may not be as sexy, but it fits better into what was once, I think, a box room; certainly it’s very small to be a bedroom.
I have company here; both cats come and sleep on the desk and they have their playstation alongside – and the feline version of television, otherwise known as a planted aquarium. You can blame that on an ex-gf who finally lost her temper because I was ‘never interested in the things she was interested in’ (No, that’s because most of the time I’m not even here. I’m in another world, doing other things. That’s the nature of writing. Sorry. Or actually, not sorry at all, which is why she’s an ex-gf) – So I became fascinated by fish and plants and the underwater worlds we could create, and now, several years after the end of that relationship, I still have a fish tank in the office. The cats love it. The dog has her own bed over by the printer and the rest is taken up with bookshelves that double as dog-toy shelves and, despite horribly regular visits to the charity bookshop in the local town, are still horribly full of books. I have read them all, that’s the only good thing, or at least I’ve read some of all of them…
So it’s not the most salubrious office in the world, and I’m having minor nightmares at the concept of having to dismantle the shelving so we can have the very ancient carpet replaced, but it works and I love it and the animals are happy and what else is a writing life for?