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Guest Post: A Tiger Mom’s Writing Spaces by Nina Benneton, author of Compulsively Mr. Darcy

Compulsively Mr. Darcy by Nina Benneton was released on Feb. 1 from Sourcebooks Landmark. In this modern re-telling, Dr. Elizabeth Bennet tries to overcome her own intimacy issues, while Mr. Darcy is looking for a woman to love him and all his obsessive compulsive tendencies. Through a serious of complications and misperceptions, Benneton weaves a modern fairy tale in her modern debut that will have Austen lovers salivating.

Today, I’ve got a real treat for those of you that love a look into writers’ lives and into their writing spaces.  Nina Benneton is going to share with us her “Tiger Mom Writing Spaces.”

Without further ado, please give her a warm welcome.

I’m a Tiger-mom with a pride of active children. My writing space is usually wherever my body is at the moment.

A tiny desk near a little-used front door at Chawton served as Jane Austen’s writing space two hundred years ago.

I call this Jane Austen writing space. The family refers to this as Mama’s throne, my Jane Austen writing space in one corner of the family room. On that round table there, I keep whatever reference books I need for the novel I’m working on (three novels concurrently). Six feet to the left of my chair, a piano sits, convenient for me to Tiger-mother-supervise daily piano practice while I’m writing. To the right of my chair is a large, flat-screen TV that’s rarely on, thank goodness. Diagonal from my chair is a large sectional couch where my husband sits and practices his guitar, and where my kids read or play games (and make too much noise). My favorite and best writing time is in the morning, when I wake up at 3:30 AM to get some writing done right in this chair, and the room is quiet and empty. I get the majority of my fresh writing done until 6:00 AM, when the family wakes up. On the weekends, it’s golden because they don’t get up until 9AM or later and I can actually get 6 hours in. I go to bed two hours after the children do, at 10:00PM (after I sneak in some editing or working on writing classes’ assignments).

I call this my Virginia Woolf space. My writing office is off the master bedroom, on the other side of the house, away from the family room. Because I don’t want to isolate myself physically from my family, I’m rarely in here. When I need absolute silence to concentrate, I come here. My family is very good about respecting my time in here and only bother me if they absolutely cannot find the milk on the fridge shelf right in front of their noses, or if they can’t tell if the dishwasher is dirty or clean, or if someone is calling someone a naughty name.

I call this writing space my Blue Highways space (since William Least Heat-Moon space is too much of a mouthful). I have my daughter’s old pink Princess laptop pillow in the backseat of the van. (Not enough space for my laptop behind the steering wheel). When my kids are at ballet or soccer or swimming practice, I’m in the backseat of the van in the parking lot working on my writing. I go to performances and games, but during practice times, even if it’s only fifteen or twenty minutes in the parking lot, I steal for my writing.

I do most of my pre-writing plotting, brainstorming, getting into the character’s inner rhythm etc… while I’m doing mundane things like making meals, cleaning house, errands and so forth. When I sit down to write, I already know how I want the scene to go. First draft writing is the hardest for me—as I need quiet to create. I make sure I write 1000 words a day at least when I’m doing first draft. Revisions and editing I can do anywhere, anyplace, with noise etc… I basically steal bits of time for my writing. I’m deep editing my third novel, letting my fourth rest, and writing first-draft my fifth.

Thanks, Nina, for sharing with us your writing space.

About the Author:

Nina Benneton was a scientist on her way to save the world and win a Nobel Prize in something, anything, when a rare-bird enthusiast nut whisked her off her restless feet. A flock of beautiful children and a comfy nest kept Nina contented in domestic bliss until one day, she woke up and saw that she was too obsessed with alphabetizing her spices and searching for stray Barbie shoes.

Find her on Facebook, Website, and Austen Authors. Her book is also on GoodReads.

  • bn100

    Thanks for sharing your pictures and writing spaces. It was a very post to run.

  • Great post! Your writing spots look perfect. I can’t imagine getting up at 3:30 in the morning though. I have to admit I do love the time alone in the house before anyone else other than me and the dog are up. I can’t wait to read more from you Nina – Compulsively Mr. Darcy was great!

    • Darlene!!!

      Thank you for the compliment. I’m blushing here.
      LOL. I don’t know why but that early AM impress people more than if I was staying up until 3AM writing and sleeping until 9AM, which is pretty much the same amount of sleep. One of my writer friends with children does that…

  • Wow! Three books at once. I’m impressed.

    • Melanie,
      Well, you know, it’s not that different from mothers who have three children. You still have to manage three kids while they’re at different stages. Having children taught me to multi-task. 😉

  • Staci

    Loving all the different spaces!

    • Staci,
      Speaking of different spaces–once, the family was on a camping trip, and while kids were napping in the tent with DH, I took an extension cord and went to the bathroom at the campsite where there was an outlet. I wrote while sitting outside. Something about sitting in nature gives your scene a different feeling. I still remember that day and that scene.
      Yes, sigh. I’m a nut.

  • Evonna Rosebud

    I love the space and your flexibility to write anywhere. NICE.

    • Evonna, thanks for stopping by!

  • Nina:

    I love this intimate look at WHERE you write. It is quite interesting to see them all. I remember you talking about your Virginia Wolfe space. I might feel a bit like here as well. Now the mini van one, I shouldn’t be surprised about that one either as I know how much on the go your are.

    I am reading your book as well! And enjoying this final version as much as the one I read awhile back! Congratulations to you on your book release!

    Barbara

    • Barbara, you are so lucky to have seen the book earlier before the final version..So much fun.

      • Thank you. How kind both of you… 😉

        Barb, see I told you I’m not that OCD. See the mess in the Virginia Woolf space? That’s my TBR pile. Some day, I’ll get through that pile.

  • Jakki L.

    Thanks for sharing all of your spaces. I wish I could work with noise. I am very much a quite worker. The only thing I like in the background is a jazz cd I have listened to since college while writing, Sunday Morning Jazz. The kids bickering and rowdiness drives me nuts if I am trying to work.
    So, if you are in the van for twenty minutes and in a grove and your writing is flowing, and your kids come out of practice, do you just stop, or let them in the car and finish that section/thought/scene? I think, for me, it would be difficult just to stop that train of thought and pick it up again later.
    Oh, and may we know what the second book is that will be coming out and possibly when? 😀

    • I wonder the same, Jakki. Will she finish her thought or pick it up later?

    • No way would my kids sit patiently until I finish that section/thought or scene…because not only it wouldn’t be fair to them, but when I’m writing, ‘in a minute’ could mean twenty minutes.
      I just stop and pick it up later–sometimes not until they go to bed, or if I’m lucky and homework isn’t too bad, I can do it after dinner. Meanwhile, I may have worked out a kink in the scene in my mind while I’m not on the page…

  • Love the spaces! Gives you options, keeps your writing fluid, when you’re on the move!

    • Devon, I agree. Great observation.

  • I’m with you, Serena, I’m not that big into time-travel either. But, I wondered why…and then I decided because I didn’t like it, I needed to tackle it and challenge myself. It’s that challenge to see if I could do it that will drive me to the finish line. I’m not afraid to fall flat on my face (which I likely will 😉 )

    I actually preferred to read Regency Jane Austen sequels rather than moderns, and because I didn’t prefer modern retellings, I wondered why…and then I started writing Compulsively Mr. Darcy…

    • I’m sure you will do fine with the time-travel story. I generally just don’t like them…not sure why… I don’t have a preference between modern and regency period JA novels. Sounds like you have a great way to get novels out…challenging yourself with things you “don’t” like. Does that mean you end up liking them after writing them?

      • Yes, LOL, I do end up enjoying them after I tackle it. I read moderns now.

        My crit partner writes a wonderful time travel story, and I enjoy her story, but she takes the time to lead the reader into her world building and I need that as a reader.

  • Lydia (C)

    It’s always nice to find about your favourite writers, that’s the gossip in me!
    At the moment I’m reading Ms. Benneton’s book and I loved to see where it was created. I agree that it seems like a writer’s life may be tough, but thank you for gifting us with these wonderful characters and with such an entertaining story!

    • I am reading Benneton’s book now too! I hope to have my review up early next week.

    • Wow. I’m honored you’re enjoying the book and take the time out to comment.
      I’d put myself in the chair in those pictures, but I’m shy. Just picture me as a younger and cuter Amy Tan, although not as neurotic nor talented, okay?

      • LOL…I thought all writers were shy?!

  • Oh my, those early morning hours are amazing! Now that is dedication to your craft. I am toasting you with my large latte right now. P.S. I’d buy you one too, because I think you could use the caffeine. 🙂

    • I get up pretty early at 4:30am, but I cannot imagine getting up any earlier.

    • LOL. Thank you for the caffeine! I’ll need it for the long day today!

  • It sounds like she maximizes her time! Her Jane Austen space looks cozy.

    • I love that authors provide these tips about maximizing writing time. I think I need to train my brain more.

    • About maximizing my time and brain…

      It does get easier. I learned that from multi-published authors in writing classes. If one waits for the muse to show up or free time, it’s not going to happen. I had to learn to incorporate writing into a part of my life, without dropping the balls.

      Elizabeth Gilbert of ‘Eat, Pray, & Love’ did a wonderful TEB presentation a few years on the creative process. Basically, she says her job is to show up to do her work, and if the muse doesn’t cooperate, that’s his or her problem. I love that.

      Even this week, with the debut release and all, I still park my bum on my Jane Austen chair early in the morning and churn out vomit-worthy first draft writing. I ‘pay’ myself first with fresh words daily before I tackle anything, even if all I have time for is a measly 200 words like this morning. But that’s okay, because while I’m doing other things like taking care of my sick daughter, driving to my signing event etc…, my subconscious brain/body is working out the rhythm of the rest of the scene, so that if I have another quiet 30 minutes in the day, I can write the other 800 words.

      If I don’t make it, I don’t beat myself up. Another day, I’ll write 1800 to make up.

  • I love that she is able to write anywhere! Her Jane Austen space looks cozy.

    • Anna,

      If you see a lady at the pharmacy line whipping out a page and scribbling, that’s me. 🙂 I never mind the long wait for anything, because that’s golden time.

      Actually, I find it helps to change my environment when I’m doing revision or editing. Something may read fine while I’m sitting in my Jane Austen chair will read awkward while I’m in the van, staring at the printed page. If something read well no matter where I am, then I know that passage worked.

      • That’s sound advice. Thanks for the tip.

  • Oloore

    Thank you for sharing this information about writing private realms:) It was very interesting! A writer’s life is really tough. And getting up at 3:30 am – I probably would not be able to do such heroic deed:)
    Nina, you mentioned working on three novels now. Is it ok to ask what they are about? And is there another Austen-based novel among them?

    • Hi Oloore,
      I got up late this morning. It’ 5AM. I slept in because I’ll be doing a signing today for five hours across town with a group of writers at a chocolate & romance affair.

      A writer’s life is tough, but when it’s just me and the words, it’s a beautiful meditative time (even if I’ll likely edit out those words later).

      The third novel is a Regency Romantic Suspense, a P & P one. The fourth is a non-JA contemporary romantic comedy in the vein of Compulsively Mr. Darcy. The fifth is a time-travel–haven’t decided if this one will stay in the JA realm I plotted or make it an original. I’ll see when I finish the draft.
      Thanks for asking.

      • OOO, the suspense and contemporary books JA based sound delightful. Can’t wait to see those. I’m not much for time travel books, but I’ll have to check it out anyway. Thanks for sharing those with us.