Kamila Shamsie won the 2018 Women’s Prize for Fiction with Home Fire. We caught up with her to ask about her workspace and writing process to inspire other writers out there.

Where do you write? 

Where I don’t write is probably the most relevant detail: at my desk, at home, in London. That space is fine for articles, short stories, emails, and, thankfully, for novel edits – but the first draft of a novel seems to require me to be somewhere else. So Home Fire started in a fishing village in Brazil, continued at my family’s home in Karachi, and was finished at the Santa Maddalena writing retreat in Tuscany. As I read that over it sounds ridiculous, not least for the travel privileges – and yet, there it is.

This is the place where I first started writing the novel – I had a hard time getting going and it turned out what I needed was a desk with a view of the sea in the fishing village of Cumuruxatiba, in Brazil.

What do you have on your desk?

The bare minimum. In Karachi, where I still do most of my writing, I take my laptop out to a garden table. And that’s it. The London desk also has a printer, external monitor, and desk lamp.

Which is the most inspiring object in your workspace?

I wish I could find inspiration in objects. But insofar as inspiration exists I think you have to write your way into it.

But most of it was written where most of all my novels have been written – in my family’s home in Karachi, sitting on the verandah, with the garden cats as welcome distraction.

What can you see from your window?
In Karachi, in the winter, I write outside, with a garden laid out before me – bougainvillaea, garden cats, trees that will flower eventually but not yet. And crows and kites flying overhead.

It is my one requirement when it comes to a writing space – I can’t look at a wall. I need to either be outside or facing a window. Even if (as in London) the window looks onto a street with buses trundling past.

Strangely, not much of it was written in London even though it’s where I live and where most of the novel is set – but I did have to do some London research, including walking along the Grand Union canal from Maida Vale up towards Wembley – a walk which Eamonn in the novel later replicates.