Belfast Telegraph

Novelist Kate Atkinson: How an aggressive sort out helps me write

The author is a guest on Desert Island Discs.

Best-selling novelist Kate Atkinson has revealed one of the secrets of her success – a tidy chest of drawers.

The prize-winning Behind The Scenes At The Museum author removes the clutter before embarking on a new book.

“I do finding sorting incredibly therapeutic because it’s mindless yet it’s purposeful. It helps me think,” she tells Desert Island Discs.

“I’m starting to think about writing a new one [novel] and I am aggressively sorting out my drawers at this moment in time.

At the back of my mind I always knew I was going to be a writer Kate Atkinson

“There’s something about mindlessness, as opposed to mindfulness, that I think is very creative.

“It allows your brain some space to start doing a lot of unconscious thinking and then you have very tidy drawers at the end of it,” she tells Lauren Laverne.

Atkinson, 66, who published her first novel in her early 40s, believes her success has been “predicated on failure”.

And the York-born author says that she possesses “an imaginary sense of smell”, which helps with her writing.

I became a writer because I couldn't do academic writing anymore Kate Atkinson

“That helps because the past smells completely different to the present,” she says.

Atkinson, whose Jackson Brodie detective stories were adapted into the Case Histories TV series, says that leaving university without completing her PHD “was the making of me”.

She “went thought a grieving period” after failing her doctorate, but began writing stories and found it “much more fulfilling”.

Atkinson worked in various jobs, from a legal secretary to home help, before she was able to make a living as an author.

“At the back of my mind I always knew I was going to be a writer and I shouldn’t be misled by other things or worry I was bringing my children up in near poverty.

“I just had this feeling I was going to be successful,” she says.

Kate Atkinson is on Desert Island Discs on BBC Sounds and BBC Radio 4 today at 11:15am.

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