I feel odd when I finish writing a book - exhausted and empty. I send it to my agent and it’s like waving goodbye to favourite relatives about to embark on a long voyage. I feel sad and desperate to write, but I don’t have another idea. So I binge watch Netflix, spend hours browsing and buying books in Waterstones and having early nights with the books piled around me like a fortress.
I tell my husband, ‘This is the end. I will never have another good book idea again.’
He gives me a wry smile. ‘We’ll see,’ he says.
‘No, this time I mean it ,’ I insist. I take long walks and swims. I worry about the lack of thoughts in my head. Then one day it happens. Always by accident and when I’m not looking for it. A place. An object. A news story. It sparks something, like a match being struck. Characters spring into my head. I open the notes app on my phone and type book idea. The idea grows and takes hold. I work on a plot. Write about what each character likes to wear and eat, even how they sleep. I spend ages researching obscure things.
One day over lunch, I say to my husband, ‘I’ve had an idea.’
He smiles wryly (again). ‘I never doubted you wouldn’t.’
And then a few months later we are on a family mini-break to the Essex coast, fleshing out the idea, getting to know the setting and I can't imagine a time the idea wasn't in my head. And I remind myself that there will be another time in the future when I'm certain I'm out of ideas, just as there will be another time in the future when I have another idea (and hopefully another family mini-break).