Children’s Author Ian Irvine – The Writer’s Studio

Children’s Author Ian Irvine at work in his writing space.

I am fascinated by where writers write and how the space influences the story. I am starting a semi-regular series here about the writing spaces of children’s authors. The first to welcome us inside their cave is marine scientist and author of 27 novels, including the new Grim and Grimmer series, Ian Irvine.

Where did you write your new book, Grim and Grimmer: The Desperate Dwarf? How important to you is the space that you write in?
I wrote this book in my lovely office, upstairs at home, where I’ve done most of my writing for the past twenty years. I call it my office, rather than study, because I’ve been a full-time writer for the past eleven years. But also because I’m a marine scientist and I’ve run my consulting business at home for twenty-five years. Despite being a full-time writer, I still enjoy doing some scientific consulting, which has to do with pollution in rivers, harbours and the ocean.

I have a large, idiosyncratic office which I designed, with views of countryside in three directions, and not another house to be seen. The south half of my office is the literary part, where I write my books. The north half is the scientific side, where I do work related to marine pollution (and some writing). Originally the two sides were evenly balanced, but over the past decade writing has steadily encroached into my work office, which is where I’m writing this post. Soon writing may take over completely.

Children’s Author Ian Irvine’s Office

Do you transform your space into Wychwold, the setting for Grim and Grimmer, in any way? Do you ‘get into character’?

Not really. I do a lot of planning for my books these days; I draw maps and create fairly detailed worlds. I work out the plot in considerable detail, and sketch the character arcs, but then I just start writing. If I get into character at all, it’s only in my head as I’m writing. The bulk of my character development comes in the rewriting.

How has your writing space evolved since you first began writing novels?
I love my office, and it’s the place I work best, but over the years I’ve written in all kinds of places – cars, airports, coffee shops, the hammock in the backyard – in fact, wherever I happened to be with some spare time, back in the days when I was unpublished and had a burning urge to be a writer.

I wrote the whole first draft of one of my big fantasy novels, The Way Between the Worlds, in my spare time on a consulting assignment in Fiji. I’ve also written in a sweltering mine site donga on Horn Island in Torres Strait, at the top of a mountain in Papua-New Guinea, in Mauritius, Indonesia and the Philippines, and on long jobs for the World Bank in Korea. But that’s all long ago. I don’t travel nearly as much, thankfully, and most of my writing is done in my office these days.

Ian Irvine, Author

Do you keep regular writing hours? What are they? If not, when do you write?

I write seven days a week, when I have the opportunity. Writing is a job, but one I love so much that being unable to do it is a torment. I usually get to my office at about 7.30 am, work though until after lunch, then have a bit of a nap in mid-afternoon, read a book for a while and go back to writing. Unless the sun happens to be shining (which is rare where I live, in one of the wettest parts of Australia) in which case I go out and try to tame several acres of grass around the house.

Occasionally I’ll sleep in until 8.30. When I’m working to a furious deadline, I’ll often begin at 5 am or even earlier. I love that hour of the day, when the whole world but me is still asleep. When a deadline is really pressing, I find that the faster I write, the better the first draft is and the less editing it needs. Sometimes, in the madness of desperation facing an impossible deadline, I’ll write 50-60,000 words of first draft in a week, and those are wild, wonderful times because I’m in the zone the whole time and the story just flows from my fingers. But no one can work that like all the time. It has to be a desperate deadline.

Do you write on the computer or longhand? What combination of these do you use?
Almost entirely on computer these days. I wrote the first drafts of my first 6 novels in longhand (they averaged about 200,000 words each, so that was a wrist-aching effort), then typed them into Word, printed out each draft and did all my revisions on the printed page. But typing up the first draft became so dreary (I’m neither a fast or nor an accurate typist) that I began writing directly on computer ten years ago. I did corrections on printed drafts for another five years, until a time came when I was so overloaded with deadlines that I decided to edit directly on screen. These days I print virtually nothing, though I still keep each of the six, eight, ten or more drafts as a separate file. But I do miss the more leisurely method of working on the printed page. Some day, when I’m less busy, I may go back to it.

Grim and Grimmer: The Desperate Dwarf by Ian Irvine

Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
Get up at 5 am, 7 am or whatever time is required for current book deadlines. Make large pot of coffee and small bowl of muesli. Eat muesli in front of computer on the scientific side of the office and drink black coffee. Briefly check email, news, weather, and reply to questions on my Facebook author site, Tweet a few lines of one of my kids’ books,!/ianirvineauthor, then go across to laptop on the literary side (no distracting internet here), and start writing. Sometimes effectively, sometimes not.

Thanks Mr. Irvine. Good luck with the book. Next on Ian’s blog tour: Kid’s Book Review blog



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