Where I Write Chapter 5: Jeremy Hinchliff

This week we’re talking to Jeremy Hinchliff, author of the crime novel Dead Olives which will be released in July this year. 

My writing days start earlier and earlier. Pre-dawn rising began some years ago so I could get something written before going to work. I thought I would one day return to writing at night, but in Greece the early habit became more obsessive. I was surrounded by the land of small farmers whose days began at cock crow.  With tractors, olive threshers and buzz saws starting up from 7.30 am I became a neurotically early riser.

Bookshop sign in Kalamata 2015 016
Bookshop sign in Kalamata

My situation in Taunton is not good for writing. It’s a nice town but I don’t know how long I’m going to be there and I can’t settle into a rhythm or fill my flat up with things that evoke solidity or pleasure. The temporariness is best illustrated by my bed made from three burst air mattresses. I didn’t expect to be here long enough to burst even one.

Sunset at the back of my house.JPG
Sunset behind my house

I miss the little house I had in Greece where I knew I could stay as long as I wanted. Because of the financial situation the rent tended to go down from one year to the next. It’s not often you can say that.

The biggest obstacle for me when I write is peripheral noise. When I am actually putting pen to paper I have the most mobile set up I can. I sit on a light garden chair that can easily be moved away from noise and I write onto a pad on a flat cardboard box or a chopping board.

Greek fire.JPG
Greek fire

Walks are important to me for ideas and for recovering from writing. In Greece I could walk for miles without meeting anything but a goat, a guard dog, or a lizard.

To be in a country where the language is not your own is certainly a factor in how you write. It is another source of loneliness in a way.  I could always read Greek quite well. My listening improved over the time I was there but there were still days when I could not understand a word coming out of anyone’s mouth. It probably helped.

I came to love Kalamáta, the nearest city, and the warm, sociable evenings when everyone meets sooner or later at the central fountain and the generations mix.

To me it’s a healthy sign amid the country’s many troubles. There’s no feeling of threat and it’s a joy just to sit and watch people.

Kalamata night life.JPG
Kalamata night life

The reason for my first trip to Kalamáta, a bus ride of about an hour, was the most old fashioned of writers’ reasons. My pens had run out. Although I use a laptop for most of my writing I still use pen and paper for first drafts. I cannot stand writing in blue biro and there were no black pens available in the nearby villages. It didn’t feel very 21st century to storm into town on the much delayed bus for a pack of pens so I made use of WiFi and other modern things while I was there.

Tayegetos big snow 2015 037
Snow-covered Taegetos across the bay

From my window in the non-winter months dawns were visible breaking on the bay.  The only thing that might hinder the view was a little white cat springing up for a game of stare. But you can’t have a piece about writing without a cat in it.

Small cat crop


More about Dead Olives

Dead Olives by Jeremy Hinchliff.jpgWith Greece caught in the jaws of economic crisis, the lives of its people are spiralling into disarray. Sunday and Samwells Ngone are migrants struggling to survive in a country rife with poverty and patrolled by right-wing militias. Filoxénia is trying to carve out an independent life for herself in the city, while her beautiful sister Anássa is keeping dangerous company. Their lives are brought together by events at the FlyKing Hotel. A theft. A shooting. And the flight of a group of migrants who all share one name. The intertwined lives of Greeks as disparate as policemen, academics and anarchists will be exposed. As economic and racial tensions flare, old friendships are tested and loyalties broken. Ripples from the FlyKing are felt throughout the already turbulent city of Athens and the small village of Páno Pétro.

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