Hard Questions (part 3)
As an author with Sourcebooks, I’m fortunate to have been granted the talents of a lovely publicist, Amelia, to help me launch my book. Poor lady. She’s forced to brainstorm ways to promote a complete unknown, and one of the many suggestions she made was that I might write about ‘my go-to place to write.’
Well. I was doubtful that anyone would care as I don’t have a rustic cabin in Maine or house overlooking the Atlantic with a Labrador and cool collection of sea glass in the windowsill. But she is working very hard, and I need all the exposure I can get, so I’ll give it a go. You might want to get comfortable.
I live in Chicago and I don’t have a picturesque space to write. Instead, I have rituals and routines. There are diets, legal drugs and superstitions at play, plus an insufferable self-involvement that doesn’t reflect well on me. But since Amelia asked…
Before I sold THE LONDON EXPLORERS series, I would happily write at coffee shops around Chicago. I wrote the “book of my heart” (Ben’s story, which pre-dates IN SEARCH OF SCANDAL) sitting in various Starbucks around Chicago.
After I was taken on by an agent and given direction and deadlines, I still needed the caffeine but, more importantly, a place without distractions. While writing, I can’t tolerate other people’s chatter, bad music (or awesome music) and icy air conditioning. My home is too full of the temptations of other books, and smudges on the glass desk that I really need to windex, and new lemon-anything recipes. So I had to find a place to write, but I also had to follow a routine.
As I work full-time, the bulk of my writing is done on weekends and that routine hasn’t really changed in the past few years. I wake and shower, drink a glass of iced coffee, and have avocado on toast for breakfast because… you know, brain food.
After dressing in one of the three time-tested, pre-assembled ‘writing-friendly’ outfits, I walk to the corner Starbucks, buy my coffee and walk the four miles from my neighborhood to my downtown writing space. The route is always the same. I walk past a pond that reminds me of the English countryside. I pass a 20th century conservatory that puts me in mind of Kew and the traveling botanists. Along the way, a lovely statue of Hans Christian Anderson makes me sad for The Little Mermaid, and there are a few blocks of historic homes in Chicago’s Gold Coast that elicit a block of homes in a Holland Park neighborhood I once saw in London.
By the time I reach my workplace, I am prepared to start. (You’ll note that I’m not actually disclosing where I work as I must preserve my secret sanctuary. It’s Chicago. Quiet don’t come easy.) I sit at a large table, play classical music, drink coffee and eat hard-boiled eggs. And when a deadline looms, I guiltily add Red Bull to the mix.
But for all my anti-social behavior, the best aspect of the space are my writer-friends—two women who are working towards MFAs at Northwestern. (Yes, Northwestern. They impress me, too.) I socialize with them outside of our writing room, so we don’t waste much time chatting. (And there have been chatterers in the past. They weren’t invited back.) We watch each others' things as one of us goes to the bathroom, ask how the writing’s going and answer in as abbreviated a manner as possible, and ignore each other as we stare into space creating. They are wonderfully focused writers and never distract me, as they’re busy doing things like analyzing Nabokov or INFINITE JEST and I’m flipping through a thesaurus for another word for ‘turgid.’ (I’m kidding.)
I would go into the weekday writing routine, but I imagine you’re already a bit sorry and let down from reading the other bit. Actually, I probably should have protected my ‘author mystique’ a little and put in some stuff about scented candles and Moleskine notebooks and deleted that bit about the eggs.
But despite knowing how very dull the writer is, I hope you enjoy reading my debut, IN SEARCH OF SCANDAL, this December. I would hate to let Amelia down.