As you read this, I am busy working on a new book. It’s been months in the making, gathering information, doing research, conceiving of and refining the outline, and now here I am, pounding away on my 1946 typewriter that I love. Including children’s books, poetry, nonfiction, and novels, it will be my 128th book.
And if you imagine me looking tidy and intellectual, sitting at my desk, think again….or ‘romantic’ and eating bon bons, the truth is very different than that. I bundle up in wool nightgowns, bathrobes, and old sweaters, or heavy wool jogging suits with hoodies to keep me warm, and pound away for 18 to 20 hours at a time, day and night. I forget to comb my hair, and don’t really care, I don’t bother to dress because I don’t go out. My only concession to civilization is to toss myself into the bath at the end of my working ‘day’, which can easily end at 5 or 6 am, after starting in the morning. I rarely if ever take a break, I eat my meals at my desk. And long before I finish work, my back is aching, my hands are hurting, sometimes my fingers even bleed from typing if I stay with it for a long time. I have ice mittens that I wear sometimes after work, for my aching hands. I dont take calls or read messages or mail while I’m writing. I plunge myself totally into the story for weeks on end. And that’s only the first draft. After that, I spend up to 2 years refining and editing the book, adding more research (even on contemporary stories), which is why I work on several books at once—otherwise you’d have a several year wait for each book, instead of publishing three a year.
I always get excited by the story, and it’s the only thing that seems real to me while I work. I love the characters and getting into their minds. My editor says I ‘channel’ the people I write about. And the reason why people say they couldn’t put a book down is because I don’t put it down while I’m writing it either. I just keep at it until the first draft is done—‘stealing it from the stone’ as Michelangelo said about his statues. And you can be sure that if you cry while you read them, I cried while I wrote them. And sometimes I laugh out loud at a funny part. It’s very intense work, and the hours and days fly by.
So if you’re wondering what I’m doing, that’s what I’m up to right now. Working on a book, and I hope you love it when it’s finally finished and I do all the editing on it, which will be a long time from now. Stay tuned……another story coming up!!!