Living in Two Countries as a Writer

I live on the edge of a quiet, typically Spanish white village high in the mountains of Almeria in South-East Spain. We already knew the area as we had a holiday home there for a few years. Then we bought an olive grove and built a house in it. The best advantage I have found from living in Spain is an improvement in my health. Since I suffered badly from arthritis in the UK I was in much less pain and therefore able to pursue my writing, and my life, with fresh vigour. I’ve also found peace and tranquillity, of mind as well as body, all essentials for a writer.

When I write my family sagas about England, I find that writing from a distance gives me a rosier view, which seems to work well in fiction. Of course I have countless books on the area of the Lakes, where I used to live, and videos and recorded interview that I’ve taken when visiting. The downside is that the story can sometimes make me feel quite homesick. But then I have many readers in such places as Australia, New Zealand and Canada who love that sense of nostalgia, and reading about places they remember from their own youth back in the mother country.

I also write historical fiction and love researching the history of Russia, France, Spain or wherever, for these books. I do feel very European living in Spain, and have friends of all nationalities, which I think widens my perspective on life.

An advantage is my lovely Spanish garden, which I love, and is a wonderful place to relax in and let the creative juices flow.

The major disadvantage is in marketing and promotion. I used to do regular talks for libraries, the WI and other women’s organisations, but all of that has had to be greatly reduced, which is a shame. We now spend several months each summer in our holiday lodge in the UK, so I’m able to fit in some talks and events during those periods.

Fortunately, interviews can now be conducted online, as can blogs, chatting to my readers on Facebook, and other aspects of social networking. That in itself is demanding, but at least it doesn’t matter where I live. A writer is no longer dependent upon such events as talks, although I still love doing them, and always attempt to make them entertaining.

As well as Facebook, Twitter, a website and blog, I send out a regular newsletter to my readers, hold contests, prize draws and the occasional giveaway, and take part in many forums and loops. All part of being a writer. Wherever writers live they still have the problem of balancing time needed for writing with that spent on promotion. There’s no perfect solution.

On a more practical working level, as all contact with publishers is also available online, not only with emails but for copy-editing and proofs, it’s much simpler to work at a distance now than it used to be when I first moved out to Spain. Then I’d be waiting for parcels for editing or proof reading that never did arrive on time. The world is growing smaller and I have no regrets.

There is a certain myth that the weather is always hot in Spain. Brits have this vision of swimming in the pool in February. Well, let me explode that one. It ain’t gonna happen. True, it’s not as cold on the Iberian peninsula as it is back in the UK, and certainly warmer than Shap Fell where we used to live back in the 80s, but winters can be cold, windy and wet, which on really bad days can result in power cuts. Not good for a writer dependant on her computer but really quite romantic in a way. We light our candles and sit by our blazing log fire and read our books. What could be better than that? I feel I have the best of both worlds.

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