Never let it be said that I am not open to new experiences and ideas, especially if it's about writing and books (and it's free). One of our local councils, Brimbank, is running a literary festival at the moment, and quite a few of the sessions are free. The one on offer last Saturday was with romance writer, Stephanie Laurens. I have to admit that I have never read a book by Stephanie, and am probably never likely to. However, I know she is prolific, and according to the festival guide, her last 24 novels were on the NYT bestseller lists, so I thought it was worth going along to hear her speak.
She began with a short talk about why we read, and what value reading has for us. Could have done without that, but I guess she felt it suited the venue - a library. Then she opened up for questions, and the small but keen audience had lots of things they wanted to know. I listened with great interest. Here are some of the things she shared with us:
* she writes Regency romance, mostly, because this was the first period in history when the upper class had the option of marrying for love instead of for dynastic or business reasons (so lots of potential for romance and conflict)
* she loves this period, mainly because she started reading Georgette Heyer at 13 (who didn't ?!!) and got hooked
* she wrote her first novel because she ran out of Regency romances to read - she worked as a scientist and at the end of the day, wanted an escape. So when the books ran out, she decided to write one to entertain herself and give her an outlet. She sent it off, and it was accepted for publication. (Don't you hate stories like that? But it is a prime example of writing what you love most, and it paying off.)
* her writing routine is this: she is at her desk by 8am, she writes until 1pm, has an hour's break, then writes from 2-6pm. I presume that is Monday-Friday, but maybe it's 7 days a week? That got a few gasps from the audience (and me) but the next bit explained it.
* her year runs like this: a book takes about 3-4 months to write. 4-6 weeks of planning and notes and a point-by-point outline, then 4 weeks for the first draft, then 3-4 weeks of polishing. She said she didn't used to outline, but after the first ten books, she decided she had to find a way to make it easier. I worked out that she writes 3-4 books per year, each one around 80,000 words, which is a lot of words to come up with. Someone asked her if she ever suffered writer's block and she laughed and said, "When you have publishers waiting for you to get a manuscript to them by a certain date, you can't afford writer's block."
* she has no trouble coming up with ideas - a lot of her books are connected, where she creates a cast of characters and then each one has their own story.
I came away with plenty to think about. That is an amazing writing schedule, and a huge commitment. She said that publishers want writers who are intent on a career, and able to produce a number of books, not just one. I'm not sure I would have that work ethic - 8-9 hours every day! I like to do other things, like teaching. And reading. On the other hand, her house has been featured on TV and in the house magazines - I can tell you that her writing room is nearly as big as my whole house! It has a view out to the bush through large windows, and lots of bookcases and a beautiful wood desk. Plus she has a separate room for her business stuff. If she writes 250,000+ words a year that keep her on the bestseller lists, she absolutely deserves it!