A change of scenery but no break makes a perfect weekend for author and screenwriter Anthony Horowitz.
As a writer, I don’t really have weekends. It’s a seven-days-a-week job, the only difference being that during the week I write at my home in Clerkenwell, looking out over the Old Bailey and St Paul’s Cathedral, and at the weekends, I write at our place in Suffolk, looking out over Orford Ness.
The secret of getting to Suffolk on a Friday night is not to leave until 10 or 11 o’clock at night, when there’s no traffic. For me, the weekend begins at the turn-off from the A14, when we start driving through Rendlesham Forest, and somehow the real world gets left behind.
I’ll be doing the driving while my wife Jill (Green, a television producer) is furiously texting and emailing on her BlackBerry. Even when she’s not at the office, she’s still working.
In our household, there’s no lying in bed on Saturday morning. We don’t like curtains, so we rise pretty much with the sun, wherever we are. After breakfast, I’ll do some work: I write by hand, using a pen with a nib, just like when I was a small boy. A lot of the time, I actually draw a sketch of what’s happening, then describe it. If Alex Rider, the hero of my boy-spy novels, is cornered by villains, or in a tight spot, I’ll make a picture, or a little diagram, of it, and the words will flow from there.
Then it’s time to take my dog Lucky, a chocolate Labrador, for his walk. Instead of our usual weekday visit to Regent’s Park, we go off through rivers and woodland, which Lucky loves. So much so that he spends most of the weekend padding about Orford on his own. He’s well known now and spends a lot of time sitting on the quay, before making his way back home.
It’s an extraordinary place, Orford, so much history: smuggling, UFOs, nuclear testing, and radar was invented just down the coast at Bawdsey. We covered that in an episode of Foyle’s War, though I make it a rule never to write about Orford, as I’m afraid that I wouldn’t be able to go back there again.
I’ll often go to one of the two pubs for lunch: either The Jolly Sailor, in High Orford, or The King’s Head, in Low Orford. Both do terrific food. But my greatest treat on a Saturday is to take Lucky to Aldeburgh and have fish and chips, sitting on the sea wall. Preferably on a sunny day, as, although the towns and villages in this part of the world are all utterly beautiful, we do get the wind straight from Siberia.
There is a magnificence about Suffolk though that you don’t find anywhere else in the country; a certain vastness of scope to the sky, plus a greyness and hostility about the North Sea.
I suppose the least perfect thing about my weekends these days is that I miss my sons, both of whom are away at university. Nicholas is 22 and at UCLA, in the United States, and Cassian is 20 and reading politics at Bristol.
It’s made me realise that, for me, the whole point of a weekend is about sitting back and taking stock; not so much doing new things, as about repeating old things.
So it’ll be dinner for Jill and I, usually cooked by me, as she is constantly taking phone calls and sending texts. Followed by sleep, provided I’ve done some writing that day. If I haven’t, I lie there awake, though at least in Orford, there are plenty of stars to look at in the night sky.
The same thing happens if I go to bed with a situation in one of my books that’s unresolved in my mind. I find it impossible to get to sleep, and will get up and try and write my way out of it if necessary.
I’m currently in a state of semi-mourning, having just finished the last (and ninth) volume in the Alex Rider series. Part of me wonders if I’m making a crazy mistake, ending the series now; the other half says, no, resist the temptation to add another volume – it’s always best to stop when you’re winning.
Besides, I’m being kept busy writing the last part of my Power Of Five series (supernatural thriller saga for children), and, of course, the new Sherlock Holmes story (at the behest of the Conan Doyle estate).
There have been quite a lot of research trips, to visit the places where the Alex Rider stories are set. For the last one (Scorpia Rising), I went to Cairo, which was terrific. Going on holiday is fun, but going on holiday with a purpose is wonderful.
Given that I’m always working to deadlines, Sunday will, like every other day, involve writing. But it also involves a visit to this amazing new shop, The Orford Bakery, which opened about a year ago. Not only does it make the most extraordinarily lovely loaves and cakes, but it also has a large communal table, towards which most of the population gravitates.
I’m seriously thinking about writing a story in which a village food shop opens and makes food so delicious that all the locals get incredibly fat.
By and large, I try and avoid the Sunday newspapers, as, by the time I’ve waded through them, I end up feeling incredibly depressed and oh-what’s-the-point. Not dissimilar to how I used to feel after Sunday lunch as a small boy, when my mother would cook these great slabs of roast beef, as a result of which, by three in the afternoon everyone was so full that we didn’t have the strength to move.
Of course, the good thing about working from home, and working every day, is that I have no sense of impending doom, as Monday looms on the horizon. Sometimes, in fact, I’ll put Jill on the train at Woodbridge, and stay in Orford overnight, before taking the train down next morning. I prefer the train to the A12, to tell the truth, but of course one takes the car because of the dog and the luggage.
It’s slightly strange, coming back to the centre of London, because for many years, we lived in Crouch End in north London, and although we’ve been in Clerkenwell for three and a half years, I still have my doubts.
That said, provided I’ve done some writing that day, I don’t mind hugely where I am. Location, days of the week – for me, they have no meaning. When I’m immersed in a book, I’m in a world and time zone that is completely separate from everyone else.
What are you reading at the moment?
The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope. I’d never been much of a Trollope-phile until I read The Way We Live Now, at which point I became a convert.
What music do you enjoy?
Philip Glass (or Benjamin Britten), when I’m working, I can’t concentrate if there are words.
Are you a radio enthusiast?
I listen to the Today Programme in the week, but not on Saturday, though I don’t know why not.
Best piece of advice?
Believe in every word, every emotion, every character. And if you’re not enjoying your writing, something is wrong.
The Wolseley, in Piccadilly, and the Clerkenwell Kitchen.
What irritates you?
Would you rather live in a hot or cold climate?
Tricky. I enjoy both, but I’m going to go for hot.
My favourite things
The view out to Orford Ness
The last minute before falling asleep