TS. Lauren Willig is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than twenty works of historical fiction, including Band of Sisters, The Summer Country, The English Wife. An alumna of Yale University, she has a graduate degree in history from Harvard and a JD from Harvard Law School. She lives in New York City with her husband, two young children, and vast quantities of coffee.
Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? (your shed, room, closet, barn, houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.
LW. I’m a lifelong New Yorker, so the idea of having a special space to write in is like science fiction to me—something fantastical one reads about in books.
For the duration with the pandemic this is the very messy desk I work at now that I’m at home —it’s an ancient roll top I’ve had since grad school and will probably collapse on me once of these days. Or I’ll collapse on it. You never know. Before quarantine, I was that person in Starbucks glaring fiercely at anyone else trying to lay claim to my favorite table and tip-tapping away as a nurse one caramel macchiato for three hours straight. I love working at Starbucks. Not only do they provide you with caffeine, but Starbucks baristas are the nicest people on earth. I am so grateful to my local crew for always asking about the book and never laughing when I manage to coat myself in coffee because I’m thinking of something else and don’t realize the cup is turned the wrong way. It was an utter wrench when the pandemic shut down New York in mid-March and I had to retreat to my own desk and a hastily purchased Nespresso machine. But I’ll be back, Starbucks! I swear!
This is me and my favorite pink topsiders and my favorite table in my favorite Starbucks. ——>
Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)
LW. After I turn widdershins four times around the table, reciting ancient runes and performing Ye Olde Dance of the Chykkene…. No, not really. There must be caffeine, but that’s about it. Did I mention the caffeine?
Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?
LW. People always seem fascinated by the fact that I don’t know how to drive. I’ve been the proud possessor of multiple expired learners’ permits over the years, but I never actually seem to get past the paper test to the bit where you sit behind a wheel and actually, you know, make the car go. Which, since I have no sense of direction and tend to be easily distracted, may actually be better for everyone.
Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?
LW. Every book starts with the research immersion phase, where I read, read, and read some more. No note-taking, just reading and absorbing. After a few months of immersing myself in the historical background, I get out the loose leaf paper and my ancient Scottish National Portrait Gallery clipboard and scrawl notes to myself: character notes, rough stabs at outlining the first few chapters, scraps of dialogue. And then I pack up my trusty little laptop, haul myself off to Starbucks, swig my caramel macchiato, and totally ignore everything I wrote on those pieces of paper as the characters take over.
LW. My most productive writing hours have always been between roughly ten and three. For the past few years, my writing time has been largely bounded by my first my daughter’s and now my son’s preschool schedules. The preschool is a three hour a day program, so I drop off the child in question, sprint the five blocks to the nearest Starbucks, park myself at the first available table, and write like crazy before realizing it’s five minutes to pick-up, packing up, and sprinting off to be the last mom on the pick-up line. Again.
Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?
Join us for Part 2 of this funny and insightful interview.
Coming soon: My review of Band of Sisters, a far reaching saga of a band of Smith College women who volunteer behind ‘the front lines’ during WWI.
My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with best-selling AUTHORS! October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica
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