Just surfacing here from three nights at a hotel, largely spent writing my current novel but also having some alone-time, reading and thinking, staring out of the window, enjoying my solitude.
It's not really solitude though. I prefer to pick busy hotels rather than quiet country spots, because I like to hear city life going on around me while I work, the patter of toddlers' feet down the corridors, families moving in and out of rooms, the hum of traffic outside.
Too much noise would drive me crazy though, so I tend to pick hotels which have a high degree of noise insulation. City centre hotels, airport hotels, these are perfect.
I was staying at the Premier Inn - my chain of choice, because the beds tend to be very comfortable and the service is of a high quality, but relatively inexpensive - and I chose my favourite, only half an hour from where I live, the Coventry City Centre Premier Inn.
I wrote about 10,000 words, which isn't a huge amount for a three night stay, but had a very calming time of it, away from my kids and the constant interruptions of home. I had a large, comfortable room on the 4th floor, sat and looked out over the city lights at night, watched teenagers roaming the streets below me, shut my window whenever the sound of car stereos or sirens distracted me.
On my last night there, I was writing (as Victoria Lamb) a scene where Shakespeare, as a young theatrical, returns to his home town of Stratford, not far from Coventry, to see his wife Anne. Although sitting in a modern city centre hotel, it was surprisingly easy to imagine myself back in sixteenth century Warwickshire, for Coventry is a medieval city itself and steeped in history. Indeed, it's a city that Shakespeare would probably have known well; he may even have visited its magnificent medieval cathedral once or twice, now a burnt-out shell courtesy of bombing raids across the industrial Midlands during World War II.
It was quite a wrench to leave the hotel, but I have a trip up to Yorkshire booked for the end of the summer, where I hope to put the finishing touches to this novel. Meanwhile, I want to recommend the Coventry City Centre Premier Inn to travellers. I have stayed there many times over the past two years, while writing my Tudor novels, and can confirm that it is a great place to stay. All the staff there are invariably courteous, friendly and helpful. The cooked breakfast is probably the best I have ever eaten in a chain hotel in Britain - cooked to order rather than a buffet-style breakfast, with sausages and bacon bursting with flavour, and fluffy scrambled eggs (none of that runny mush you usually encounter). And the rooms are excellent: spacious, comfortable, very clean, and fully insulated from noise.
I only once had a problem while staying there, and that was when I was woken by a couple of noisy student-types eating a kebab outside my room at 3am. I rang down to reception, a burly security guard appeared after a few moments and moved them on, and in the morning I was told the cost of my room was being refunded.
It's also situated in the city centre, about 3 minutes on foot from the main shopping area, so when I get tired of writing alone in my room, I can pack up my laptop and saunter into Costa in Waterstones or Starbucks or whatever, and write there amidst the bustle of shoppers.
I expect the young Shakespeare left his digs in London and wrote in the occasional 'inn' too. The stories just seem to flow better in a crowd.