You Write What You Eat and Drink

The Times asks a number of writers about their eating and drinking habits while they write their books. Here’s Alexander McCall Smith’s answer:

The first writing session in the morning is accompanied by a latte, which I

make myself. I can get a really foamy milk using one of those high- powered

Swiss whirry things. I have a drawer filled with lots of modest squares of

chocolate, so I’m allowed one of those after lunch. I think chocolate is

society’s great moral problem. Not only does it expose weakness of the will,

but it gets you at your most vulnerable point. Peppermint tea goes down very

well. But when I’m writing the sets of chronicles (the 44 Scotland Street

series, or the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, for example), I drink Rooibos

(Redbush) tea. In theory it would be nice to write with a nice glass of wine

in the evening, but I don’t think that it works. It just slows one down. I

have in the past written after a glass of wine and, reading back, I realised

it wasn’t a very good idea. I write very well at the dinner table. I take a

notebook, and when I’m on tour, will sit at the hotel table in a melancholy

fashion and make notes and have ideas. You feel less tragic, less

conspicuous if you’ve got a notebook.

And Val McDermid’s response:

I quit smoking a few years ago. Cigarettes were such a punctuation to the

writing process I was worried their absence might be a bit of a nightmare.

Then I discovered Smints, those tiny mints that come in a blue box. In spite

of their size, they pack a sinus-clearing punch and are completely

addictive. I moved from 30 fags a day to a 40-pack of Smints. Luckily

they’re sugar-free. When I’m writing, I like small sweet treats. Chocolate

raisins and those Australian soft raspberry liquorice chunks are perfect

because I can kid myself that they’re really fruit and part of my

five-a-day. It’s pitiful, really. I’ve just kicked a serious Diet Coke habit

as well. On a heavy day’s writing, I could get through six cans. Now I’m

drinking water with the occasional cappuccino. Making the coffee is a great

distraction. I can get a whole ten-minute break out of the process. Which is

almost better than the caffeine kick itself.

What of the rest of you? I started off my day with espresso-strength coffee and am getting ready for my standard granola/fat free yogurt/banana breakfast…though there will be some sort of chocolate later in the day because, well, it’s chocolate.