I’ve just come back from a two-week stay in one of my favourite places in France – The Old Bakehouse at Chateau Sentout on a ridge above the Garonne about twenty kilometres south of Bordeaux with a wonderful view out across Les Landes to the wide, western horizon. The sky always seem high, even when filled with clouds, or when it’s raining. It’s the landscape I had in my head when I was writing French Secrets. The Old Bakehouse, Le Fournil, like the other cottages in the courtyard of the chateau, has wireless internet. This time, I could not get it to work. My fault. I had attached the wrong cable. So I worked for two weeks without access to email or the web – and got twice as much done as usual. Which confirmed my belief that the internet is a time-wasting distraction.
It’s a wonderful research tool. I’ve used googlemaps to check the topography of places in my books. I’ve looked at online bus and train timetables to make sure that it’s possible for a character to get somewhere in time, or indeed to get there at all. I’ve checked countless small details. But I’ve also found that a good half hour has gone past since I found the information I was looking for and got led astray into some intriguing byway of the world wide web, or was tempted to check my emails.
I’m back home now, having resolved to disable the internet when I’m working on the book I’m currently writing.
The other place where I love to write is at The Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annamakerrig in County Monaghan. A place of tranquillity, silence and beauty where I can tap into the extraordinary creative energy that seems to have been absorbed into the fabric of the building from the writers, artists and composers who stay there. There is Internet access – but only in some rooms of the house. So I write, or walk around the lake and think or swim in the lake and think, or row on the lake and think during the day, and only occasionally take my laptop to where I can pick up emails and explore the distractions of the internet.