Monday, June 16, 2014

Where Writers Write ... by Maria Hudgins

J. K. Rowling wrote parts of the first Harry Potter novel at a café in Edinburgh with her baby daughter asleep beside her. The café was warm. Cold hands drop pens. Sitting in a café doesn’t work for everyone but a writer needs to find a place where they can write.

I like to discover where writers write—especially my favorite writers. I’ve gleaned these bits from personal conversations, from writers’ own works, from biographers, and from tour guides. Any or all of these may have been lying. How would I know?

• Hemingway wrote in a room over the carriage house behind the big house.

• Peter Lovesey and Simon Brett both write in small garden houses behind their main residence. The English do love their gardens

• Cynthia Riggs writes in a room on the top floor of the B & B she owns and operates. “When I finish doing the beds I go upstairs and close the door. Everyone knows not to bother me.”

• My friend Teresa Inge, working a full-time job in finance, sits in her car on her lunch hour and writes while eating her bag lunch. Now that’s determination.

• Mike Befeler has a writing room with a to-die-for view of the Rockies out his picture window, but he doesn’t pull back the curtains until his work for the day is done.

• Agatha Christie often typed away in an upstairs cubbyhole at Greenway, her beautiful summer home, but just as often had to make do with hotel rooms, or at a rickety table in an expedition house in Iraq.

Here is a photo of my own writing space. It works for me. What you can’t see in this photo is the sofa along the opposite wall where my dogs lie and keep me company. Music? Not for me. I do, for unknown reasons, leave a TV on, but muted. The dancing images keep the room from feeling too dead. Guilty secret? A scented oil I bought in Egypt. I float a drop or two on water over a warming candle. Maybe that’s why my stories tend to be set in exotic places.

Let me now contradict that idea by telling you my latest book, Death in an Ivory Tower, Five Star/Cengage, June 2014, is set in Oxford, UK. No warm tropical breezes, no sand, no pyramids. But for a place that can raise spooky to a whole new level, how about a sixteenth century residence hall in an Oxford college?


Maria taught high school science for thirty years and retired with a head full of information that often creeps out in her stories. At one time or another she taught biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, physical science and oceanography. She live in a little brick house in Hampton, Virginia, a stone’s throw from Hampton Roads Harbor, the body of water that joins the Chesapeake Bay and the James River to the Atlantic.

Learn more about Maria and her books at her website. She can also be found on Facebook and Goodreads.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've been to Oxford and that's a great setting for a story.
I just work at my desk. Rather boring.

Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting Maria.

Maria - It is fascinating isn't it what we can learn from people's writing spaces. It tells us about what the writer is like and gives us interesting insights. I also think it's interesting the way writers use their spaces.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I can write fiction just about anywhere, but when writing non-fiction, I do best sitting at my kitchen table with my notes spread everywhere.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Maria, thanks for the fun post. I have a little bedroom that has become my (messy) office. Sometimes I lug stuff downstairs to the dining room table so I can separate projects. I always have to clean up my space before I can take photos.

Jan Morrison said...

another great hosting job! Yay!

Maria - I write here in Labrador (I live in two places) at a fold out table in the dining room. My view is the beach through really tall spruce trees. I don't listen to anything but the tap tap tap of my fingers on the keyboard. Sometimes my beasty dog can be pretty loud without using her voice - just her eyes 'take me out for a walk' but if I walk her early in the day I'm good to go. In Nova Scotia I write in a room in the basement of our house. No view. I often think of Stephen King writing in the laundry room in those early years. Yikes!

Maria Hudgins said...

Patricia, I confess that I straightened my desk a bit before I took this photo. And I brushed off the cake crumbs. Thanks for inviting me to blog! I love hearing other writers comments!

Susan Oleksiw said...

I love hearing about other writers' habits--working space, quirks, etc. I have a "room of my own," with lots of book shelves, an old desk, and two chairs usually piled high with books, mail, and tote bags. My view, however, is of the sidewalk and street outside, but this is a walking street so I get to overhear conversations sometimes. I never listen to music, radio, or TV while I work. I don't really like TV or radio during the day.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

During nice weather, I sometimes sit on my front porch and write. The neighborhood is so peaceful and everything is green right now. Now if I had a carriage house in the middle of my garden I might go there with a pot of tea. LOL

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Maria and Pat,

I am also interested in where writers do their work. I enjoyed the post. In my case, I have my own desks and chair set up in the master bedroom which is a large area. Lots of my artwork on the walls, but I won't listen to music while I work either. I like it quiet so I can concentrate. Maria, congrats on the new novel!

Grammy Staffy said...

Hello again. Thanks for hosting Maria. I am not a writer but I surely admire those of you who are. Keep up the good work. Hugs, Lura

Carole Price said...

Your desk is so tidy. I write in my den on my laptop at an old desk. Shilo, my dog, watches from the sofa. Books are everywhere: on shelves, on a card table, on the floor. Writing is a messy business. Outside my window is a small tree that attracts hummingbirds. I only play music when I write a romantic scene.

Barbara Graham said...

I'm happy to learn you removed the cake crumbs--that still leaves a very tidy workspace. I would expect nothing else from you. Me, I'm a mess and so is my workspace. I have a window with a beautiful view--I never, ever, open blinds.

Eileen Goudge said...

I live in NYC, and though my office is a serene space, I'm still surrounded by busyness. I go away to the country for a month at a time to write, just me,myself, and I. I have a wonderful friend with a lake house in Wisconsin that he lets me use. Deep country where I look out the window at Nature and dream. I sit at the kitchen table with my laptop, so I guess I've come full circle. In the early days of my career I had my desk in the kitchen because there wasn't a room for an office. I wrote on a typewriter back then.

E.J. Wesley said...

I've got a dedicated office with a corner desk. My dogs sleep underneath. :) I try to keep fun things that inspire my creativity around--like action figures and collectibles.

I also really like writing in coffee shops. I slip on my headphones and the commotion around me somehow focuses me. If I'm too 'at peace' with my surrounding, my mind tends to wander instead of writing. :)

The new book sounds amazing!