TS. Grace Burrowes is in my top three favorite historical romance writers. Great plots, well developed characters and humor! She granted this interview and I am thrilled. The glimpse into her writing world is unique and fascinating!
Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.
GB. I write at my kitchen table, though I don’t take meals there. The set up is me in the writing chair, a cat in my lap, or two cats curled up on the heated throw that covers the left end of the table. Writer dawg is at my feet, and I use a remote keyboard, so my laptop screen can sit at the ergonomically ideal height. This is bliss, to write with my four-footed buddies around, amid the peace and quiet of my nest.
Q. Do you have any special rituals when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)
GB. I start the day with one cup of jasmine green tea, with agave nectar and table cream—more bliss! I try to end a writing sessions with some trailers, or in the middle of a sentence, so my fingers will have something to do when I next put them on the keyboard. I also end the day reading over whatever I wrote that day, and when I get up, I set the alarm at least 30 minutes early, so I can stay in bed, drifting on the alpha waves and letting my imagination nosh on the book. This is a lovely way to ease into the day, and usually means I start a writing session with some creative compression. A line of dialogue, a symbolic detail of setting, something will get me out of bed and down to the computer.
Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?
GB. The older I get, the happier I am—and the more passionate. I didn’t see this coming. Women of a certain age are supposed to be sweet, quiet, and good-natured in their civic-mindedness, and I think for the most part I am. I’m also opinionated, articulate, discontent with the status quo, and vociferously supportive of any number of people and causes. Some women apparently feel as if they turn invisible in their later years, but I feel as I’m only now seen for myself, not my professional status, my earning capability, or my, um, measurements.
Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?
GB. Nope. I try to write before the day intrudes, as Ray Bradbury put it, but some days that’s not possible. I’m still a practicing child welfare attorney, and when I have to be in court, I absolutely, positively have to be in court. I usually get up early enough to do something writerly first thing in the day, even if it’s only to read yet again the words I wrote the day before.
Being a writer is not just a matter of slapping words onto a screen. I’m a writer when I’m sitting in court, noticing that the courtroom is set up so only the judge can see the clock without turning around. I’m a writer when I whip out my phone to jot down a cool new word. I’m a writer when I’m going for a walk just to clear my head. Writer is an identity, not simply a profession.
Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?
GB. This is an interesting question, because it implies that writing will conform to an arbitrary, consciously constructed schedule—It’s 10 am. Why aren’t you writing?—when I don’t think that’s always the case. We can pay attention to when we’re most inclined to write, to when the writing tends to go well, to when it doesn’t, and stack the deck in favor of productivity. Nonetheless, if I’m gnawing on a book and the words won’t come, it’s usually because they’re not ready to. I might not have enough of a premise, or I’m writing myself into a plotting corner, or I’ve overlooked some other structural weakness that’s emerging as I pile up the scenes I can see.
The lack of “motivation” to write is usually accompanied by an inability to stop thinking about the book. I also find that periods of great productivity must be balanced with periods of rest, of not producing anything. I can rack up big words counts, but 100 good words are more progress than 1000 mediocre ones. If I want 1000 good words, I have to rest my craft from time to time.
For writers who are truly, truly procrastinating—They have time, they have scenes in their heads, they have all the tools polished and plugged in, and still… no words—those writers are probably wrestling with non-writing issues such as fear of failure or success, familial boundaries, imposter guilt, or some other demon. All I know to do when my head is taking me out of the game, is to make the smallest step in the direction of where I want to be.
Sit at the computer and open the document. Stare at it for five minutes. If no words, then repeat three times a day.
Read over the MS from the beginning. Again.
Try a writing prompt, a character interview, anything that moves your imagination closer to the project you’re trying to complete.
Read your keepers. Read craft books. Just keep churning the compost, and looking for ways to inch closer to the goal if you can’t sprint in that direction.
Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?
Join us for Part 2 of this wonderful Interview Nov. 19th
My BLOGS feature INTERVIEWS with best-selling AUTHORS! October Author, Lisa Jackson. November will be best selling author, Grace Burrowes and in December, Reed Farrel Coleman, contributing writer for Robert B. Parker series
Check out Motivational Moments…for Writers!