Writer on a Train

As a full time writer working from the home I share with three men, I can find plenty to distract me from my daily 2000 words. Before you get excited about this in a 50 Shades sort of way, the three men I live with are one husband and two sons (the daughter is largely away at Uni), and the distractions are of the domestic kind – exciting things like washing crispy sheets, scraping crud off floors and searching for all the forks which have mysteriously disappeared.

So, quite a lot of the time, I go elsewhere to write. I love coffee bars, so long as they’re not too noisy or crowded. Hotel lobbies are good, too. I even rented a small cottage for a week so that I could really just crack on alone. But the place I like writing best of all, if the conditions are right, is on a train.

I often sneak in a bit of work on my usual once or twice a week Brighton to London Victoria journey. But it can often be a bit crowded, with people reading over my shoulder, which is most off-putting.

However, I once had to do a day trip from the Edinburgh Festival to London and back again, and East Coast had a deal on first class tickets. ‘Why not?’ I thought. I had a deadline on some editing, so I thought I’d treat myself. Besides, first class includes all the food and drink you can put inside yourself, so I figured if I ate and drank all the way down and up, I had a bargain on my hands.

I did the best work of my life on that train (I also put on about seven pounds, but that’s another story).  The spacious seats! The power sockets! The free wi-fi! The inspiring view!

I happened to mention this to my publicist, Sam Eades, and, as is so often her way, she Had An Idea.

‘Why not be writer in residence on a train?’ she said.

Julia Crouch, proud Writer in Residence

I liked that Idea.

The next thing I knew I was sipping green tea (complimentary, of course) in the psychedelically carpeted first class lounge at the fabulous new Kings Cross Station, waiting to board the late afternoon direct train to Harrogate, guest of East Coast Rail and Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival (or ‘Harrogate’ as it’s known in crime writing circles). I had my special, crime-writer’s red scarf on, and the brief to write a short story on my journey.

The trip didn’t disappoint. It was as comfortable and spacious as the Edinburgh jaunt and on my journey up and down (broken by an overnight stay in Harrogate and bolstered by a box of Betty’s baked treats from the Festival ladies), I managed to complete five thousand words of a short story. It’s called ‘Strangeness on a Train’, and it’s shortly to be published as an e-story and a real world sampler which will be available at ‘Harrogate’. And all the while I was fed, wined and watered by the charmingly attentive stewards.

I didn’t just write though. A train is an ideal environment for the essential nosey part of a writer’s work as well. I struck up a conversation with the man opposite me who COMMUTES EVERY DAY between London and Harrogate because he hates the South. The man across the aisle filled sheet after sheet with mind maps of extraordinary beauty and from the window I saw an abandoned basket sitting in the middle of a vast field, a lone teenage boy crying on a bike in a concrete underpass and a house that I think must be the setting for my next novel. 

To cap it all, on the way back, lovely Paul, East Coast Rail PR, jumped on the train at Leeds with a photographer and I was papped until Wakefield. As a bit of a showoff and ex-thesp I secretly love all that. Now I know how Angelina Jolie must feel.

My one complaint is that this First Class travel has completely spoiled Standard for me. So please buy my books. I have a newly expensive lifestyle to maintain.

Posted by Julia Crouch, whose latest book,  Every Vow You Break, is out now

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Julia and the Book Factory

A few weeks ago I went with Sam Eades, my lovely publicist at Headline, to Clays printers in Bungay, to see Every Vow You Break roll off the presses. I had been told by David Headley at Goldsboro Books and S J Watson that it was an astounding day out (‘like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for book nerds’), and that the sandwiches were very good. They were right on all counts.

Julia with Sam Eades from Headline’s Publicity department

After those remarkable sandwiches at Cambridge House, a beautiful Georgian building where the company started and which they now use for hospitality, We were shown around the massive factory by the lovely Vicky Ellis and Phil and Steve, having a peek at every single part of the process.

Standing in the middle of a factory full of conveyor belts piled up with my new novel has to be one of the top experiences of my life. If I say how close I was to wanting to breast feed my warm, fresh, book, you’ll understand where it ranks for me. Unlike when they were printing the first editions of Harry Potter, when even mobile phones were confiscated at reception, they now allow cameras in, so here are some photos.

So hard hats and hi-viz jackets off to all at Clays, and thank you for a day I will always remember. 

Julia holding a copy of EVERY VOW YOU BREAK, fresh off the press

Published by Julia Crouch, author of EVERY VOW YOU BREAK and CUCKOO (originally published on www.juliacrouch.co.uk)

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