Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Day in the Life of an Historical Novelist

Dame Barbara Cartland was a remarkable woman and a prolific writer, but the image people remember - of her lying on a chaise longue cuddling one of her pekinese dogs while dictating to an army of secretaries is not quite how it is for the rest of us.

This was my yesterday.

6am. Woken by dawn chorus – small birds twittering, blackbird shrilling, crows cackling to each other as they thud up and down the gutter and crash around on the roof.

6.15am. Silence. They’ve either flown off to the fields beyond the hedge to feed, or have returned to their nests exhausted by all the effort. No point in trying to go back to sleep so I plan my day and think about scenes for my 23rd book, Devil’s Prize.

6.30am. Get up, wash face, comb hair, put on tracksuit and kettle and do stretching exercises to loosen my neck, back and shoulder muscles - a writer's weakest point due to hours spent hunched over computer. Prepare husband’s packed lunch. Make tea, take him large mug of same, get breakfast.

7.15am. Husband stumbles from bed to bathroom. Emerges washed, shaved and conscious quarter of an hour later. We eat breakfast in companionable silence exchanging grins at Terry Wogan’s brilliant banter.

8am. Husband (self-employed) gives me a list of people to phone re future work, or accounts to type and send for work completed, then leaves for current job.

8.30am. Wash dishes, make bed, load washing machine, have shower, apply make-up, write shopping list.

9am. Walk quarter of a mile to village, return smiles and greetings while continuing to develop character conflicts and combine them with dramatic events for current chapter of book. Collect shopping, call on 91-year-old father who asks if I’ll type out a speech he’s making at the inaugural meeting of local group of Royal Society of St George. Agree. Walk round garden with him to admire latest acquisitions and planting. Talk about Mum (who died last year) and younger son’s wedding in August.

10.30am. Carry shopping home and unpack. Remove washing from machine and hang on line.

11am. Make cup of tea. Check email. Send replies. Deal with queries from agent. Promise administrator to send handouts for her to copy for students taking my week-long course on novel writing at University College Falmouth in July.

11.30am. Make phone calls for husband. Notice rain, transfer washing to tumble drier.

11.45am. Into my study/office. Type up accounts/receipts for husband. Type letter for father. Check yesterday’s bank statement. Review handouts for eight topics, set aside several for updating.

12.30pm. Leave office to prepare soup and sandwich lunch. Eat fast. Wash up. Make apple crumble to accompany evening meal.

1.30pm. Post arrives with proofs of latest book and a request that they be returned a.s.a.p. Sigh as plans for afternoon’s work and visions of exciting dramatic scenes evaporate. Find blue and red pens and notebook. Begin reading proofs.

3.15pm. Interrupted by delivery van. Sign for goods, sympathise with his back pain. Discuss weather. Wave him goodbye. Take deep calming breaths. Make a cup of tea.

3.30pm. Return to proofs.

3.45pm. Surveyor for the Water Board arrives to check whether our property is suitable for installation of a water meter. It is. He marks the stopcock with blue paint. Neighbour comes out to find out what he’s doing.

4.15pm. Return to office with cup of tea. Continue work on proofs.

5.15pm. Husband arrives home and puts his head round office door to ask what’s for tea. Abandon office.

5.30pm. Prepare evening meal while husband rants about his frustrating day. Hide ironic smile.

6.30pm. Crawl off to have a bath while dear husband does the dishes. Think about trying to work but brain has shut down.

Oh well, to quote Scarlett O’Hara: Tomorrow is another day.


Lois said...

LOL I've seen a few authors mention their days now, and while I never thought this, I guess that yeah, people probably think it's nothing like everyday living. Me, while I never thought of it before, I always figured that the writing part has got to be hard -- just from experience with school papers. And those definitely are not 300 or so pages!! :)


Anonymous said...

Since you are on your 23rd book, not all your days can be like this!

Having said that, isn't it funny how lots of people think books write themselves......