Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Author Feature: Day in the Life of Bee Ridgway

So today I have Author Bee Ridgway to share her day with us and showcase what its like being her as an author.  


I'm going to tell you about a great writing day, because my days are divided into writing days and non-writing days.  Non-writing days involve boring things like keeping body and soul together, and who wants to read about that?  Writing days are the best kind of day in the world.  The decks are clear, the email is turned off, the phone is on silent: there’s only me and my computer and my writing chair.

I wake up, knowing that I have a whole day ahead of me in which to write.  I lie in bed for a little while, luxuriating in the immediate future.  Then I put on my snuggliest pajamas (I have three pairs of flannel pajamas and two pairs of cotton . . . I love pajamas!).  On really good days my breakfast is an avocado sliced up on a piece of toast, with lemon and a bit of red pepper and lots of salt.  I know that sounds un-breakfasty, but try it!  And of course, a big cup of strong coffee.  Coffee . . . I wouldn’t be human without it. 

Having put myself outside of breakfast, it’s now time to write. 

I live in a little old brick row house in Philadelphia, which means that my house is 16 feet wide and three stories tall.  Each floor is made up of two little rooms.  To get to my writing room, I climb up two flights of rickety wooden stairs.  They creak and squeak, as do the floorboards throughout the house . . . it’s like living in a badly-tuned violin.

Last year I painted my writing room a pale greenish yellow, and I painted the floorboards a dark brown.  There's a big round red rug on the floor.  It's from IKEA, so you might know exactly the rug I mean.  My desk is a little oak number that sits in the corner, piled high with books and papers.  I don’t know why I even have a desk.  I never write there.   I have a red armchair by the window, and I sit in that.  I’ve worn a hole in the right elbow of my favorite pajamas – that’s how many hours I’ve spent writing with my elbows propped up on the arms of that chair.   I turn on my lamp, which is one of those porcelain figurines from the 30s or 40s.  This one is a gentleman in a lemon-lime 18th century suit.  He should have a lady who matches him, but he lost her somewhere along the way, so it’s just him and me.  I pick up my laptop, prop it on my thighs, open it, and set my fingertips on the keys.  My mother made me learn to type properly when I was a teenager, for which I am now eternally grateful: my fingers start to fly over the keys.

Before I know it, it’s lunch, and then after lunch it’s back to the red chair.  The hours pass, unmarked by me.  The light in the room changes and fades.  It’s dinnertime.

I usually call it quits on the writing when it’s time for dinner, but if my brain is still buzzing and a scene is unresolved, I might write through until ten or eleven at night.  I’ve been known to write for fifteen hours in a given day.  But it’s best if I can stop at dinnertime and give myself a chance to unwind.  Otherwise I’ll have a hard time falling asleep, and if I have the good fortune to have another writing day open the next day, a night of lost sleep is a terrible thing.

So let's say that on this day, the day I'm telling you about, I am ready to stop when the dinner bell rings.   But before eating, cleaning.  I shower at the end of a writing day, rather than the beginning.  Writing is a dirty business.  At the end of a good writing day I feel almost as if I’ve walked ten miles.  The exhaustion is physical as well as mental.  When I know I’m done writing for the day I take a long shower or a long bath, then eat.  After dinner, we take a long walk, or go out with friends, or listen to music.  I can’t deal with TV or reading after spending all day writing – other people’s plots get me thinking about my own, just when I need to be chilling out.

When I finally crawl into bed after such a good, long writing day, I have to spend at least twenty minutes talking myself into sleep.  Writing is so much fun, so stimulating.  Even when it doesn’t come easily, or when I’m struggling with the revision of a tricky scene – it is always incredibly fun to me.  I love it. 

Usually after a great writing day I dream ferociously – never about the writing itself, but big crazy dreams that seem to last all night.

And that is a day in my life!  I wish it were every day, but alas, work and the mundane realities of life (I do work for a living, and I do wash my pajamas and clean my dishes) interfere . . . !

I am the author of THE RIVER OF NO RETURN, which is coming out on April 23rd from Dutton in the US, and in late May from Michael Joseph in the UK.  It is a time-travel romance crossed with a mystery crossed with a historical epic, crossed with an old fashioned swashbuckling adventure, and all sprinkled with a hint of apocalypse.   I  was born and raised in Amherst, Massachusetts, in a parsonage made from three stuck-together old cottages.  After college I worked for a year in features at Elle Magazine, then went to grad school to study English lit.  I spent several years chasing research materials and true love around the UK, I settled down to teach American literature at Bryn Mawr College. I live in Philadelphia.  THE RIVER OF NO RETURN is my first novel.

Twitter: @beeridgway

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