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Nicola Barker: ‘Each novel has its own specially designed notebook. These are sacred objects to me’

The novelist on why she loves marker pens, Post-it notes and notebooks – and why she is a ‘clucky, agenda-driven mother hen’

I work on an old apple laptop that isn’t online – it’s heavy and the keyboard is worn. It tells you if a word is spelled incorrectly (in American English so all my Ss need to be Zs or the page is covered in irritable red marks) but it doesn’t suggest alternatives. Every so often a key locks and you’ll look down at the screen and see eeeeeeeeeeeeeee or ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;. It also likes to impose random gaps and spaces on to the text (in geometric boxes) that are impossible to remove so you have to copy the narrative and open a new document. When I completed my last book, H(a)ppy, I suspected that I’d need a new laptop and I bought one and began working on it but this one was online. And it was way more portable. So I began slouching on the sofa (instead of sitting at my desk) and working whenever I felt the urge.

The text seemed different, though. I’m not sure how or why. So I’m back to using my old laptop again and constantly muttering about its crappiness. Everything is slow and irritating. Even the clock is wrong. Part of me suspects that I enjoy an element of adversity – even welcome it. You only truly appreciate the stuff you battle for.

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