In my three years of living in this gorgeous city I’m glad to say I’ve discovered some inspiring places to write books*. Not only that, but some parts of the city have ended up in my books, either directly, or as the inspiration behind some fictional places.
While I’m usually holed up inside, squinting at my laptop, it’s nice to get out sometimes for a change of scenery. It’s even better when one of those wanders forms the basis of a scene.
Here are some of my favourite spots to write when I do tear myself away from the house, and some of the places that inspired chapters in This is a Love Story and Three Little Words. I’d love to know yours too, so do please get in touch and let me know.
– The Haberdashery, N8
I must admit I’m a little bit in love with this cafe. I discovered it when I lived in Crouch End and I kind of knew I would adore it before I even went in. I don’t know if it was the fairy lights (all year round), the pretty bunting that hung outside, or the chalked sign by the door that said ‘Unattended children will be given espresso and a free kitten’ (I know, I don’t get it either). It just kind of seeps shabby chic from several metres away and you can usually hear laughter and the chinking of crockery whenever you walk past it because it’s really popular.
When you step inside it only gets more sweet. There are homemade goodies on sale ranging from distressed teddies to quirky paintings, your drinks arrive in mismatching tea sets that look adorable and there’s a real local feel to it.
I spent a lot of time in there with my laptop and a latte, working away on Three Little Words. It really was a very happy time for me. I loved The Haberdashery so much that I held the launch of Three Little Words there and it was a fabulous venue that I would highly recommend. It was great to celebrate the book in the exact spot where some of it was written.
– Rokit, Covent Garden.
While I’ve never walked into this shop, fired up my laptop and started writing (which would be weird), it’s a wonderful hangout if you’re looking to ‘get to know’ your characters. It’s great to see some wild and wacky clothes, imagine them on your heroes and heroines, and think about how they look and dress. Whilst your character’s imaginary wardrobe is certainly not the basis for a well rounded pretend person, I find it really helps to picture them clearly in my mind.
One of the first bits of golden advice from my agent was to walk around shops and just look at things, feel fabrics and textures, and imagine exactly what your character would wear. In addition to being a great excuse to hit the high street, it’s also genuinely a brilliant way to decide whether you want your lead gal wearing leopard print platform brogues and a tracksuit or whether she’s a smart shirt and jeans kind of lady.
It’s thanks to Rokit that a character in my third book, which comes out next year, has such an unusual and enviable dress sense…
– Alexandra Palace Park, N8
This is a thinking space for me, a great way to escape and consider plots and characters (also lovely for running, if you’re into that).
If you’ve never been here I would suggest starting at the bottom. Jump on a bus from Finsbury Park and get close as you can to the bottom of the park and then walk all the way up to the top. Don’t peep, however tempting it is, until you are right in front of the palace itself. And then turn around.
The view is stunning. You can pretty much see the whole of London spread out before you and it’s a nice to sit there and think about deep and meaningful stuff. I was so touched by Alexandra Palace that it inspired a scene in This is a Love Story, where Nick and Sienna go to the park. I always remember that when I return and that’s why for me, it’s one of my favourite parks in London.
Balham was a big part of This is a Love Story, although the venues/office I wrote about were made up. It’s the general feel of Balham that I love, even the train station is quaint and somehow rather pretty.
One of my favourite real-life venues in the area is The Balham Bowls Club. It’s got a really old fashioned feel to it and so much personality. I also sang at The Bedford in Balham when I was in a band last year and it was a fantastic music venue.
I haven’t been to Balham for a little while actually, but I hope a visit is on the cards very soon…
– Hornsey Library, N8
Hornsey Library is modest and tucked away from the High Street. I spent many hours writing Three Little Words there. I don’t know what it was about this library, but I found it a great place to really be able to concentrate.
One of the loveliest things about this library is the gallery space upstairs. They always choose really cool exhibitions to show. Next to the gallery is a lovely little cafe that was (and I hope still is) run by a wonderful guy who wears pirate inspired attire.
What are you favourite places to write in London? Has anywhere made it into one of your books, short stories or poems? I’d love to hear from you…
(*or sit and think about writing books.)