Guest Post: Catherine Johnson – Where I Work

Today I am super excited to be taking part in The Lady Caraboo Blog Tour.

Caraboo Blog Tour Poster v5


I am very pleased to welcome author Catherine Johnson, who is doing the first ever guest post on my blog (squeal!) and is talking about where and how she writes her wonderful books.

So without further ado… welcome Catherine!


Good morning! Come and sit down and have a cup of virtual coffee! There’s toast too and I have some really good apricot jam….

Hello and thanks for the invitation to your blog. I have been a writer quite a long time – my first paying job was in 1991, I think – a film treatment which never got made but did open the door in my head marked ‘stories’.

Where do I write? How do I write? Well until the year before last I wrote all my books (and scripts) on a computer at a table in my bedroom. We lived in a tiny house – here’s a picture of my old street in Hackney:


– and we have two kids. They’re grown up now (28 and 24 I am so old when did that happen?) and moved on and it’s only since we left of London a couple of years ago that I’ve had a room of my own. This is me not long after we moved in showing off a jumper I knitted, I am a manic knitter by the way, I used to have a stall in Portobello Market and sell Fair Isle hats when I was a student.


Photo on 09-06-2013 at 11.23 #2

Anyway now I have a view of my own too – lookit here!

And I will also tell you the one joke I know about writers;

Q: Why shouldn’t the writer look out of the window in the morning?

A: Because then they’ll have nothing to do in the afternoon!

I didn’t say it was good.

I think we can often put up a lot of barriers to writing; I can’t work at home, only in a café, I need space, or I need to be on the train or in a certain spot. I have to have a special notebook or a lucky pen. And I sometimes I feel like that too, (especially about trains) but I think it’s important to remember that writing isn’t magic. It’s work, and although it’s lovely to find a story that makes it feel like you’re simply channelling the characters, and can’t type fast enough to keep up, sometimes it can feel like pulling particularly painful teeth. Caraboo took a gazillion drafts. I tried writing it in first person, (which is very hard when your character only speaks aloud in a made up language), letters, multiple viewpoints, I wrote the story so many different ways before I found a way that works. Whereas other stories – Sawbones for example – was one of those word vomits that took weeks.

One thing I find helpful when I get stuck is moving, walking or swimming. And since my job involves sitting down all day it’s not a bad thing. And it does help that there are loads of good places to walk round here.

I must admit having a writing room feels like a huge luxury. And last Christmas I got a white board of my very own! It is brilliant for working stuff out on and reminding me about things that I am often forgetting.


Above my desk I’ll have helpful pictures. Until recently when I was working on the sequel to Sawbones, I had a map of Paris and a picture of General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, brilliant brave hero of the French Revolutionary army and inspiration to his son Alexandre, who went on to write The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.

At the moment I’ve a picture by Degas of Miss Lala at the Cirque Fernando she was a black performer in fin de siècle Paris, and pinned to the white board is a story maze I did of my work in progress. I’ve never done this but a friend, Teresa Flavin, gave it to me and I filled in the gaps and it’s been a little bit of an inspiration.

I have loads of books. LOADS. Did I mention I have LOADS of books?

I tend to have a routine that goes like this.

Early start. I am so a morning person. If I’m on a script deadline it might be as early as 5 or 6. I’ll work for an hour or so then go off for a swim and come home and have breakfast. Then I’ll write some more – with breaks for food or if I am stuck, a walk by the sea and then more work until 4 (or if it’s a script until it’s done).


Of course I have days when I visit my friends and eat cake or my friends visit me and eat cake, but it is a job and I do feel very guilty if there are no words. Apart from the odd bit of teaching this is all I do this for a living.

If I’m working on a book I will try and hit word counts for a week – usually if I’m working every day that’ll be 10-12k. But some weeks I’ll have school visits or other work – and then you find yourself out of the story loop, which can be a little bit difficult when you want to get back in.

At the moment I am working on one book (a contemporary supernatural YA which is a whole lot of fun), a film project currently in development and a TV drama which is very, very, exciting – but really don’t want to say more in case I jinx it!

I think you know it’s going well when you can’t stop thinking about the characters and the world – in fact it’s a little (a lot!) like being in love!


Massive thanks to Catherine for being here and chatting on my blog today – I love hearing the ways writers work, it’s always so different from one to the next!

There are still more stops on The Lady Caraboo tour, so check the picture to see where to head to next, or to catch up with the previous posts.

I’ll be posting my review of the book on Friday (spoiler alert: I thought it was wonderful) and you can pre-order your own copy from Waterstones, Hive, WHSmiths, and Amazon.

Lady Caraboo hits shelves on July 2nd and I’d really recommend it.

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