Monday 11 March 2019

A Day in the Life of Author Leigh Russell @LeighRussell #ADayInTheLife #Author @noexitpress #GeraldineSteel

A Day in the Life of Author Leigh Russell

Welcome to another edition of my occasional series; 'A Day in the Life of ..' 
I've invited authors to come and talk about what their average day looks like, we are trying to get rid of the myth that all authors laze around on a sofa bed all day, dictating their books and making millions of pounds! 

I'm delighted to welcome Leigh Russell to Random Things today. Here is her Day In A Life ...

I have to confess it’s quite tricky to describe a typical day in my life, because no two days are alike.

To begin with, very little writing happens on the day of my two-year-old granddaughter’s weekly visit. Painting? Yes. Reading? Certainly. And this hot summer we spent a lot of time playing with water in the garden.
But writing? Not a chance. In addition to looking after my granddaughter, I spend one day a week visiting my father, and another at the University of Westminster as a Royal Literary Fellow helping students who struggle with their writing. All of which leaves me two or three days a week free for writing. It’s time that I certainly need, as I typically have two books published a year.

Fortunately I write very fast, typically 2,000 words a day, so completing a book in six months shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
At first glance one book would seem to take around three months’ work. But writing a book is so much more than typing out words in a coherent order.

Each book demands a great deal of thought. Eugene Ionesco wrote: “A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of writing or thinking about writing.” 
Or, as Agatha Christie put it, “The best time for planning a book is when you’re doing the dishes.”
So a book written in three months might take as many years to develop, because the thinking time can be considerable.

Once I have come up with an idea, the next step is research. This can take many forms, from travelling to exotic locations - the Seychelles, Paris, Rome, New Orleans, Athens - to visiting police cells and prisons, five star hotels and homeless shelters, museums and markets, as well as consulting forensic experts and scientists, and investigating information online.
It’s important for me to have my story worked out in detail before I start my research as it can be very distracting and I am, first and foremost, a story teller. So I include very little actual procedure in my police procedural novels, which focus on character and plot rather than routine procedure.

Yet even after an idea has been worked out, the relevant research has been done, and the writing completed, the process isn’t complete, because there are still edits to work on.
I have been extremely lucky with my editors who have all been brilliant.
My Geraldine Steel series has enjoyed the benefit of one exceptional editor throughout, and I am grateful for her expert guidance. Structural edits have become less time consuming as I have grown more experienced at writing. All the same, despite having had twenty books published, I still feel as though I’m learning my trade.
At some point in my career I hope to begin to feel confident in my abilities but that hasn’t happened yet, and I wonder if it would take the edge off the thrill that fuels my writing. Fear and excitement are so closely related and I suspect complacency might dull my creativity. So perhaps I’m better off as I am, afraid that every new book will be the one that finally bombs, because this run of success can’t continue indefinitely, can it?

After the structural edits, the manuscript is passed to a copy editor. Revisions I am expected to carry out at each stage have lessened significantly since I started writing. And finally, after all that, comes the proof reading, with every change submitted to me for approval.
A series of editors and readers have eyes actively on the manuscript before it is published, but it is my name on the cover of the book. I am the story teller, and the characters are my creations. And we’re still not done. I sometimes joke that it takes longer to think of a title for a book than it does to write it.
Acknowledgements need to be written, and a dedication, and a cover chosen, although I have minimal input into the design of my books.
I am a wordsmith. Sadly my skills do not extend to anything that requires a visual imagination. And that’s it. The book is published. But in the modern world the work of an author does not begin and end with the writing process.

The buzz word in publishing is ‘discoverability’.
Anyone can write a book and post it online, but how do we draw attention to our work so that readers buy our books and enable us to earn a living from writing fiction?
Apart from a very few very rare individuals whose publishers provide the ‘hype’ to create a bestseller, authors today are expected to speak at literary festivals, visit bookshops, talk in libraries and universities and colleges, and generally make themselves available in the physical world, as well as spending time on social media in the virtual world.
With two books published a year, much of my time is spent writing posts for blog tours, and doing book tours in the physical world, to promote my latest book.

As for when I am able to stay at home and devote myself to writing, which doesn’t happen often enough for my liking, my day follows a fairly regular rare routine.
My day starts with breakfast in bed, a luxury I couldn’t enjoy when I was obliged to leave the house at an almost impossibly early hour to get to work. After that, I spend a few hours dealing with emails, and attending to social media. After a cup of coffee I am usually sufficiently awake to begin writing.

Depending on where I am in a book I might spend anything from four to twelve hours planning, researching, and writing. Sitting at a desk typing might sound easy, but it can be mentally draining, so by the evening I am usually exhausted on a writing day. If I'm not going out, I might read, or put the television on and write a blog post, like this one. Or I might just be unable to stop writing.

As an author, there is always something to do. But would I change my life as a full-time author? No way! As the late great William McIlvanney said, Writing is an inexplicable compulsion.” Once you fall in love with writing, it’s impossible to stop.

Twitter @LeighRussell

Leigh Russell's latest Geraldine Steel novel; Rogue Killer is published on 21 March by No Exit 
Follow the blog tour to read the reviews

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