Welcome to My Home by Jeannette de Beauvoir
It’s very small, measuring about three and a half feet by two feet. It’s generally clean, very well-lit, and contains things that are either useful or that make me happy.
It is, of course, my desk.
I think a lot about the concept of home. I was fortunate to have a stable, lovely home growing up, a house out of a fairytale, truly; but as an adult I’ve been somewhat peripatetic, living in a number of different places and different environments… I’ve not always even been sure what country is home, much less what community. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I’ve grounded most of my fiction in a definite sense of place, why I’ve given my characters clear and generally beloved “homes.” They get something that’s eluded me.
The one constant throughout all my adult life has been—you knew we’d get back to it!—my desk. I once answered an author questionnaire that asked where I write, and I felt a little at a loss. I’m not very exciting. Apart from some very bad self-absorbed poetry I wrote when I was thirteen, self-absorbedly sitting in the towner of a castle, I’ve always worked at a desk. Conventional. Boring, even.
But oh, the places a desk can take you!
I may work at a desk, but I travel often, and there’s a lot on the desk that reminds me of what I saw and felt and learned on those travels. Behind my sensible pen box is a fan from Brussels, a bookmark reminding me of famous Oxonians, a pair of art deco scissors from France. Beside it, a small vase with fresh flowers—from my garden in season, from the grocery story out of it. Two icons. A small skull—memento mori—and a curious bottle labeled “Devastation Prevention Potion.” To the right, a lamp, a calendar, my daybook, and a coaster with a Hemingway quote (“Wine is the most civilized thing in the world”). I look at these things and I draw in a deep breath: this is home.
When I do travel, some of my desk travels with me. Wherever I stay, I find a desk-like environment in which to set up the minimum of my home. And when I travel to work, that means I can work comfortably, immediately inspired.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t look beyond my desk. I live now in a place I can definitely call home, where I have a place in the community, where I fit in. And yet always I start my days at the desk, putting in my morning pages, getting the work done. Starting from home.
None of my characters is a writer, so I’ve had to find other ways of integrating them into both their communities and into a sense of home within those communities besides the (admittedly facile) device of giving them a desk. Martine LeDuc grew up in Montréal and now works as the city’s PR director, and she is passionately in love with it, with every street, every building, her heart soaring as she turns a corner and sees more of it, afresh, every day. Sydney Riley’s relationship with Provincetown is a little more nuanced; she happened upon the town accidentally one winter after a bad breakup and was welcomed into its unique environment by the man whose murder would become her first foray into amateur sleuthing.
I love both of these places, Montréal and Provincetown. And I love that my protagonists think about what it means to live in them, finding their own objects and places and people that give them pleasure and solidify their sense of home. And I love exploring both places myself… though I always return to my desk.
What about you? What makes “home,” home? Is it a place? A person? A feeling? Would love to hear… comment here, on my Facebook page, or at my blog (where you can see photos as well), and let me know!
Jeannette de Beauvoir’s newest novel is book four in the Sydney Riley Provincetown mystery series, A Killer Carnival.
BIO: Award-winning author Jeannette de Beauvoir writes mystery and historical fiction that’s been translated into 12 languages. A Booksense Book-of-the-Year finalist, she’s a member of the Authors Guild, the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the National Writers Union. All her novels are firmly rooted in a sense of place, and her delight is to find characters true to the spaces in which they live. She herself lives and writes in a cottage in Provincetown, on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and loves the collection of people who assemble at a place like land’s end.