On Wednesday I went to see Alexander McCall Smith talk about his writing practices.
When my friend first invited me to join her I have to admit I didn’t really pay attention, I just agreed for somewhere to go. Sometimes saying yes and having a surprise is a good thing.
When we got to Chenies Manor we were given the option of choosing a free book. Not knowing any of Alexander’s work I picked the same book as my friend. It turns out it was the latest in his No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series – The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine.
We joined the queue to get the book signed and took our place at the table ready for lunch. I was expecting sandwiches but we had chicken stew with rice and homemade apple pie for pudding. It was very nice but a lot of food for me to eat at lunchtime.
As it turned out we were sitting directly opposite Alexander so our seats couldn’t have been better placed for the interview.
He was very entertaining and I quickly found out a prolific author of multiple series of novels with multiple editions. The characters he talked about were rich and funny and by the time I left I was looking forward to reading his work and introducing myself those people.
I’m not sure his practice of waking up at 3am and writing until 6.30am is going to be for me. I seem to remember an audible gasp when he said he can manage up to 1,000 words an hour and that is how he can release 4 to 5 books a year. He also said he manages to write with very minimal editing and often only needs to edit continuity issues.
I can manage around 3,000 words in a half a day if I’m lucky. I need to focus on my writing. I’m never going to get there if I don’t make a start and I feel like the characters are ready to work.
Chenies Manor was a lovely venue, I’ve never been in the house or gardens before. I thought I might look round after the talk had finished but it is closed now until next year. I understood why when I saw the layer of muddy sludge covering the hardstanding car park, you wouldn’t want that traipsed through your house!
The only downside was the signage to get into the house, what I thought was the entrance turned out to be for coaches only and was being used as the exit for cars. I got lost in the back road and was unsure of how to get to the car park when I finally found the track in. It involved diving through very tight walled gateways and pretty much through a path in the garden before arriving at the car park area behind the stable block. I’m not sure you would get in on a busy summer’s day.
A lot of people locally say the house is very nice and I think it has been used for filming a few times. If you do decide to go then it might be better to go during the week when I would imagine it is slightly less busy.