Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Learning to Juggle—Writer's Style

Today my guest is Sharon Lathan, who has joined the ranks of fan fiction writers. Her debute novel is entitled, Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy ~ Two Shall Become One. Sharon talks a bit about a reoccuring theme that seems to resonate with all writers, balancing life and writing.

I can barely manage to toss one ball into the air and catch it without stumbling, let alone two or three. So, no, I am not talking about that kind of juggling! Rather, I am talking about writer’s juggling. This is a phenomenon that I would hear other authors talking about but until recent months I did not comprehend for myself. I suppose it has many names – a friend called it ‘deadline hell’ – and can involve different aspects of the publishing/writing/life game, but it amounts to the same thing: Finding some way to ‘do it all’ and not have your head explode! The kids may find that amusing, but you and I know who would have to clean up the mess.

I got a hint of it last year when I had to pause in writing new material to focus on the editing stages for my first book. It wasn’t too bad, though, since I was given plenty of time. In addition, the edits were relatively minor and the whole process was so new and thrilling that I delved in with gusto!

Then followed several months of nothing - the “lull” I called it. I am a novice, a publishing virgin as it were, but I had gleaned enough of the process to know that craziness was acomin’! So I took advantage of those months, immersing myself into the Darcys and writing furiously. It was fantastic. So fantastic that it was like a cold slap of water in the face to have to put that creativity aside.

2009 had loomed in my mind for ages. That was the year when my fortunes would change. *she hopes* March (and then again in September) are when my first novels would arrive. In my enthusiasm there were moments when I thought the days would never pass! Then Father Time did his thing and the calendar flipped over – it was January and barely had the first week ended before my Inbox was inundated with emails: My publicist telling me about the guest blogs, interviews, and ARCs sent out; my editor sending me the first editing notes on my second novel; other Sourcebooks staff asking me for a synopsis, photographs, and book cover ideas…….

It was a bit overwhelming but thrilling nonetheless. I was forced to buy a planner as the small pocket-type calendars that I had used for years were inadequate. Fortunately I am blessed with extreme organizational skills. Alright, OCD! Call it what it is, Sharon! I probably spent way more time than necessary writing notes and studying each website I was to guest on, but I think it paid off in the quality of the essays I wrote. I had determined to do whatever it took, to go well above the requirement, exhaust myself even. I never wanted to look back upon this time with regrets or the fear that something I did or did not do had lead to the failure of my novel.

That is where juggling became a vital skill. Discipline became extremely important. I am a highly disciplined person by nature, thank God, but in my writing I had not been forced to apply the talent. I love to write of the Darcys and I love the research, so if anything the difficulty arose in pulling myself away from the laptop to do laundry or vacuuming – blech! But now I had serious timeline and deadline issues. On the upside, I also had a ready excuse NOT to do the laundry or vacuuming! Ha! The family fell for that one and pitched in big time….shhh!

I wonder how actual jugglers feel as they train and perform. Is it a combination of exhilaration as the items whirl through the air, moving with the precision they work so diligently to attain mixed with the heart-stopping, jittery anxiety that they will mess up with bowling pins crashing onto their heads and the audience laughing in ridicule? I have no idea (remember, she can barely throw a ball), but the analogy sound apropos. And then there is the possibility that an incredible feat of aerodynamic dexterity will be accomplished only to have the crowd stare blankly, utterly unimpressed. Ouch!

Now I am on the downward slide. It is March 18 and the book has officially been out for some 3 weeks but actually for sale since late January. The guest blogs are written and have mostly all posted. The bulk of reviews have come in. Essentially the marketing machine is running on its own steam.

And I have mixed feelings about it.

One the one hand it is a tremendous relief as I was frankly exhausted and literally my health was suffering. Plus, for nearly two months now I have been unable to even consider writing new material. Now I am able to turn back to what enticed and captivated me in the first place: writing of the Darcys.

Yet, on the other hand it is like when the party ends or the visitors finally leave. Bittersweet. I already miss the heady excitement and zeal. Will it ever be this way again? I’ll let you know in September, but a tiny part of me knows that an experience the second or third time around is never quite as amazing as the first.

So I am very glad for the notes and calendar markings and blog pieces and photographs. They are a solid reminder of this incredible period of my life, no matter what happens with my book. I think the bowling pins fell on my head a time or two, but I have learned so much and would not change any of it for the world.

Thanks, Sia, for hosting me. It has been fun to talk about me for a change rather than just my saga! LOL. But, just so everyone knows: “Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy ~ Two Shall Become One” is available everywhere. Details about my debut novel and the entire series are found
on my website: http://www.darcysaga.net/

Sharon Lathan is a native Californian currently residing amid corn, cotton, and cows in the sunny San Joaquin Valley. She divides her time as homemaker nurturing a husband and two children, plus the cat, dog, and fish; while also working as a Registered Nurse in a Neonatal ICU. Somewhere in there she finds time to write!

A little bit about Sharon's journey in writing Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy ~ Two Shall Become One:

Over Thanksgiving weekend of 2005 I entered a movie theater with my best girlfriend and teenaged daughter to watch Pride & Prejudice starring Kiera Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen.

To my stunned amazement I walked out of that theater not only sporting a heart swelling with romantic sentiment and warm fuzzy feelings running amok, but I would soon embark on a pathway that would change my life.

I spent two months reading everything by or about Jane Austen (including Pride & Prejudice), and perusing the scribblings found on the plethora of Austen related websites. Always I was searching for the tale of Lizzy and Darcy’s subsequent life as I imagined it. I never found it. Finally, almost as an epiphany, but with a heavy dose of self-amusement and doubt, I deliberated writing down what I saw flashing endlessly through my brain. Thus, on a lark and with nary a shred of future consideration, "The Wedding Night" was written as a short story. The positive response was enormous, so I continued on. Before I fully understood what I was embarking on, I was wholly immersed. Like Mr. Darcy and his love for Elizabeth, I was smack in the middle of it before I recognized what I had started!

"Two Shall Become One" was born.


Margay Leah Justice said...

Sharon, I know what you mean about trying to get back into the swing of writing in the lull following a promo blitz. I'm still trying to do it. Too bad I have so many ideas kicking around in the head. If I only had one, it would be so much easier to choose what to work on!


Sharon Lathan said...

Hi Margay! It is funny but for all the weeks I was immersed in the marketing stuff I itched to get back to the basics. Then, the first days that I did not have a pressing concern I felt a bit lost! LOL! I goofed off on Facebook and other stupid stuff. It was like I did not quite know what to do with myself for a couple days and could not switch gears. Then, just as I opened up my Word doc. to get into it, my publicist sends me another interview to do! LOL! I was thrilled, of course, but also wanted to cry!!

Thanks for stopping by!

Margay Leah Justice said...

That happens to me, too, Sharon! Here's hoping we both jump back into the writing phase.

Mickey said...

I like the premise of your novel. Recently the NY Times Book Review described several books about Jane Austin's life. I read one called something like "The World of Jane Austin" which took parts from her novels and explained them in context. For instance, the social etiquette of the time, or the difference between the homes of the various social classes, etc. Very cool.

I think, by the way, we might be almost neighbors because I live just north of the San Joaqin valley.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Sharon, I wanted to tell you that I have your book on order, Yay! Maybe it will be in when I stop by the bookstore on my way to the doctor today.

I loved all the special bits of info you have on your website. I encourage everyone to take a look at Sharon's website, It's amazing and fun to read!

Cheryl Brooks said...

I can so relate to this post, Sharon! I've been juggling a lot since my first book came out, and now that I'm celebrating the release of my third, I can tell you that it doesn't get easier. There are more things going on all the time, and the demands on your time will increase exponenitially. Sometimes it's fun things, and sometimes it's not, but it will certainly keep you busy!
Congrats on the new release!

Sharon Lathan said...

Thanks Sia! I do hope you enjoy my take on Darcy life. :) And I appreciate the kudos on my website. I confess that I do think it pretty fabulous!

Hi Mickey! I live just below Fresno in the middle of nothing, although that describes most of the Central Valley! LOL. The article you reference sounds very interesting. I love learning about Jane (although we know so little) and the world she lived in. Thanks for stopping by.

Hi Cheryl! Nice to see you here. I wish it got easier, but I did not really anticipate that it would. Ha! At least I now know what to expect, so can plan ahead a bit more and know where to give a bit.

Sheila Deeth said...

I have just finished reading the book and will be writing a review as soon as the weather, the computers, and the family cold, give me time to think. It was great to read a bit more about you and the experience of getting published.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Sheila, give a hint girl! Sheesh, just pop in and torture us, lolol! Is Darcy wonderful in this one? C'mon...a little bit to tease us?

~Sia McKye~ said...

Cheryl, thanks for stopping by and thanks for sharing some of your insights.

I know that many writers would love to just write, hand it off to the editors and then just get back to writing. The perfect life. But these days, promotion is a neccesary job and is as important as writing a good book. You want people to READ that good book and justify the time and effort you put into it. I think that some would be fun, but much is tedious. But attitude is everything and I'm glad to say, your persona online never reflects anything but positives. You're friendly and approachable and human with some of your status comments. Reminds everyone that even fabulous writers have their glitches in life. :-)

Sharon Lathan said...

Ha Sia! You read my mind! I was reading between Sheila's lines trying to glean her opinion!

I do hope you loved my novel Sheila. I am learning to take the criticism but it isn't fun!

And don't worry Sia - My Darcy is Wonderful. :) Too wonderful according to some. Not sure why but there is the crowd who apparently wants Darcy to be mean to Lizzy, unhappy with her in some manner, the two of them fighting and miserable, etc. It drives them insane that I show a loving couple who genuinely enjoy each others' company - and have hot loving! Guess that isn't desired for Austen's beloved couple either. *shrugs*

And I appreciate your words about my attitude. At least I am assuming you were talking to me! Maybe you were talking to Cheryl, and that would be true as well! LOL! As for glitches in life - I have no idea what you are talking about. ;)

Lynnette Labelle said...

I'm juggling a lot right now, but am hoping I'll have more time to write once the twins are in school. Please tell me it's so... ;)

Lynnette Labelle

Sharon Lathan said...

Indeed it is easier when the kids get older, Lynette. I am 100% certain I could not have managed this when my kids were young. Perhaps I should be thankful God did not jumpstart my talent until now! Thanks for stopping by, and good luck!

Dana Fredsti said...

I'm trying to juggle job/writing/life, but keep dropping those dang balls...

~Sia McKye~ said...

Oh God, Dana, me TOO! I was thinking today, who do I know that could lend me, ohhhh say, 4 more hours? Lolol! Gah.

Looks like your Ripping The Bodice is doing well, Dana.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Sharon, my indie bookstore didn't have your book in yet. Booo! I'll have it next week.

As to your comment about having the Darcys unhappy, I would say, Why? Jane Austen wrote it in such a way that they had huge conflicts to overcome. But they DID overcome them, which is why they got together. Now I can see some problems arise here and there with their interactions and adjustments to married life--especially with Darcy's temperment and pride. I'm sure you have conflicts they have to resolve in there.

But I don't understand why people would want them miserable. That wouldn't be true to Jane Austen, IMO.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Cheryl, your book wasn't in yet either, darn it. sigh. So I became a temp rep for your publisher and talked up the wonderful books put out by Sourcebooks--and there are some excellent books. Gave them the brief blurbs, as I could remember them, and encouraged them to carry Sourcebooks. I had already spoken to one of the book buyers about a close friend with SB that was soon to be published and they really liked the premise of her books so they planned on ordering them. Now I have to work on the rest of the books. What I'm going to do, is once I've read them, is let the buyers read them--should work, no?

Lauri said...

Sia, thanks for stopping by my blog!
This post was very interesting. The book about the Darcys sounds very interesting. I didn't know exactly what fan fiction was until now. I just looked it up.


~Sia McKye~ said...

Lauri, my pleasure.

I learned to love some fan fiction years ago as a Star Trek fan. I loved the addtional books and adventures based on those characters. While I don't follow all fanfiction spin offs, there are those I do like.

I'm a big fan of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen. I've read about everybook either of them have written. The resurgence of interest and love of Jane Austen's work has allowed to me explore those beloved characters again. Now, I'm ready to look at some of the fan fiction spawned from her work.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I want to thank Sharon for spending time with us Over Coffee and those of you that pulled up a chair and joined in.