Imogen Hermes Gowar was shortlisted for the 2018 Women’s Prize for Fiction with The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock. We caught up with Imogen to ask her about her workspace, and her writing process.

Where do you write?

I spent a huge amount of my time researching in the British Library, and in the editing stage I often take myself to a cafe, but when it comes to writing I am quite particular about my environment – I want near-silence and a bit of space – so I do most of that at home. Before moving to my current flat, which has the luxury of a study, my favourite writing spot was always the dining table very late at night, or in the daytime when everyone was out. There’s something excitingly illicit about having a shared space all to oneself; doing my creating when the world was asleep felt like stepping outside of normal time. I’ve got a nice desk now but I still choose the dining room table sometimes.

What do you have on your desk?

In a best-case scenario, not too much, as I find that makes my head feel cluttered. I always have a scented candle or an oil burner, which I’m aware sounds incredibly poncy, but there it is. There’s too much opportunity for self-flagellation in my writing process; this is something nice I can do for myself, and it sets up a quiet, meditative environment.

The other constant is a cup of tea. I’m certainly not the only Englishwoman to use it as punctuation for the day, but particularly so when I’m working at home. I’ll make a cup of tea to kick off a new chapter, or pause with one as a reward for finishing a tricky bit. Sometimes it’s just an excuse to leave my chair. I’ve got a tea-station in the study with a vast selection: you’ve got to keep things interesting.

Which is the most inspiring object in your workspace?

A great big bottle of red ink which once belonged to my partner’s grandfather. He was an architect, and his plans and drawings are so meticulous and detailed and beautiful. I never met him, but I like having something from his workspace in mine.

What can you see from your window?

A primary school playground! It’s quite nice being able to set my watch by their timetable. I can get a lot done between dropping-off time and morning play.