Nora and I both worked remotely this week. She reached out late in the week with this post. I know that routine is key to her work, but this goes a little deeper. ~Laura
I’m a creature of habit, and routines are as precious to me as diamonds. Maybe more, because while diamonds are great, they’re sparkly and pretty, I don’t need them to get by. I definitely need routine.
I have one at home, and am happiest there when I can stick to it, without interruptions or something breaking that routine. Like a dentist appointment or a sick dog or ringing phone.
But a few times a year, I have another routine–away from home.
BW and I go to a lovely resort/spa in The Laurel Highlands–just a couple hours from home. We go, just the two of us in November, with friends in January, with friends and family in the summer. And I go with only girl pals for a week every spring. (That is the BEST week of the year!)
In the spring and summer, it’s play and relax only–though I’ve been known to sneak in a little work if I need to, early mornings, on the summer trips.
Fall and winter, these are working vacations for me. And my routine is set.
In the morning, I work out–either in the gym here or with DVDs I bring for the room. I do a good, long sweaty workout before breakfast–then woo–that’s over for the day! I might join BW for some breakfast, or might not. After–and he goes off on an adventure–I settle down to work. I can work really well here, I’ve discovered. No interruptions, no nagging thoughts about when I need to stop to start dinner. No dogs wanting to go out or come in, no UPS truck trundling up the hill. No phones ringing.
Absolute quiet and focus for at least four solid hours. It’s wonderful. I remember last year at this time finishing up Blood Magick at this little desk in the parlor of our suite. I’ve done some pretty good work here.
This morning I’ve finished up the first draft, just minutes ago, of the first book in a new trilogy. No info on that yet, gang. First draft is, for me, crappy draft. Lots of work to do yet.
After I work, I pull myself together, walk over and have some fabulous spa treatment. It’s glorious. A facial, a hot stone massage, a wrap–whatever. Then I come back, and as BW generally has his treatment just a bit later than mine, usually have about a half hour alone. To play on my tablet or read. Lovely.
Then it’s wine time! And ordering dinner someone else has to cook. Ahhhh.
Maybe some TV, some hanging out, then bedtime so I can get up and do it all again the next day.
I love routines. But I’ve also learned you can adjust them and give yourself small breaks. It doesn’t have to be a week away on a working vacation.(I admit, I treasure mine.) It could be taking an hour out of your busy day to do something just for yourself. A conversation with a pal, a little alone time, a walk, buying yourself some flowers. Anything that reminds you that good hard work–and I believe in good, hard work–should merit the occasional reward.
Be good to yourselves!
Now I’ve got about an hour–and may dip into that second draft before I walk over and have myself a favorite treatment–hot stone Shirodara. It’s amazing.
And I’ve just looked out the window. It’s snowing. Holy cow!
I have the amazing Laura, who stands as my personal publicist and Person Of All Details. You will note, when she posts or comments, she puts her name after the post or comment, so the readers know it’s Laura, not Nora. If I post or comment, I put my name on it.
I realize in the strange world of the interwebs the person signing off with NR could be a four-hundred pound bald man, sporting full-body ink under his wife-beater shirt. You only have my word that it’s not.
While Laura does much to keep me in line–ah, that is, to keep the business around the writing running as smooth as it can–she doesn’t assist in the actual writing. No one does.
An assistant would, without question, drive me insane, and I would likely murder this poor, unfortunate individual in a bloody and brutal manner without a single twinge of remorse or regret.
Keep away from me during work hours, and nobody gets hurt.
I don’t use researchers, proofers, consultants. I don’t collaborate. I would also murder a collaborator, probably five minutes into said collaboration. There are plenty of blunt objects in my office.
I don’t take ideas or suggestions on characters, storylines, story angles, settings from anyone. I do mean anyone. At all. Ever. What’s written in the book is mine. Mine, mine, mine. You might sense I’m a little bit territorial here. You would be correct.
I don’t have a staff. I have a long-time housekeeper who comes in once a week to shovel out the house. If someone was in here fussing around with stuff every day? I would make good use of those blunt objects.
I don’t play or work well with others. That’s why writing is such a good career choice for me. It’s solitary. I don’t have to see or speak to anyone for hours and hours and blissful hours every day.
While I write the books, all by myself, that’s about all I do. I send the manuscript to my editor and agent. My agent handles ALL the business stuff. All of it. She’ll meet with my editor (who is also, in this case, my publisher), and they’ll hammer out business details. My editor will edit. If she feels changes need to be made, we discuss. I’m probably going to make them because 99 times out of 100 she’s going to be right. Every writer needs an editor. Every writer.
The manuscript is copyedited by a copy editor who works for the publisher, not for me. It’s put into production. My editor has an amazing, truly amazing talent for visualizing covers. She’ll work with the in-house (the publisher’s) art department. I do not design the covers. I’m not an artist. I do have cover approval. 99 times out of 100, when I’m shown the cover proof I say: Thank you! It’s perfect. Because it almost always is.
It’s proof-read in-house, and by me, in page form. The galleys–for reviewers–are uncorrected proofs that won’t have any corrections or changes made. And still, something gets missed in the final copy. I wish it was otherwise, but it happens.
I don’t have anything to do with pricing, with scheduling, with distribution, with who reads the books on audio. (I am hugely grateful to Susan Erickson and her incredible interpretation of the In Death series.)
Again, my job is to write the books. I let everyone else involved do their job so I can do mine.
Most readers don’t understand how publishing works–why should they? The fact is, I don’t understand some of it myself. So I just write the books and let the rest happen. But this is a really, really basic outline of how it works for me. Other authors may choose to be more involved with publishing details. I’d rather just write–my choice.
A note from Laura: All I said was “don’t you think every heroine should be a Laura?” Then I noticed the blunt objects. 😉
Well, it’s been an interesting week. To cap it off, here’s the complete, definitive list of what you won’t see in the In Death series from JD Robb herself. ~Laura
1. Eve and Roarke babysitting Bella for any length of time.
The middle of murder is not the time for her slooches and delightful antics.
2. Nadine and Baxter in love (or sex).
A conflict of interest. One of them–the Crime Beat reporter or the Cop–would have to change careers. I think we all enjoy them too much for that.
3. Nadine and Trueheart in love (or sex).
She’d eat that sweet boy alive.
Its 2061 and birth control has been handled (off page) and reliable pregnancy tests would be as easily–if not more–available than a candy bar.
5. Eve dreaming about being pregnant.
6. Roarke kidnapped.
He’d kick a potential kidnapper’s ass.
7. Eve kidnapped.
8. Eve in a coma/seriously injured so the rest of the gang can take point on an investigation.
Eve is THE central character and is always going to take point.
9. Roarke in a coma/seriously injured, etc.
Roarke is a central character. I don’t want to write a story where he’s not front and center.
10. Peabody and McNab may very well get married, even have a kid–sometime way, way, down the road. WAY DOWN.
At this point, and peering into my crystal ball for the foreseeable future, they’re really happy as co-habs.
In a recent Facebook thread, we had considerable speculation–and some insistence–regarding Roarke’s full name. Several posters stated Roarke was named Patrick Michael Roarke, Jr after his father.
Let me repeat, be perfectly clear. Roarke was not named after his father. This man is, and never was anyone’s junior.
He’s Roarke. Just Roarke. That’s more than enough.
Some readers feel I hinted in Portrait that Roarke was named after his father. Actually I hinted at another name entirely. But while he carries the name Roarke from his father, that’s it. Just it. No other name. I simply didn’t give him one, for the very specific reason I saw Roarke. And we agreed that’s all he wanted or needed.
If readers find it fun or interesting to add a name on for themselves, that’s fine. It’s the magic of reading. You, in a very real way, create your own image.
I’ve had questions regarding Stella–what’s her REAL name. My reaction runs to: What does it matter? Whatever the name on her birth certificate, she was a horrible person. The name doesn’t change what she was. Her name means nothing.
In Concealed In Death, I revealed Mavis’s birth name. It mattered–what really mattered was why she changed it, and how and why she picked the name she did. Who she became. That’s, for me, what a name can say about a character.
What Roarke’s name says, for me, is strong, individual, confident and just a little mysterious. That’s who he is–and that’s who he’ll always be.
Names matter. Richard Troy and Stella didn’t give Eve a name. She wasn’t a person to them. Officials named her. She became Eve Dallas–and the name fits. Strong again, focused, a woman determined to stand for victims, and never to be one again.
Roarke’s single name is all he needs. It’s who he is–who he made himself. He took that single name, the last name of the father who abused him–and made it matter, made it his and his alone. Giving him more, in my opinion, detracts from his evolution.
So feel free to speculate, it’s your story while you’re reading. But he’ll always be Roarke.
I thought about this when I took my little after-work stroll around the gardens on Friday. Everything’s looking so pretty, color and texture already changing. Then I got to one of my favorite spots, what I think of as a little faerie garden.
I literally stopped dead, stunned speechless.
During my earlier workout, I’d heard Pancho
barking incessantly–and yelled out a few times for him to knock it off. I didn’t think much of it–until I saw my dragon wing begonias, my pretty mini fuchsias, some of the yellow bells and foxglove had been trampled on, and many broken.
It didn’t take much for me to get the picture. Some critter had wandered in, and the dogs had gone wild. Now if a deer passes by, they generally just lie there, maybe give it a glance. I hear them thinking: Okay, it’s bigger than us, we’ll just stay where we are. But a raccoon or possum, that’s fair game.
And the games must’ve been vigorous.
A moment–okay longer than a moment–of heartbreak, and a stern talking to given to the dogs.
While I’d planned a quick trip to the nursery for Saturday, it was for a couple of specific things to fill particular gaps–and didn’t include fixing up that section. Now it would. After I gathered up some of the broken plants–sticking them in water on the faint hope they might shoot some roots–I scribbled down a short list of what I’d need.
Saturday’s trip took longer, and well, there I am in the middle of all those gorgeous plants, so four and a half flats later, I come home. I’ll also confess, I had to make myself stop. So tempting to get more–and somehow I’ll always find room. But enough already.
BW isn’t home today, but will be pleased I only have a single plant I want him to do–pretty big hole needed, and in a tricky spot.
I’ll do the rest.
As I’m setting them out, getting a visual, switching them around, next visual, I realize I never have any real plan when I garden. I have a basic concept I may or may not follow.
That’s just the way I write. Huh.
Both are jobs and joys for me, and I approach both in a way I’ll call organic. Let’s start here and see what happens. After the first draft in a book, I’m going to need to start from the beginning again, start weeding what doesn’t belong, prune out what needs to go. Maybe I have to move what I thought should go here to there.
I’ll need that third pass in a book, doing all the fussy work, making sure this is the best I can do, making sure it all holds together.
Gardening’s the same with my process.
There are going to be gaps that need filling. More color, more texture, maybe a different angle. My nasturtium seeds have only sprouted two little plants. I think about this, move one carefully and plant it with the other.
In its place I fill in with mini fuchsias (I bought far too many for the faerie garden anyway), and some wishbone flowers (not on my list, but too sweet to resist) that should spill nicely over the wall.
Not what I’d intended, but it works. It works really well, and I think, that’s just how it should look. Readjusting with a story is the same. You go where it works.
Water, compost, conversation. You want a strong story, you want strong plants–and I want to be intimately connected to both.
It’s marvelous to watch things bloom, in a story, in a garden–whether it all blooms the way you anticipated at the start, and even more so when it blooms its own unexpected way.
You’re going to get sweaty and tired–and there can be some disasters–having both my hard drive and backup crash simultaneously years back, costing me an entire chapter isn’t so different than seeing a pretty, thriving section of my gardens trampled by a couple of enthusiastic dogs. There I had to go back,reconstruct–and tell myself, as I am with my faerie garden, it’ll only be better for it eventually.
With a book, it’s going to end. You’ll have done the best you could with the story, and you’ll move on. A garden is a constant work in progress. But for me, getting there is pretty much the same.
In the recent discussion we could call Procreation In Death, readers tossed out a lot of ideas about plot direction, story additions, plot devices. It’s gratifying to know books and characters I created resonate with readers and have them thinking of what ifs and what’s next.
Characters, like Eve and Roarke and the gang, or like Lila and Ash in my most recent book, The Collector, become a major part of my life. It’s incredibly satisfying when they become a part of a reader’s life.
Now here’s the thing. It’s sort of a big, sweeping thing. There are many, many readers with many, many opinions, feelings, hopes, ideas. As we can see, just as one example from the previous discussion, some readers are as opposed to a Baby Roarke as I am at this time. Others long for one.
So who do I listen to? I listen to the characters–and myself. If I listened to the readers I’d go slowly mad as it’s impossible to please all as one readers says this, another says that. Often with equal passion.
A writer can’t write, not well, not truly, with a reader standing over her shoulder. If only because there’s a second reader over her other shoulder saying the exact opposite. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Neither, because books are subjective and personal, and readers are entitled to take exactly what they want out of a book.
But the writer’s the only one who puts the words, the characters, the feelings, the actions, reactions on the page for those readers to take away.
Here’s the even bigger, more sweeping thing.
I’m never–let me repeat–never, ever, ever going to take a reader’s idea and run with it. Not no way, not no how. If it doesn’t come from me, I’m not going to write it, I’m not going to be compelled to follow that path and see where it leads. It’s not mine.
Over the years I’ve had countless suggestions from readers on storylines, character types, and in the case of the In Death books, countless suggestions for direction and plotlines. Comas, kidnappings and babies seem to be the most popular. (Though puppies were off and running this time out.) You’re not going to see Eve or Roarke in an extended coma so Peabody and McNab can run the show. It’s not the Peabody and McNab show. If Roarke got himself kidnapped, he’d lose considerable of his edge. I can spend the next twenty minutes writing out other reasons why these devices won’t work, but above all you’re never going to see these devices because they’re not mine. It’s not how I see the books or characters.
And over the years I sincerely can’t count the times someone has come up to me, or written me hoping I’ll take this wonderful idea for a book, write it, then split the royalties with them. Or maybe I could just edit this book they’re writing and they’ll cut me in on what’s bound to be a major best seller. Or–a personal fave–they want me to write their life story because it’s so fricking fascinating.
To all of these I say, PLEASE, write your own book. I think it’s pretty clear I can come up with my own ideas, so thanks but no thanks for the offer of yours and half the royalties.
And to those who pine for me to write their autobiography, I say here, as kindly as possible, everyone’s life is, or should be, fascinating to them. It’s probably not going to be fascinating to most everybody else. And it’s not my story. I’m never–repeat–never, ever going to write it.
Ideas, honestly, are the easy part of this job. It’s the execution of the idea that frustrates, fascinates and drains the blood from your body. Ideas? I’ve got a million of them. Some of them will never make it to the page because they’re not especially good ideas. Nearly all of them seem like the wrong idea at various points during the writing process when it feels like nothing’s going the way you’d hoped it would or thought it would. But that’s the process.
So don’t look for comas and kidnappings In Death, don’t look for your life story on the New York Times Bestseller list with my name after it, don’t look for your phantom vampire and the international assassin who loves him or your struggling single mother finding love and adventure with the incognito prince as they thwart a terrorist attack on Cleveland.
Hmmm….maybe make her a blogger, and he’s undercover CIA, and….No.
So the big (and simple) and sweeping thing is this: If I didn’t think of it, I’m not going to write it.
I hope you’ll continue to enjoy what I do think of, and where I take you.
Recently Laura posed a question on Facebook asking what people thought Eve and Roarke might do if they had a free weekend without a murder to deal with. The most popular answers from readers were: Make a baby and/or find some young child and adopt, and Eve finds blood kin–a kindly grandmother, a sweet long-long sister.
Here’s why I’m going to disappoint those hopeful readers.
As I’ve said before, babies change everything. They must, they should. I’m simply not ready to change the scope and dynamics of the series.
But oh, you say, people have babies all the time! They adjust their lives, they make it work. Why can’t Eve?
Because she’s not ready either.
But! It would be so funny to see her trying to cope with a baby!
Yes, it would. For a scene or two. I have to think of the big picture here. I would hope if and when Eve and Roarke become parents (and an older child, adoption, fostering mean EXACTLY the same thing as a parent is a parent) they’re really, really good ones. A really good parent doesn’t toss the baby/kid to Summerset while they rush off at all hours to fight crime or work in-house on a case.
Yes, cops have babies/kids in real life. This isn’t real life. Consider the soap opera a moment. A character gets pregnant (drama, humor, pathos ensues) then the baby’s born. We have baby time for a few episodes. Then we don’t see the kid again until he’s ready for school. And THEN we rarely see the kid until he’s grown up enough to have his own story. Because the day-to-day parenting doesn’t make for good drama in a story that’s structured around action, investigation, sex. Think about it, how could they show all the latest fashion if the star has a maya wrap ring sling around here with a drooling baby… Not going to happen.
Also consider the structure of the series, the timelines. Each book normally takes a handful of days in book time, and the next book closely follows. How many of you are really interested in reading about a pregnant Eve for the next few years? I’m not, and if I’m not interested I can’t write it. Yes, I could zip through those months of gestation. Not interested in doing that either.
So, no babies, not now. No charming orphans of any age. No pregnancy scares, no miscarriages, no foundlings, no street-wise kid who needs a good home. Did I leave anything out? If so, fill it in, then answer no.
Now onto the kindly grandmother.
One of the main elements, for me, of the series is how Eve made herself. She came from monsters, yet she made herself courageous, strong, decent. She made herself a cop who’ll stand for the dead, for the victim, for justice. She overcame horrors and had dedicated herself to protecting and serving, is willing to risk everything to do so.
She could’ve made another choice, she could’ve used those horrors as an excuse, but instead she used them as a springboard and became a damn good cop.
There is no kindly grandparent or sweet, long-lost sister in her life. She’s not only made herself, she’s made her family. Roarke is her everything, as she is his. It matters, I think, that these two people who came from abuse and viciousness found each other, helped make each other into better people. Love opened them to more.
Eve has a sister. In fact, she has two. Mavis and Peabody. She has a father in Feeney (and a little bit in Dennis Mira, too). She has a mother in Mira. A kid brother in McNab. She has, like it or not, a father-in-law in Summerset. Family is what you make of it, and Eve and Roarke have made a fine one, and linked it with a solid circle of friends.
The Eve we met in Naked In Death wouldn’t have been capable of opening herself up to that family, to that circle. The Roarke we met in Naked In Death would only have accepted that family and circle on a very surface level.
Love changed them, and that’s more than enough.
It’s now 2 pm — less than 6 hours after the initial post. In view of some to the comments, Nora asked me to add the following:
Adoptions, any age child, would change the dynamics and tone of the series just as surely as conception and a biological child. There is no difference in the needs of or the love given to an adopted child than there is of or to a biological child. Eve and Roarke are NOT having a child, adopted, biological, off the streets, out of an orphanage, out of fairy dust, for the foreseeable future. I’m truly sorry to disappoint some readers, but MUST follow my own vision and be true to my characters.
The issue about babies arose again and Nora posted the following on Facebook:
The Eve and Roarke must be/need to be/should be parents topic comes up too often for me to keep repeating why this isn’t happening. I’ve been clear, from the writer’s point of view, countless times. I feel it’s wasting everyone’s time for me to keep explaining my reasons–and it’s senseless for me to find myself upset when adoption is brought up as if there’s a difference between parenting an adopted child rather than a biological one.
So I’ve asked Laura to simply link my blog post on this subject whenever it’s brought up in comments. I have to stop repeating myself on this topic.http://fallintothestory.com/
I’m sorry some readers are disappointed I’m not taking the series and the characters in this direction, but I’m not. Repeat: I. Am. Not. The readers who insist on telling me why this could/should work are wasting their time. I don’t agree, and I write the books. NR