The Crime Readers' Association

My Writing Space by Mike Jecks

28th August 2017

Michael Jecks is the well-known author of many, mostly historical crime novels.


‘It is a bit of a shock to realise that I’ve been a professional author for 23 years, now. I’ve published 41 novels, 6 collaborative books and several short stories. I’d never have thought I’d have done so much when I first sat at my kitchen table with a typewriter in 1994.

That was how I started, as most writers do: with a keyboard and a sheaf of papers. Except… well, it wasn’t ideal. The pine dining chair, the low table – the only good aspect was the Rayburn behind me, which did at least keep me warm. So I progressed from kitchen table to a trestle table (thank you, Ikea) and shelves of books nearby, together with an IBM PS2 ‘borrowed’ from the firm that dispensed with my services, until I could afford a shiny AST laptop.

When we moved to Devon, that machine caught the ’flu, and I progressed to a Toshiba and even more bookshelves. However, as the family expanded, we had to move house again, and at last I found my perfect working space. The house had been a butcher’s. At one side was his living space, at the other his shop, which is now my office. Along all the walls I’ve built fitted shelves, so all my research material is within reach. In 2006 I dispensed with the Ikea trestle at last, and instead I bought a 1930s partners’ desk. It’s enormous, so I can have all my research, notes and other essentials to hand. On the wall there’s a whiteboard (6 by 4 feet) on which I note ideas, plans, essential dates and anything else that I know I’ll otherwise forget.

Usually I’ll be sitting at the desk for up to 14 hours a day. That means comfort is pretty important. I used to have a captain’s chair, a low-backed, swivel office seat in leather. It was great, until the cracking noise one day when I leaned back. Then I bought a gorgeous, wrap-around leather chair – I had the best dozes ever in that – until the mechanism to raise and lower the seat broke, and I started to get really bad backache. It’s a function of poor sitting position and old age, I guess, but it led me to search for another chair. The one in the photo I found second-hand, and it’s perfect. It has adjustable height, backrest, headrest, armrests, squab – everything. It was a bit challenging at first to get it right, but it was well worth the effort.

Now things are changing again. Last year I had an accident and badly damaged my knee and ankle. While talking to my physio, I was advised to stand while working (she told me that it’s the same as running a marathon once a year. I hope you’re impressed). I’m finding it works well for me. As you can see, it’s set between two of my bookshelves, under my stationery shelf, so I am enclosed; focused on the work at hand. I have a small speaker for music, space for pens and inks, paper near to hand, and space for my laptop when I need it. Yes, paper and pens. This may sound odd, but I have started handwriting my books. Why? Well, I’ve now suffered three catastrophic computer failures in the last few years. It persuaded me to start thinking about writing longhand. Does it take longer? Yes, to produce the first draft, but I think overall it’s not dissimilar to writing straight to keyboard because in the past I would write for hours, and later on I’d print and redraft, a process that took ages. Now I write longhand and the first typing is itself the redraft. Two quick read-throughs after that and the book is much nearer completion.

So now most of my books are written in pen and ink while standing up. I didn’t expect that when I first started writing, either.’

Mike’s latest book is:
A Murder Too Soon (HB and EB)
No 2 in the Bloody Mary Tudor series
Published by Severn House
Find out more.

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