Friday, June 17, 2011

Doing What I Was Born To Do

My guest is bestselling historical author, Grace Burrowes. By day, Grace is an attorney and an advocate for children.

When she's not practicing law she writes grand adventures set in England. Her stories are filled with passion, romance, a fun dose of witty repartee, and a touch of mystery. 

Grace shares a bit with us about her world and her passion for writing.

I got into a discussion the other day with The Mayor of Courtroom Two about self-discipline and the writing life. Courtroom Two is where I conduct most of my legal business, advocating for children in abuse and neglect proceedings. It isn’t where I thought the practice of law would take me, but I love my work and I consider that little courtroom part of my professional home.

The Mayor of Courtroom Two loves his work too, though most people would call him The Bailiff. A bailiff in my jurisdiction wears many hats. He’s part master of ceremonies, rounding up the parties for the next case, ushering the parties for the last case on to the their next destination; he’s also a scheduling assistant to the judge, keeping an eye on what attorneys are trying to juggle work in two or more courtrooms on the same day. The bailiff steps and fetches for the judge and he works with the sheriff’s deputies to ensure the safety of all in the courtroom.

Our bailiff goes extra miles beyond that: He makes sure the witnesses have tissues in their teary moments, he makes sure the water pitchers on the counsel tables are full and the clerks and reporters have ice in their cups if they want ice. He tidies up the chairs and tables at the start of the day and again at the end, so the courtroom looks neat and not like some eighth grade desk charge supplanted the workings of justice. He greets the regulars in the morning and he wishes us good day each afternoon with unfailing good cheer—no matter how stupid our closing arguments, how obnoxious our clients, how lacking our case presentation.

This guy just has the gene for being a bailiff. When he tried doing something else for a few weeks, I grieved the loss of him.

Writing is like that for me. I have no writing goals much less written goals displayed in a prominent location. I have no quotas, I don’t do page counts, nor keep a tally of how long it took me to write what. If I were not permitted to write regularly and in quantity, I would go into a decline. The hardest, hardest, worst, most impossible thing for me is that part of the creative process when I must to sit on a toadstool and think up an external conflict for each book. Oh, that is painful, to not have my hands on the keyboard, to not hear the words being tapped out in a steady, mellifluous rhythm, to not see black pixels filling up the screen where white pixels were.

But even the pain of the off-keyboard plotting exercise is precious and to be relished because it’s part of writing my stories.

I get up every morning, wanting to write. If it’s a court day, or even a fly to England day, there’s still a little part of me pouting because I don’t get to write. I get up every day grateful that I can write, and gleeful with the knowledge that I have a WIP, even if I can’t open it up and work on it THIS INSTANT. This is not discipline; this is the farthest thing from discipline.

This is the great, soul deep pleasure of doing the thing I was born to do, the thing that makes me passionately happy, the thing I hope can please my readers for many, many, many books to come.


Even in the quiet countryside he can find no peace...His idyllic estate is falling down from neglect and nightmares of war give him no rest. Then Devlin St. Just meets his new neighbor...

Until his beautiful neighbor ignites his imagination...With her confident manner hiding a devastating secret, his lovely neighbor commands all of his attention, and protecting Emmaline becomes Deviln’s most urgent mission. Excerpt (at the bottom of the page)

Available in e-book and mass paperback
Be sure to check out her first book, The Heir

Grace Burrowes is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of The Heir, also a 2010 Publishers Weekly Book of the Year. She is a practicing attorney specializing in family law and lives in rural Maryland, where she is working on the next books chronicling the loves stories of the Windham family. Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish will be in stores in October 2011, and The Virtuoso will be in stores in November 2011, with more to come in 2012!  For more information, please visit (Her site is in the process of expanding).


~Sia McKye~ said...

It's a pleasure to welcome you to OVER COFFEE! Plenty of caffeine to get you going, not to mention homemade goodies. I have nice comfortable settee and writing table (with the latest wii fi hookups) for you too so you can work on your passion in between comments.

tonya kappes said...

Hi, Grace! I completely understand! I too work with children, but as a therapist, so when I wake up in the morning I've found myself desperately wanting to stay home and write the next scene. I keep reminding myself that families depend on my job and that really does keep me going. One day....I repeat over and over that I will be able to stay home and write full time:) Your cover is beautiful.

Grace Burrowes said...

G'morning, Sia! Can we make mine hot chocolate, with whipped cream, garnished with cinnamon and one sprinkle of nutmeg? And that raisin scone graced with a fat dollop of butter.... thanks. Now, I can start my day...

And Tonya, you connected two dots for me: The writing is about making people happy (and keeping me happy), but the courtroom work should ultimately have that goal in mind too. Thanks for pointing that out to me.

Kat Sheridan said...

Good morning, Grace! Sia, the usual for me—coffee, Baily's cream, and a lemon poppyseed muffin (perhaps it should be a scone today!)

The book looks wonderful and like a lot of fun. And how wonderful to feel that joy in writing! Right now it's going rather tortuously for me, but I hope to get back into that writing rythym soon.

And make wure your bailiff reads this and knows he's such a star and an inspiration (whoever you are, thank you for your work!) And Grace, thank you for your work as well defending the ones who most need our protection.

Judi Fennell said...

Hi fellow Casa Babe - and fellow cover artist-sharer! :) Anne does gorgeous work! Which is only fitting for your gorgeous stories. Congrats on the 2nd NYT best-seller! It's on my kindle and has been started!

~Sia McKye~ said...

The cover is beautiful, Grace. I love the colors. Both you and Judi have had some beautiful cover.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Tonya, so very true. Children and their families desperately need advocates, in one form or another, and it's good there are people like you and Grace fighting for them. It's truly a passion.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Btw, you both bring that passion to your writing, just sayin'

Grace Burrowes said...

Kat, isn't the case though, that even when the writing is being stubborn and stuck, a bad writing day is still preferable to just about any other day? Hang in there--we all have to yank our tails through knotholes occasionally.

Judi! You meet the nicest people out blogging. Let me know what you think of "The Soldier." Maybe we can chat over one of the Bailey's with hot chocolate at National?

Sia, I think of the cover as old-fashioned, a guarantee that the inside of the book is going to deliver a good old Regency read with plenty of steam and substance.

And as for being a child welfare attorney... that is just a gift. It isn't a career you sit around at the age of eleven and think, "Gee, that's what I want to be!" but it's probably the best use of a lawyer--on a good day. We call it problem-solving law, which is a good fit for me.

Sheila Deeth said...

It's great how important those little unlisted details can be, and how missed. And I'm sure spotting the details is something that feeds good writing too. Really enjoyed reading this post.

Judi Fennell said...

sounds like a plan, Grace. Or at the very least, the SB dinner.

Grace Burrowes said...

Sheila, I once listened to a two-hour lecture on tape about the importance of using the right details, in the right words. At the end of two hours, I still didn't know quite how to spot that detail, or how to connect it to the larger story, but I guess that's part of the art of storytelling. You can't take every aspect of it apart under a microscope.

VA said...

I just got to read The Heir this past month and really enjoyed it Grace. I'm definitely putting The Soldier on my TBR list. Love your characterizations and the fluidity of dialogue.

So happy to meet a new author, Sia. Awesome :)

Grace Burrowes said...

VA, if you (or anybody else) emails me at, I can email you excerpts from Val's and Sophie's stories, Douglas and Gwen's, Hadrian's, Maggie's... et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

VA said...

Grace, what's your release schedule for future books?

Grace Burrowes said...

My next book is "The Virtuoso," which belongs to Val Windham and will be out in November. The sisters' books start with "Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish" in October, and continue with "Lady Maggie's Little Secret" in May 2012. We launch a trilogy of Scottish Victorians in summer 2012, then resume the Windham sisters' with "Lady Louisa's Christmas Knight" in October 2012. The last two Windham's show up in 2013, while the Scottish Victorians will probably finish up in 2014.

And while all that's in the queue (all but two of the books are written) I'll be coming up with some shorts, epilogues, and other material to keep my readers in touch with my characters.