A Writer's Process: Sebastian Lander

I don’t know whether I should call my writing a process – it’s more a linguistic version of throwing paint at a canvas when I have the time, and inspiration deigns to drop in.


I write sporadically, often at the kitchen table, even though we have a quiet studio at the end of the garden. Being in a space where there’s the opportunity for distraction somehow lends energy to my writing. And I can always put my fingers in my ears when I need to focus.


Sometimes I tap at my laptop in bed, reference books spread around me. It feels indulgent, an emotion I am ironically trying to indulge. My writing has the tendency to slip down the list, in favour of seemingly more productive priorities.


I have worked with words for a number of years. That question, ‘Have you got a book in you?’ has long been in the back of my head and, on occasion, on other people’s lips.


It’s only now that I am trying to get that book out, and I don’t even know if it will be any good.


Currently I am researching and writing about a character in Elizabethan England. The research part threatens to stretch endlessly into the future, unless I am careful. Meanwhile, fact and fiction are locked in a gladiatorial wrestling match in my head, fact holding itself up as truth and fiction championing freedom. I am learning to make room for both.


I try to visit as many places as I can which will enable me to resurrect the past. Lines pop into my head and I write them on my iPhone, puzzle pieces to be later worked up into a hopefully faithful 16th century picture. When I am writing, I light an incense stick. For me, the smell evokes everything Tudor, bringing with it the nostalgia of childhood visits to historic houses.


I find that I have lots of ideas and can really visualise how I want my writing to read in my head. When it comes to fingertips on keys, it doesn’t always match up.


And then I start labouring over the language, which can weigh it down.


I have fixed on finishing my book by the time I am 40. Just completing it will be an achievement in itself, let alone anything else. Hopefully, those splodges on canvas will eventually take some sort of meaningful form.