Deborah Kay Davies is an award-winning novelist and poet. In 2009, she won the Wales Book of the Year award for her collection of short stories, Grace, Tamar, and Laszlo the Beautiful. Here Deborah invites us in to her writing space in the latest in our series of essays that explore the creative lives of Wales’s top writers.
I have quashed the urge to tart my room up. So, behind the computer is a large, curled-up meditation by my eight-year-old grand-daughter about why we love autumn, entitled ‘Blurb’. She’s stuck lots of different sorts of leaves on it, with invitations to touch them. Beside one weird leaf she has written ‘don’t be scared, I am not posenus’. In the middle of the page is a detachable fluffy-headed bunch of grass that she invites me to take out and put in a jar. On top of the grey chest of drawers are my Collins Dictionary, Roget’s Thesaurus, Cruden’s Concordance, a book of poetry by Mary Oliver, and the King James Version of the Bible. Also a scented candle I never light. To the right of my wonderful autumn document are two particularly bolstering letters of appreciation for my latest novel, Tirzah and the Prince of Crows. I keep them there to read when I’m feeling crap about my writing; I read them every day. The drawing above the computer is called Cadillac Shrine, by the artist Richard Cox, and the small watercolour, left, behind the inkwell, is by William Brown. Above it is a print of a lino-cut I love by Ethel Spowers, called Wet Afternoon, bought this year from the Dulwich Picture Gallery.
I keep most of my books here in an Ikea bookcase that reaches to the ceiling. Opposite the desk are two large wardrobes; this room is also where all my clothes, shoes, bags and jewellery are. Sometimes, if I’m feeling poncy, I refer to it as my dressing room, or maybe my study. Well, I do dress here, and study, but somehow I don’t like to be specific about this room. It has a lot of possibilities.
The importance of my study/dressing-room is difficult to pin down. When the writing flies I don’t notice where I am, but if I did, I would love it. If the writing has stalled, or I have a deadline, I detest the place, and yet it is where I want to be. 25 years ago, when I started to write, I would sit up in bed with pen and paper. Then I graduated to a Starwriter (same location). God, I loved that machine, with its screen the size of a Bourbon biscuit. It only showed five lines of text at a time, and sometimes even those were too much.
Later, I had a tiny shed in the garden and I loved/hated that too. That shed, with its many wriggles of inquisitive ivy, was my first personal writing space, and I produced a lot of work there. My then-seven-year-old son once flung the door open to reveal me at my desk. See, he said to his sceptical gang. I told you! Here she is! We all stared at each other for a while as they sucked their ice-lollies. No other words were spoken. For years after I left it, I believed the smell of creosote was essential to the creative process. I still have mournful, creosote-drenched dreams about my shed.
To the left of the desk – actually a grotty table with a cloth over it – you can just see some curtains. I don’t look out of the window; it’s heavily draped. I don’t want to see the cheerful sun, or the blithe blue sky, ever. If it’s mid-December afternoony, and I can hear rain lashing the window of my room, that’s perfect.
Deborah Kay Davies’s latest novel Tirzah and the Prince of Crows is available now from OneWorld Books