Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Writers' rooms /Alexander Masters


Alexander Master's writing space. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe

Writers' rooms: Alexander Masters

Saturday 6 June 2009

There's no pattern about the way I write, except it's always the first thing I do. I wake up anywhere between 4am and 10am, depending on the merriments of the night before or if a dream jolts me, then scribble, type or slash through yesterday's work till I start to feel a little sick from not eating. Breakfast is unhealthy; it makes me sleepy and stupid, so I put the nasty business off as long as possible. It was kedgeree today. (Zoom into plate and spoon, you'll see the yellow blobs. A spoon is the only safe way to cope with rice in bed.) When my girlfriend's here (that's her book, under the plastic flowers), I leave her sleeping and go to Haminados café up the road. That man never sleeps. Then once she's up I come home, close the curtains, leap back among the covers and, with any luck, don't use my legs again until about four.

The crocodile is my talisman. He was the first thing I drew for publication, was on the cover of the hardback of Stuart: A Life Backwards, and makes an appearance in my next book too. I bought him desiccated, rolled into a ball, and had to soak him in the bath for a week before he'd uncurl. Thrills - the book above the oil painting - is there because it's gorgeous.

The biography I'm working on at the moment is about a genius mathematician I know who tussles with something so large and mysterious that it's called "the Monster". So I have to learn mathematics and (to unravel what the contented character is babbling about) doodle cartoons, caricatures and comic strips, which merge in and out of the text. He thinks the Monster explains the symmetries of the universe. He says it is the voice of God.

My last place was a Suffolk shooting lodge by woodland. On the days I woke early there, I'd sit 15 feet up, in a deer-shooting perch strapped to a tree. That was the best study of all time: 5am, wrapped in blankets, with my gasman's clipboard, a thermos of coffee, and deer trotting below me through the mist.


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