Not sleeping. That’s the first sign. I know then it’s time to start the book. The words are wanting to come out. Yet words are like the British weather. Unpredictable. Elusive. Sunshine one moment, rain-clouds the next. You never know what’s coming. That’s the joy of writing for me, but also the agony.
I write historical novels. That means vast amounts of research. Research involves reading books all day for months on end, making hundreds of pages of notes and telling people it’s work – when really it’s bliss. I could do it forever.
But then the insomnia starts and I can’t kid myself any longer. I write a skeleton outline of the plot but barely stick to it. For me it’s important to fall in love with my characters, even the ‘bad’ ones, to know what they had for breakfast or what joke they last laughed at. I need that intimacy. I hate it when a character rebuffs all my advances and won’t open up. I take offence and blame them rather than myself.