Friday, September 24, 2010

The Bane Of A Writer's Existence: Interruptions

Today, we step back into a gentler time period. One peopled with beloved characters, The Ton, balls, Almacks, sharing the latest on-dits, diamonds of the first water, and all those dangerously sexy rakes.

Haven’t you thought of stepping into a world where fortunes won or lost on a card, dress in the lovely gowns of the time, go riding in a phaeton, walk through the shops of Bond Street, or go to huge house parties or attend balls during the London season?

My guest, Abigail Reynolds, creates that sort of world set in the Regency period of England, that authors like Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen made so popular.

Abigail says writing about that world, and when you’re in the zone, everything fades away but the world being created. Unless something wrenches you abruptly two hundred years forward…but we’ll let Abigail tell you about it.

Writing is the ultimate escape from me. When I’m writing – as opposed to trying to write, which is a horse of a different color – the whole world fades away. Dishes don’t need to be done, the house doesn’t need to be cleaned, and I don’t have to worry about the latest front-page news, because none of it exists. It’s a haven, a safe harbor from the shoals of life, full of the sunshine of creativity and abundant possibilities in every blank page.

But it’s a very temporary haven, which brings me to the bane of my writing existence: interruptions. A few hours ago I was deep in the throes of powerful fight scene, almost in tears myself along with the heroine, and my son came down, distraught because he had lost one of his games in the war zone we refer to as his room. Now, before you tell me I should set some limits and tell him to look for it himself, let me mention that my son has autism and that for him, this truly was a disaster of cosmic importance. And, since I have a vested interest in him being able to complete his homework without a meltdown, I helped him find his game and came racing back to the computer.

The inspiration wasn’t there. I couldn’t feel my heroine’s sense of betrayal or get inside the head of the hero who is desperately trying to explain himself. But because I really wanted to write, I sat down and wrote. Bland, boring, excruciatingly dull sentences free of any spark of life. They even bored me. And I know from experience that it’s likely to be a couple of days before the characters come alive for me again.

That’s what happens when I get ripped out of the story. Little interruptions are annoying but tolerable – letting the dog out, getting a drink of water, closing the windows to keep out the rain. My characters will usually keep talking in my head through something minor that doesn’t require much thought. But when I have to do something that requires planning and interaction with real life people, they vanish without a trace. To make matters worse, it’s almost painful to be torn out of story when I’m deep inside it. I usually surface with an intense desire to murder the source of the interruption, and while I manage to put that aside, my family will happily tell you – at length – that I am very testy indeed under those circumstances.

That’s why I have my office, which isn’t actually an office. It’s a comfortable coffee shop nearby where nobody interrupts me, plus they provide great tea and dainties on request, something that never seems to happen at home! But that’s not all, because I’m not the only one who uses my office to write. There are a half dozen familiar faces that I’m likely to spot there, hunched over their laptops and typing away with that distant look in their eyes. I don’t actually know most of them beyond a first name and that they’re a writer, too, but I do know one thing about them. When I walk in this evening, I can go up to any one of them and say, “I am going to kill my son,” and they’ll look up and nod sympathetically, perhaps even making the suggestion of using a very sharp knife. We’ve all been there, and that makes us comrades at arms.

Then we smile at each other, and the coffee shop reverts to its other plane of existence as Pemberley, a London alleyway, the sewers of Paris (not for my books!) , and a multitude of other places. All of them with good coffee.

  • How do you handle interruptions? 

Mr Darcy's Obsession Blurb:
What if Mr. Darcy never had the opportunity to propose to Elizabeth Bennet at Hunsford, and did not meet her again until her circumstances were reduced? In Mr. Darcy's Obsession, Mr. Darcy has an even greater social distance to bridge if he wishes to marry Elizabeth. Add in some Fitzwilliam relations with links to the Prince Regent and the loose morals typical of Regency high society who feel that Elizabeth is the material of which mistresses, not wives, are made, and Mr. Darcy has to make a painful choice between the demands of a decadent society and his personal moral sense. The background of this novel is the morally bankrupt ton which Jane Austen knew well, but did not describe in detail in her novels, perhaps because it was a given to her and her contemporaneous readers. Against this backdrop, the characters of Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet shine brightly as they seek to find an alternative to the bounds of decorum that constrain Darcy's usual marital prospects.  Excerpt
The more he tries to stay away from her, the more his obsession grows... "[Reynolds] has creatively blended a classic love story with a saucy romance novel." -Austenprose

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Abigail Reynolds is a lifelong Jane Austen enthusiast and a physician.  In addition to writing, she has a part-time private practice and enjoys spending time with her family.  Originally from upstate New York, she studied Russian, theater, and marine biology before deciding to attend medical school.   She began writing From Lambton to Longbourn in 2001 to spend more time with her favorite characters from Pride & Prejudice.  Encouragement from fellow Austen fans convinced her to continue asking ‘What if…?’, which led to five other Pemberley Variations and her modern novel, The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice.  She is currently at work on another Pemberley Variation and sequels to The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice.  Her newest release is Mr. Darcy’s Obsession, available October 1, 2010.  She is a lifetime member of JASNA and lives in Wisconsin with her husband, two teenaged children, and a menagerie of pets.
You can find Abigail:  Abigail Reynolds Website
Facebook, Abigail's Writing Desk Blog, Austen Author's Blog,


~Sia McKye~ said...

Abigail, I'm so glad you are able to visit with us today. I LOVE your book cover.

Help yourself to the goodies on the coffee bar. I do have scones and tea, if you'd prefer, but no tea bags. It's a lovely fragrant tea. Me? I go straight for the coffee. Strong and hot.

Watch out for the Captain, he'll be sauntering by and he's very flirtatious. Fair warning, lolol!

tonya kappes said...

Abigail I completely get it! I have four boys who always command my attention when I'm home working. Right now one of them is yelling for me as I'm typing this....
Anyways, I do have to leave the house or my DH has to take them out in order for me to get writing done. If none of the above can't happen b/c life gets in the way, I explain to them that I have to work and Idon't want to see them unless there is blood or bones coming out. So they text me....ugh!

Abigail Reynolds said...

Thanks, Sia, the tea and scones are delicious! I'm keeping my eyes open for the Captain.

Tonya, I'm certain that my kids have a special radar to know when I start doing actual writing. The number of crises that arise just after I've written one or two sentences is truly astonishing!

VA said...

It is rather amazing how everyone thinks that popping in and just chatting or complaining with no real actionable steps I can take is mind-numbing. Somewhere about two minutes in I ask, "Is there something I can do for you?"


"I'm in the middle of this."

"Okay." Door clicks shut again.

Clacking away madly on the keyboard, yes, I do pound, and a glazed-look in my eyes apparently means nothing. There are the moments when I feel the thread slipping away as soon as the door creeps open and I shout out, "No. Not now." And it eases shut again, unless there's an emergency. Actionable items involving blood or first aid.

Btw. a head just popped in to tell me where I could paint and what area to leave undone for further plaster work.

Off to read the excerpt while nibbling on my blueberry-lemon scone.

Helen Ginger said...

I love that you have a coffee shop where other writers gather to write. Seems like around here we just have people drinking coffee and talking - which is distracting, especially when you realize you're listening in on the conversation instead of writing.

Olivia Cunning said...

I can totally relate to this, Abigail. Especially, losing my flow if I get interrupted and taking days to get back on track. Wonderful post!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Helen, I have another friend who writes in Starbucks and Borders. She puts on headphones with instrumental music so she doesn't hear the chatting.

But I like the sound of Abigails coffee shop.

~Sia McKye~ said...


If you get ripped out of the *zone* it always seems hard to get back in the emotions of the moment. I hear you on the frustration.

How much writing do you do at home?

L. Diane Wolfe said...

She owns a black cat! I love her already.

~Sia McKye~ said...

lolol! I noticed that too, Diane. :-) I have one, a huge male who thinks he's all that and a bag of catnip.

Houston A.W. Knight said... were in my head when you wrote this...this is exactly the way I feel about my writing and the interruptions...How do you recapture the mood?
Sometimes I can reread what I wrote and that will do it... but other's just lost forever.

Hummm, now this is a fab idea...I can go to the bread station to work on THOSE days when no one will let me be!

Now all I have to do is find a mask for my face...I've got one of those faces strangers just walk up to me and start talking...and talking... and talking and......
LOL, can we writers ever win?

Loved this post!

Abigail Reynolds said...

All these lovely comments and not one recrimination for threatening to murder my poor son! What wonderful company.

Perhaps the black cat is my muse, Diane! Actually, he's one of six, and quite a rogue. He'd be the perfect hero for a Regency romance - well, if it weren't for all the fur.

Sia, as far as writing at home goes, I'm fortunately a night owl and write after everyone's in bed. I get little bits in during the day, too, but often I'm reluctant to even try because I know what will happen!

VA, I only wish my family was as well-trained as yours! They blithely ignore my scowls.

I love my coffee shop, Helen. Somehow it became a default write-in location during NaNoWriMo, and several of us developed the habit of going there.

Yes, Olivia, it can take a long time to get back into the spirit, and sometimes I never manage to recapture a scene, which drives me nuts!

Hawk, I hear you - I hate it when strangers want to chat when I want to write, or even when I'm living through a scene in my head, which actually is a good deal of the time. I only wish I had a trick to recapture the mood!

sherilynwinrose said...

I'm afraid I don't tolerate interruptions well at all. Getting yanked from the zone is the worst. Patient? Me? Not in that moment. I did my best when the kids were young to make them priority (some days were harder than others).

My husband simply doesn't understand one cannot simply wander into a room and start a conversation. Leave, come back five minutes later. Arch brow. Yeah, non-writers don't get it.

Wonderful article.

aries18 said...

I loved your way of describing your friendly group of writers who understand when you're going to murder a loved one!

I'm lucky that my kids have grown and live on their so my interruptions are more the nature of my dog Fred needing in.... and then out again... then in again, repeat many times a day. But he's over 15 years old and getting a bit senile. Or Ginger the Queen Kitteh needing to tell me there's ghosties down the hall or she's lost in the laundry room again. Or Buddy, our macho male kitteh, wanting to nip at my elbow to get some attention.

To some extent I can ignore them until I hit a place I can stop. But my hardest interruptions come from my inability to nail my heinie into my chair!

Great blog and nice to meet you Abigail. Your work sounds terrific! Thanks Sia.

Houston A.W. Knight said...


LOL...we couldn't pick on you for what you said about your son...because we all have someone in ours lives that we love and adore BUT have felt the same way about when they come into our den while we're writing a love scene... errrrrr and I DO BITE!


Abigail Reynolds said...

Aries, do you suffer from my other problem, which is cats on the keyboard? It's such a nice warm place to curl up.

Sherilyn, I hear you! My husband is capable of interrupted conversations, so he doesn't understand why I'm not. Or why, when I'm writing, I don't even notice when he asks me a question!

Hawk, I'll be sure to stay out of your way when you're writing, lol.

Kat Sheridan said...

I'm so lucky to be an empty-nester, and no one will blame you for wanting to kill someone on occassion. It took me a year to train hubs that if I have that glazed look in my eyes, it's not a stroke, it's a writer at work. And he's learned that if he sees an open Word doc ont the laptop, he's to tiptoe away and not interrupt. He knows I write about murder and mayhem and have ongoing discussions with friends on the best way to dispose of a body! LOL!

Abigail Reynolds said...

Kat, perhaps I should take lessons from you! Just in case I ever need to dispose of a body, that is.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Don't even get her started on *natural* poisons, Abigail, that make the body dead to begin with, lolol!

Other Lisa said...

Wow, I don't know how I would cope with the responsibilities of raising a child, especially a child with special needs, and manage to write. Maybe a padlock?!

Congratulations, Abigail, on somehow managing to balance all of this...

Kat Sheridan said...

Oh, Sia, you know me too well! You mean things like lily-of-the-valley, oleander, foxglove, stuff like that? LOL!


A coffee shop as your office sounds delicious!
Do they also serve good cakes? That would be dangerous for diet and health! Great guest-blogpost. Congrats to Abigail and Sia.

Abigail Reynolds said...

Worse than cakes, Maria Grazia, they serve chocolate truffles! Highly dangerous.

Lisa, actually chloroform works wonders. Just kidding! Actually, my son is a great kid 90% of the time. And he can be very amusing in his honesty, like when he told his detested English teacher that she was wrong to take points off his essay because his mom had said it was okay and she's published 3 books, you know. Teacher: No, she hasn't, she's a doctor. Son: She didn't tell you about her books because they have sex scenes in them. Email to me from teacher: Son is being untruthful in school, telling people you've written 3 racy novels. Email from me to teacher: He doesn't mean to be untruthful. He just doesn't realize it's 6 books, not 3. Teacher: no response. :)

Kat, did I mention that I have plenty of deadly nightshade in my yard?

Kat Sheridan said...

Abigail, what a GREAT story about your son and his teacher! I'm seriously laughing out loud! And nightshade? I've been thinking about planting a "poison" garden, since so many of the deadly plants really are beautiful, but I have a highly curious dog who'd prolly want to nibble them. Maybe someday...

~Sia McKye~ said...

Abigail, I LOVE that story! Put that in your pipe Mz Teacher, lolol!

Kat, I do know you well and I also know who to come to for advice on poisons too. I've been toying with something that would be natural and could be gotten fairly quickly to knock out an enemy. Been researching.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Maria, thank you for stopping by. I think Abigail did a wonderful job with the article.

Vee said...

Hi Abigail love your passage!
I already have a few of your books at home and now reading this info I realise that I have read your story years ago! I will be heading to order your lovely book asap!
TSBO devotee