Deborah Moggach is an English novelist and screenplay writer. She has written eighteen novels including The Ex-Wives, Tulip Fever, These Foolish Things (made into the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) and Heartbreak Hotel. Her latest book is called Something to Hide. She currently lives in the Welsh border town of Presteigne and also has a maisonette in Kentish Town, North London.
In 2016 she was interviewed by the Guardian for their My Writing Day series.
Everyone has their rituals and I have to start the day with a roll-up and a cup of coffee. It gets my brain fizzing – it loosens the connections – and if I’m interrupted, I’m lost. If someone even says “I’ll phone you some time in the morning” it threatens my concentration, which is a feeble organ at the best of times. With screenplays it’s not so bad because it’s a more public process anyway – so many other people are involved – but if I’m writing a novel, I need to shut myself off into my private world. I don’t mind people in the house, as long as they’re not quarrelling and they don’t come in, but I can’t bear music.
The weird thing is that unexpected interruptions can jolt me when I’m stuck and can actually help, like a computer being switched off and on. But I mustn’t expect them. And if there are too many, the morning is flushed away; I can almost hear it hissing into oblivion, like an airline toilet.
When that happens, it is a day’s work gone, because I can only write in the mornings. A lot of writers I know are the same. In the afternoons I become a normal person doing normal things – shopping, cooking, talking to people. If a novel is going well, however, I perform these tasks in a dream. It’s a wonderful feeling, this, but it doesn’t happen very often. When it does, I find that everything feeds into what I’m writing. The swing of somebody’s hair, the odd remark on the bus – they absorb themselves into the bloodstream of the story in a mysterious way, so my day is pulled into the subterranean flow of the novel.
At 6.30pm I’ll go back to my desk, have a glass of wine and another roll-up, and work for an hour. That’s the best time of all, and utterly essential. After that I watch TV.