T.S. Eliot once said “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons,” and I certainly feel like that about my writing career (although unlike Eliot, I see this as a positive thing!) This rich, chestnut-coloured liquid (I take mine straight) has fuelled bursts of inspiration and helped settled my nerves after a rejection. And it always accompanies a baked treat if there is cause for celebration. Like nothing else (okay, apart from my husband and kids) coffee has been a steadying influence along the rollercoaster journey of becoming a published author. It’s a big part of my writing life and inspired my next novel out in May, The New Beginnings Coffee Club. Hands up, I’ve conducted something of a love affair with this drink, for many years now. As have many writers. Legend has it that Lee Child drinks 30 cups of the black stuff, every day!
So is it the caffeine that attracts me? No – purists brace yourselves, but I only drink decaff. Yet decaffeinated coffee has come a long way in the last five years, with restaurants and cafes going the extra mile and installing machines that will produce it, instead of offering only instant. I don’t get that chemical hit. So what’s the attraction? For me its the flavour, its richness, the warmth. I always drink coffee with a biscuit or cake. So no doubt my hit is from that sugar. Nothing keeps me at my desk like an large Americano and slice of cake like the banana loaf below. Just the smoky, roasted aroma makes me feel settled and ready to put finger to keyboard. Perhaps this was why playwright John van Druten said “I think if I were a woman I’d wear coffee as a perfume.”
Having said that, we’ve all, at some point, drunk a bad cup – yet still finish it, even draining the dregs. And I think author Edward Abbey summed up how I feel, when he said “Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second.” It’s as if my authorly brain sends out messages to consume, regardless of flavour, because it knows that beautiful liquid is a necessary creative tool!
At least five times a week I go into a coffee shop ( and I did work out the maths of how much that means I am spending in a year, and needed a lie-down afterwards!) This breaks the routine of my stay-at-home author job. Sometimes I meet friends, writerly or not. Often though, I just go on my own and spend the time planning out the next chapter of a book. A change of surroundings can be hugely inspiring. And, as explained in the picture below, going out for a coffee means so much more than just going into a shop.
Novelist Gertrude Stein certainly agreed that there is something special about the experience of drinking coffee:
“Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup.”
I loved writing The New Beginnings Coffee Club, which is about a cafe, in a small village, that has a real community feel. Jenny Masters’ charmed existence comes crashing down around her ears. Can a little bit of caffeine really help her become the woman life always intended her to be?
This book features my most favourite character ever and if you love feel-good stories – and coffee – it’s up for preorder here.