I was stuck. I had been working on my second novel for more than a year, but there was no progress. I did not know where my story was going, who the characters were, and every time I sat down in front of my computer to find out, I ended up on Facebook, or doing fake research for hours … or just watching movies.
I told myself I was having really bad writer’s block, but deep down I knew very well that I just was a lazy, procrastinating Internet addict with no self-control.
One day, I had had enough. It was a Friday in November, in the middle of the day. I had got no work done all week, and it felt like my life was over even before it had started. On impulse, I suddenly deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts, poured down two large glasses of red wine, and called my mum and asked her if I could borrow my parent’s cabin for a couple of days. Two days later, I was on the plane. I had brought warm clothes, all my best pens, and lots of paper, while my computer was left back home in Oslo.
I arrived the cabin in the middle of the day, made coffee, and continued working on my humorous novel about Allis who almost by mistake takes a job as a gardener without knowing anything about gardening. After a couple of hours, I left the desk and went to the bathroom: the toilet was full of large spiders! I left the bathroom in horror, only to find out that while I was working, it had become completely dark outside. I could see people hiding behind the trees outside, looking in on me. I sat down, continued writing, then birds started screeching, owls hooting.
When it was time for bed, I was paralysed, too scared to cross the floor and go into the bedroom, afraid of what could be hiding in there, while all the time telling myself how silly it was to be thirty years old and afraid of the dark. I finally got to bed, and had constant nightmares. I suddenly woke up in the middle of the night, hearing a symphony orchestra playing outside, in the middle of the forest. I froze, until I realised it was just the sound of the river, right outside my door.
I stayed in that cabin for three weeks, alone and afraid, and when I finally returned home, I brought with me the first draft of a chilling, claustrophobic thriller.
The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn is out now and is published by Orenda Books (£8.99)
Two people in exile. Two secrets. As the past tightens its grip, there may be no escape… TV presenter Allis Hagtorn leaves her partner and her job to take voluntary exile in a remote house on an isolated fjord. But her new job as housekeeper and gardener is not all that it seems, and her silent, surly employer, 44- year-old Sigurd Bagge, is not the old man she expected. As they await the return of his wife from her travels, their silent, uneasy encounters develop into a chilling, obsessive relationship, and it becomes clear that atonement for past sins may not be enough…