Authors-On-The-Go: Full-time House sitters, Bill Duncan and Catherine Lee

Authors-On-The-Go: Full-time House sitters, Bill Duncan and Catherine Lee

One of our favourites here at Better Reading is Jenn J McLeod. Jenn writes her novels while travelling Australia in her van Myrtle the Turtle. Over the next month, we’ll publish a series of interviews Jenn has done with authors who write from some unusual places – a boat, a van… even a tractor. We think you’ll enjoy reading about these Authors On-The-Go. This week, Jenn interviews Bill Duncan and Catherine Lee.

If you know of any authors who write On The Go… let us know.

1. Where do I write?
Catherine – at the moment we are full-time house sitters, meaning we travel from home to home looking after other people’s pets while they’re away. Sits can vary from a couple of days to a couple of months, so once we’ve made ourselves at home we usually each find a comfy corner of the house to work in. I prefer a laptop-on-the-knee approach and can often be found in the garden in my favourite camping chair.

Bill – I often change positions and locations to write, without any particular reason. I guess I just like to mix it up. You could find me at my portable standing desk, on a lounge, at the kitchen table, or a cafe benchtop. I’m not a big fan of writing outside, though, so I tend to leave that to Catherine.

2. What are the challenges of writing on the go?
Catherine – each time we move it takes a day or two to get settled and back into the routine of writing. Routines are important to me, so having them disrupted on a regular basis can sometimes be difficult. On the plus side, it’s teaching me to be more flexible.

Bill – Not having specific locations for my ‘things’ – diary, laptop, books, etc – is the biggest challenge for me. It gets me unsettled and I don’t tend to be as productive as I’d like to be because of it.

3. Best thing about writing on the go?
Catherine – seeing how other people live. Early in my writing career a good friend gave me a valuable piece of advice while I was complaining to her about a bad situation. “It’s all material,” she said. That advice stuck with me and nowadays I can’t tell you the number of homes of my fictional characters that are based on real-life house sits. Not to mention the animals!

Bill – The freedom. Seeing new locations and meeting new people. It’s always exciting, there’s no chance to get stale or stuck in a rut. And since we’ll be moving on again soon, it’s much easier to cope with any situations that aren’t as enjoyable or beneficial as we’d like.

4. Worst thing about writing on the go?
Catherine – house sitting makes it quite difficult to catch up with friends and writing colleagues. Often we can’t stay out late or travel too far because of the pets, or we can’t invite friends over because it’s not our house. So it can get a bit isolating, which is both good and bad depending on your perspective!

Bill – Missing family and friends is definitely the toughest part of being on the go.

5. What is the soundtrack you write to while on the go?
Catherine – I can’t listen to anything with words while I’m trying to write my own words. Music, the radio, loud conversations, these are all distracting to me, so I look for a quiet place to write.

Bill – I don’t need music to write, but if I want some I’ll usually browse Spotify for something that grabs me, then I’ll just let it keep going with other suggested songs. I did this on the last book and made a note of any of the songs that I really liked. By the time I finished the book I had a whole playlist to go along with it.

6. Do you think writing on the go has changed your author process?

Catherine – definitely. I used to believe I could only write at my own desk in my own office starting at precisely nine am, and if that didn’t happen I was completely unproductive. That has gone out the window, and I’m now happiest creating stories in random living rooms and backyards across the country. I still prefer to write in the mornings, but if dog walking or quirky household chores mean I don’t start until ten or eleven, so be it.

Bill – A little. I did have my morning writing routine before we hit the road. Being on the go is teaching me that I can still have those routines and achieve the productivity that I want regardless of any specific surroundings.

7. About the authors.
Bill Duncan and Catherine Lee are the Wandering Writers, creating stories while travelling across the country house-sitting and living out of their soon-to-be-fitted-out van called Wanda.


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  1. Jennifer Scoullar says:

    Lovely to read all about you guys! xx

  2. Veronica says:

    It was so nice to learn a little more about Catherine and Bill. Two of the nicest people.