I have never liked fountain pens or fiddling about with nibs and messy ink cartridges, so my favourite pens have always been ballpoints. I tend to favour slimline versions, usually in black, white or silver, and I prefer black ink to blue, although having at least one with red ink comes in handy when doing my accounts. A lovely little pen with a Jane Austen quote along the side (Perfect happiness, even in memory, is not common) is a current favourite, but it does have a habit of losing itself at the bottom of my handbag. I am also a sucker for souvenir pens, picked up as reminders of places I have been, including a gorgeous sky blue one liberated from our honeymoon room at ‘Sandals’ in Jamaica.
Whenever I order business cards or other printed material, I am usually tempted to have the same design put onto a pen or two. I have one celebrating our wedding, with the same design we used on our invitations, and a few with the cover image and tag-line from my last novel which were intended as competition and PR give-aways but I can’t bear to part with most of them! I also own two Swarovski crystal ballpoints, one in white and one in black, and a lovely heavy pewter pen with an elaborate Celtic design that I bought in a museum in Wales, but somehow they seem too good to use every day, and I do hate that moment when a posh pen refill runs out and I have to seek out a new one that fits. The pen I am using most at the moment is a cheap and cheerful souvenir from the Queen’s yacht Britannia, although the pattern has almost completely disappeared from constant wear.
I have a big collection of notebooks, from tiny handbag-sized throwaway ones for impromptu notes to lovely big chunky ones that I like to take with me to writing courses and conferences, largely ‘for show’, and (courtesy of Vistaprint) I also had a few made up with the cover image of my new novel on the front. I don’t like anything bigger than A5 so it can fit comfortably in my handbag. Brand is not important to me, but design is. A pretty cover, lined paper, and easily removable sheets rate highly when it comes to a working notebook, although I must confess to owning some that will never get used because they are just too good to scribble in or rip apart. As I keep a daily writing diary, the very best notebooks tend to be reserved for that, so I get to handle them every day, and keep them forever, even after they are full. My current one is a solid hardback from Paperchase, featuring silver owls on a navy background, with a magnetic flip-closing cover. Beautiful!
I have been hoarding special paperclips and bulldog clips for some time, although I only use the very ordinary utilitarian office varieties day to day. I have clips in just about every colour imaginable, and several extra-large novelty ones featuring cats and elephants (two of my favourite animals), hands and feet, and even a piano. I like multi-coloured and unusually shaped post-it notes too – very handy for marking pages in a manuscript or sticking to the desk or computer to remind myself of tasks to be done – but I do buy far more than I ever use.
My latest novel ‘Lily Alone’ was published by Harper Impulse as an ebook on 15 June, with the paperback to follow in October. Having written women’s magazine fiction for around twenty years, and had two novels and a non-fiction book published, under my former name of Vivien Hampshire, this will be my first major project using my new married name of Vivien Brown. It marks a change in genre for me too, as I move away from conventional romance into something a little more thought-provoking, emotional and dramatic. ‘Lily Alone’ asks the question: Would you leave a two-year old alone at home, even just for a few minutes? Anything could happen! And, of course, it does. I love the striking blue and red cover that Harper have commissioned for it, as it captures perfectly all the poignancy of a frightened toddler finding herself all alone with only her teddy for comfort. And, as for stationery, my main character, young single mum Ruby, has to re-use junk mail envelopes and buy cheap packs of supermarket biros that leak. To me, that sums up her dire financial situation more than anything else ever could!