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.