Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Writer's Life--No Stress, Long Contemplative Mornings?

My guest is para romance author Erin Kellison. She made me laugh with the idea of no stress and long contemplative mornings as her previous idea of a writer's life.

Funny too, because my writing group was also chatting about that very thing today. Perceptions others have of writers as having a smooth, low stress job. That is until they became pubbed. Then the truth smacks them upside the head with, "Oh you wish," as they take on normal life, kids, jobs, and writing deadlines.

But we'll let Erin tell you her tale...

Last week my stomach hurt bad enough to warrant a trip to the doctor. I had surgery for appendicitis the next day, and I lost a week to recovery (and the no-fun cough I picked up at the hospital). Sia has been lovely about me getting this blog to her late. Thank you, Sia, for your understanding and thank you for the invitation to post here as well. I am happy to donate a copy of both my summer 2010 releases, Shadow Bound and Shadow Fall, to one lucky commenter.

I sit in my writing chair, arms stretched beyond my ouchy belly to reach my laptop keyboard, and I have to laugh. I used to think that the life of a writer was one of long contemplative mornings, bringing a story to life on the page. Fact is, those mornings are rare. I’m sure the appendicitis is a once-in-a-lifetime event, but something else will happen shortly. And here I am supposed to be coming up with a proposal for my fourth book in my Shadow series (can’t wait, actually…ideas are simmering).

What’s the trick then? Because I know I’m not alone in this. My writing friends all seem to be juggling as fast and efficiently as they can, and all but one has had some major event scatter the balls. What’s the answer (after a good sense of humor, I mean)? Easy—it’s the stories.

While I was writing Shadow Fall, which released this month, my sister went through a health crisis, the kind that renders everything else trivial, the kind that makes you pick up the phone on the first ring. She’s doing well now, but there were some scary moments at the beginning. I flew out a couple times to help with her surgery and early chemo. (My job mostly consisted of fetching things, fielding calls, and getting her to laugh with my uneven repertoire of impersonations.) And in the midst of this, a deadline loomed. I’m fairly confident that had I asked for an extension, I could’ve received one. Once or twice, I contemplated it. But in moments both mundane and excruciating, stories are my refuge. Always have been.

See, I had this character in my head, Custo, who was dark, tortured, and a little bad. He was realized on the page during the first months of my sister’s treatment. I must have talked to her every day back then. Or more often. I beat Custo up, then kicked him when he was down, bloodied him badly for love, then finally threw him a bone. Custo is my sister’s favorite character. I still have the saved text and phone messages from when she finished the book. During its writing, I think a little bit of the real world followed me into Custo’s. Poor guy. (I’m sending big love out to my sis right now.)

The real problem when there’s a shakeup in day-to-day life is finding the time to do the necessary work of getting the story onto the page. Since those contemplative mornings are mostly a myth, I have to do what everyone else does: make time. More like, steal time, since there are a fixed number of minutes in a day. My husband has almost completely taken over the laundry (my hero). The kids’ clothes are mixed up on their shelves, something I’ll sort…negligently. It’s not happening at all while I recoup from surgery. Homework and hairdos are about all I’m good for. And in those stretches when I’m waiting for the Advil to kick in…I’ve got a story in my head. This time, a heroine who’s building a fire.
  • Readers: How do steal time to do what you really want to do?
  • Writers: How do you manage life and make time to write?
~ * ~ * ~

Custo Santovari accepted pain, blood, even death, to save his best friend. But a man with all his sins just isn't cut out to be an angel.

One moment he's fleeing Heaven; the next, he's waking up stark naked in Manhattan. In the middle of a war. Called there by a woman who's desperately afraid of the dark.


It gathers around Annabella as she performs, filled with fantastic images of another world, bringing both a golden hero and a nightmare lover.


He pursues her relentlessly, twisting her desires even as she gives herself to the man she loves. Because each of us has a wild side, and Annabella is about to unleash the beast. 

Erin Kellison is the author of the Shadow Series, which includes Shadow Bound and Shadow Fall. Stories have always been a central part of Erin Kellison's life. She attempted her first book in sixth grade, a dark fantasy adventure, and still has those early hand-written chapters. She graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English Language and Literature, and went on for a masters in Cultural Anthropology, focusing on oral storytelling. When she had children, nothing scared her anymore, so her focus shifted to writing fiction. She lives in Arizona with her two beautiful daughters and husband, and she will have a dog (breed undetermined) when her youngest turns five.

You can contact Erin though her website,, where you can also sign up to receive her newsletter.


~Sia McKye~ said...

Welcome to Over Coffee Erin. Glad you're doing better. Surgery of any type is no fun.

You just sit in that comfy chair and let me provide the coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and breakfast goodies. I have a few hot guys here on the blog that will be glad to serve you. Um food, lol!

tonya kappes said...

Hi Erin. It's hard to find that balance and I've definitely not found it. Over the past couple of years I've had to pick up my sons from school b/c we lived out of district, and it was great b/c I could write for over a hour and no distractions. This year we live in district and I don't have to pick them up. I find that during that time I see the laundry, picking up etc...My time has been lost in the day to day grind and I need to get back to it.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I can understand that, Tonya, especially having to find a new schedule.

Stress seems to be the hot topic on blogs today, lol!

Erin Kellison said...

Good morning, Sia!
Thanks for the yummy goodies. :) And thanks for having me here today!

Erin Kellison said...

(morning hairdo drama finished)
Hi Tonya,
I totally know what you're talking about. The kid schedule always impacts the parent schedule... which hits the writing. Steal time if you have to. I mean, do the kids really need clean socks everyday? ;)

wordpainter said...

**SQUEE** hey Erin! i totally just msgd u on twitter, and i saw this so wanted 2 drop ya'll a line b4 i grabbed some shut eye for wk!
loved shadow bound (but i already told you that Erin) ;p and im soooo looking forward to reading Shadow Fall (when i hav enough money to buy it)
I'm super bad, i read and write while im at my "other" full-time job lol
i do consider writing my MAIN job... i used to just write when i got an idea, but it took me like 3 yrs 2 finish my first novel, so ive started setting daily goals for myself depending on what my schedule is (w/work and studying, etc) on my days off i try and get like 1-2k words written, days i wk im usually lucky 2 get 200words (unless i hit a stride) i try to make time every day to read (and of course study) but writing, work, and sleep tend to come first... speaking of **yawn** its that time, thanks ladies!

K. A. Laity said...

I find I have a lot more time than most people to write because I don't cook or clean and try to put off laundry as long as is humanly possible. I also don't watch tv -- I get too irritated by commercials interrupting every five minutes anyway, and I don't have any premium channels. I take breaks all the time, exercise and read, so I'm not obsessive (as some people seem to think!), but writing is always a priority.

As Erin points out, life intercedes. At those times it's good to remember that it's temporary, you'll get back to it, so relax. And carry your PDA or notebook to make notes: health care = long waits. Be prepared.

James Rafferty said...

Hi Erin, Sia. I'm impressed that Erin found a way to get her stories out even when real life intervened with real -- and time consuming -- issues. I enjoy writing, but it's tough to summon the energy to push a chapter forward in the evening after working all day. As Tonya notes above, finding the right balance between writing and the rest of your life is an ongoing challenge.

VA said...

Finding either the time to read or write requires a healthy degree of selfishness, which I often don't have. I have been working on embracing my inner five year-old, so maybe there's hope.

Life's monkeywrenches are tough. Your story of sharing a character or rather personifying an aspect of your sister's life (albeit in a different way) is inspiring and intimate. My best wishes to your sister.

How do I do it? I sneak away into the den and burrow under a blanket with a book or laptop. If I'm lucky there's a cup of tea or wine.

Speaking of tea...Sia, I'm sneaking a mug and a scone. Btw., I'm having difficulty accessing the excerpt, it comes up blank. Cheers!

Erin Kellison said...

Heya Wordpainter!
Thanks so much for coming and commenting. I do the same thing you do--set a daily wordcount goal. Life stuff still happens to blow that out of the water (like last week), but at least I have a way of tracking my progress. Happy napping!

Erin Kellison said...

Hi K.A. Laity,
You reminded me of something my mom said when I was on a deadline. I was freaking out about the messy house and she asked me if my children were eating off clean plates and were wearing clean underwear. I said yes. She responded that everything else didn't matter. The stress of it lifted right away. :)

Erin Kellison said...

Hi James,
In the extreme case of my sister, I needed a place to put my head and was glad I had the book to think about. But, yes, with the demands of the day, it can be very hard to find the little bit of magic for writing! Hang in there. Write whenever you can. It will come.

Erin Kellison said...

Hi VA,
You know, my crit peeps and I have often talked about writing as a selfish pursuit. I totally get where you are come from... and I do a fair bit of sneaking, too. ;)

k_sunshine1977 said...

hi erin! i'm glad you're recuperating well - appendicitis can be a scary thing.....feel better soon! send my good wishes to your sister as well...

how do i steal time to do what i really want to do? i'm still figuring that out! lol i guess it's just a fair amount of discipline and sharing of the woman is an island, y'know?

k_sunshine1977 at yahoo dot com

aries18 said...

Hi Erin,

I hope you feel better soon, surgery is just a pain in the... well, wherever you have it. My best wishes to your sister, too.

I'm adding your books to my TBR list, I can't wait to read Custo's story.

As to when to find time to write? I seem to have nothing but time as my kids are grown and in homes of their own. You'd think I'd be able to write all day long. But I'm always finding excuses not to write! My problem is the opposite of yours in that I have to somehow make myself TAKE the time I have available and use it properly.

Maybe I need more to fill my time so that I DO have to steal minutes to write. It seems I did better when I stole minutes to write.

Sia, you always bring us great authors with terrific stories to inspire us and Erin just that.

Thanks for the inspiration, tea and scones! Have a great day!

Erin Kellison said...

Hi k_sunshine!
Thanks for the well wishes. And you are totally right--I know I wouldn't be able to do anything without the support of my husband.

Erin Kellison said...

Hi aries18,
Thank you as well for thinking of me and my sis. The word count per day helped me get started. At first I kept it very low, so there was no way I couldn't hit it... then I slowly pushed it up.
And yes... those scones do look good!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Erin, feelin better today? I hope?

When I'm really into a writing groove, very little gets done and the boys are lucky to get dinner on the table. Food? whadda mean you need to eat? that shirt's dirty? so choose another one. For sakes you have more than one. Sheesh.

KC said...

Hi Erin,
Great posts. So I have a question for you. (Since you seem to have it so together) What do you do when deadlines loom and you are suffering from major stage fright. You've gotta write, but you are choking? I've hit the bottle of red, but I can't start drinking at 9 AM. HA!

Amber Scott said...

Hi Erin! I love that you picked Custo for this story and am fighting not to read it fast. I know what you mean about balance and am so glad that you had writing to help you through crisis so that you could in turn help your family. Feed the soul. Your books feed mine.

Stephanie M said...

I try to find time around my college class schedule. If I have been at school for about 8 hours, I give myself an hour of down time to enjoy reading a book before going back to school work.

Olivia Cunning said...

Appendicitis? Ouch! I'm not sure what I'd do if life threw a curve ball into my carefully juggled mess-pretending-to-be- order. I already gave up housework. It's the ultimate sacrifice I've made for my writing. (people who know me are now laughing at my obvious sarcasm) Maybe someday I will be able to afford a maid. Until then, the mess continues to expand.

The book sounds intriguing, Erin!

Mary Anne Landers said...

Thank you for your post, Erin. I sure hope you won't have to face any more crises for a long time.

I've gotten this idea from experts on time management. It's like packing a suitcase. You put the largest items in first, then the medium-sized ones, then finally the smaller ones. Otherwise, there might not be room for the larger items.

Likewise, when it comes to managing time, one should set priorities and do the most important tasks first. Then come those of lesser importance, then the least important. That way there's more likely to be time to get everything done. But if one does the second and third types of tasks first, there might not be time for the first type.

Well, that's the way I learned it. If only I could practice what I preach!

Keep up the good work.

Helen Ginger said...

I haven't found the balance. I used to have it before I began blogging and tweeting and all the other things. I suspect the only way I'll get it back is to cut back on the other things.


Elle J Rossi said...

HI Erin,

Very timely post for me as I am going through something very similar with my brother. I have no deadlines other than those set by me for me! I went a few weeks without writing one word and that on top of everything else made me feel terrible. Why? Writers write. That's what we do because we have to no matter what, right?

But I laugh at the leisurely mornings, because I've yet to have one. Instead we write amidst the kids, the chaos, the day job, the husband and the hubbub. Perhaps someday we'll get a leisurely minute or two if not an entire morning!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Helen, that's also been a problem for me. blogging chunks of time and balancing writing. I'm really working on it. I want to set aside 2 hour blocks, even on those days I have a blog running. I've been playing with schedules. We'll see how it goes.