Scene of the Crime – Elizabeth Heathcote

Scene of the Crime

Elizabeth Heathcote discusses the location and her routine while writing her addictive thriller UNDERTOW, out on 23rd February in paperback.

Posted on February 8, 2017 in Scene of the Crime
Tags: Crime books, Scene of the Crime, thriller, undertow

Undertow, my psychological suspense novel, took several years to complete. I was working, freelancing as a feature writer or working shifts at a newspaper, and writing fiction when I could. My two children were primary school age, so everything stopped at 3pm and in the school holidays.


I wrote the first chapter in an underemployed week in 2010, in my shed. Our house is small, so we put this up as a place I could work and we could store things. It’s not a swanky shoffice – we bought it as a flatpack, then a friend laid an electrical cable and phone line, and insulated it against damp and the worst of the cold.


It was rough and ready, the bikes had to come in with me and the windows were made of plastic, but I loved it. It was wonderful to have a dedicated place to work, and with the detritus of a young family all over the house, a space for my things. Somewhere to hide. I had shelves for my crime novels and writing books, a huge desk and an oil-heater. Once when I was interviewing someone over the telephone I looked up and screamed – a fox was staring at me through the window, inches away, standing on its hindlegs.


I worked, and wrote, and picked up the children, and then I found an agent who liked the look of what I was doing and suddenly it was time to get serious. I had to get a full draft written, and then another, and another.


The winters seemed to get harder. I would leave the house in the morning, wrapped in fleeces, hugging a cup of tea and my laptop. Once installed, it could be very cosy – my oil heater was excellent and the windows would steam up nicely. But with thin timber walls you are more exposed, to noise and the elements, and it can get wearing. If I needed the loo, I would tremulously cross the muddy lawn, often in bucketing rain, and find myself in a brightly lit kitchen of standard brick construction and want to stay there, basically. Until one day I did.


Now the shed has become more of a storage place, but my desk is still there, and I go back sometimes, for a quiet few minutes. To be honest I can’t believe how long I stuck it out – it is a shed after all. I have never tidied it out properly. The notes from the children above the desk are in first-formed letters, the pictures are stick figures, even though they are now at secondary school. There are post-its from the early days of Undertow, with long-abandoned plot lines I had entirely forgotten. A reminder of what a long journey a first novel can be.

By Elizabeth Heathcote

Undertow author's Elizabeth Heathcote's writing shed

The writing shed

Undertow author Elizabeth Heathcote's writing desk

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