Sharon Lathan and Her Writing Guest Post

I am so honored by Serena allowing me to guest blog for the day. Especially when she agreed to the arrangement before reading my novel! I can imagine it must have been a happy relief when she read Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy ~ Two Shall Become One and actually loved it. It certainly was for me. Receiving glowing reviews doesn’t get old, I assure you.

I never tire of talking about my novels and the adoration for the Darcys that I possess. I suppose it is fortuitous that I am still enamored by these characters and the life I have created for them since I am required to incessantly dwell upon some aspect of my series in the course of writing these essays. The immense satisfaction and passion I bear for my saga makes it easy to answer the questions Serena asked for this blog, but I am afraid the answers are rather boring. You see, she requested I chat about my writing routine and what inspires me. The truth is I have little in the way of routine since my life is extremely hectic, and inspiration is typically wildly forthcoming! But let me see if I can novelize it into something riveting. LOL!

Routine is a foreign word to me. I have worked as an RN on 12-hour night shifts for close to twenty years. My shifts fall in a haphazard fashion that no one in my family can begin to keep track of. Heck, I have to check my calendar several times a week to avoid a mishap! Between strange sleeping patterns, family obligations, and housewife chores, sitting down to focus on writing ends up being fit in wherever possible. Fortunately I am blessed with an amazingly understanding and supportive husband and children. They have gradually assumed more responsibility so I can lose myself on the laptop. It can be a challenge to arrange my necessary quiet, concentration time into their individual schedules, but they are fabulous in their encouragement and assistance.

Case in point: When I began writing I used the computer designated for the children. That soon became a serious time-allotment issue as my obsession grew. I can remember so many forlorn, pleading glances sent my way as one of them politely begged to be allowed to play a game or finish a report! After 2 months my husband insisted on buying me a laptop – a move that I saw as a heinous extravagance for my ‘hobby’ – but he did it anyway. Needless to say my Toshiba is now one of my best friends and I think I would probably curl up in a fetal ball if it ever died on me. *crossing fingers and knocking on several wooden surfaces* Then, this past summer as he saw me struggling with the noisy distractions as I worked from my comfy recliner in the living room, he insisted we buy a desk and ergonomic chair for our bedroom. If that meant another set of expenses and total rearranging of our bedroom, the end result was propitious. I not only got the bedroom spotlessly cleaned and a ton of junk thrown away, but I now have a perfect place to write AND keep all my publishing related stuff. Cool!

What I have learned throughout these years since my journey began is that I need quiet. Some ambient noise is nice, such as the bubbling of my fish tank or the hum of the heater or tumbling of the dryer. But generally I prefer to sink into my solitary zone. Therefore, I move back and forth from my recliner and desk depending on who is home with the TV and/or Xbox blaring. Both places are set up to suit my personal needs, i.e. – a place to sit my espresso, a table top for notebooks, pillows for lap and back support, and good lighting. Nothing fancy, but functional and organized. I am rather OCD about these things!

Yet, interestingly enough, as much as I prefer all environmental elements to fit the prescribed mode, if my handsome muse is inspiring me, I can get lost no matter what is going on externally. I have done some of my best writing while riding in the car, while on vacation in our tiny trailer, while half-asleep after a long night at work, and while the family watches some action flick! It is also fortunate that after over two decades of a nurse’s bizarre time-table and rapid refocusing skills, it means I instinctively adjust to the needs of the moment. I may LIKE to have utter silence, but I can function just about anywhere. Nice, huh?

So what tricks must my handsome muse employ to get me into writing-mode? Whatever they are, I think he is hiding them up his fine-woolen jacket sleeve for now because I have rarely required any formulas or kicks in the tushie to get me motivated. The truth is that I so adore writing a happy, yes, mostly angst/conflict-free story of Regency life for my favorite couple that I do not have to push myself all that hard. Generally the ideas and vivid dreams are blasting at me so vigorously that my only trouble is keeping them ordered.

This whole ‘writing thing’ is new in my life and a huge surprise; thus I have zero experience or frame of reference. I take it one day at a time with minimal knowledge of how it usually is – if there is a ‘usual.’ From the beginning I had a simple vision, a clear vision of bringing fans of Elizabeth and Darcy into the inner sanctum, sharing in their happiness and intimacy while traveling down the road of an accurate accounting of life in the early 1800s. I was never aiming for sensationalism or heavy drama, but rather an exploration of normalcy. Perhaps that is one reason why the story has been so delightful and easy to tell. I rarely struggle over what trauma to throw in their path, what horrid secret to toss in to cause division, or what dilemma to create so they can fight. The Regency world is fascinating and the English culture of the day beautiful. I prefer to write my characters into that setting as they love and dance and live, taking the reader along for the ride! What drama I do add is usually of a typical type, or if bigger – like a duel – written plausibly and resolved in a timely manner.

Some specifics: I write using Microsoft Word, breaking the whole into parts for me to easily access. I have tried one writer’s program, but did not like it, so I am sticking with the basics! I backup constantly on a secondary hard drive, on CDs, and on a smart-stick. I am terrified of losing my material! I have sticky-pads and notebooks in handy places so I can quickly jot an idea or fact. Since my Darcy Saga has now spanned over 2 years, I have created detailed character lists, timelines, and family trees so I can reference info fast. I have several dictionary, thesaurus, and vocabulary-related websites bookmarked and open as I write. I also have easily a hundred or more historical or other data-related sites bookmarked, all organized into a dozen folders that I can click on when I need clarification or research. I have friends and contacts in the UK who assist me with details. I have hundreds of pictures of England terrain, places, and historical people and items to aid with accurate descriptions.

Many ideas for storylines are inspired simply by reading through English history or geography. I keep Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in my desk drawer and although I do not pull it out as often now since the characters have evolved into my own, I certainly did in the early days! I must have read that book a thousand times, even if it was in pieces. Of course I love the 2005 movie, and the poster on my wall and array of stills flashing across my laptop screen keep me in the proper frame of mind.

The last question Serena asked was what inhibits my writing. The answer falls into two stages. Early on, when I was just writing for fun and to please a steadily growing number of fans of JAFF, nothing inhibited me. Then I discovered something that threw me for a loop and took me many long months, years almost, to come to grips with. That is, the critics. I know this is a normal part of the process, and without going into a long dissertation, let’s just say that there are people in this world whose soul purpose is to tear down. Long before I even thought of getting published, the nasties began to attack, purely for the joy of causing pain. Once I did take steps into the publishing world, they came out in droves, utterly convinced that it is their duty to tell me how I should or should not write. Being such a novice, and very ignorant of this part of the machine, it brought me to my knees more than once and I can’t tell you how often I almost gave up. Fortunately I had amassed far more devoted fans than naysayers. So I persevered, grew a tougher skin, learned to shrug it off, and now have a deeper understanding of motivations.

Now what inhibits me is simply time. Getting published is the greatest thing on the earth and I have NO REGRETS! But, it comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility and work attached. There are long lulls when I am waiting for the next part of the process to occur, and I latch onto that for furious writing. Then there are the frantic times with several deadlines, approaching launch dates, edits, website chores, endless phone calls, and so on! It is fabulous, but don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t hard work.

There you have it! The oh-so-NOT-glamorous life of this here author. Be assured I am not holding my breath for the call to be on Oprah!

For even more information about me or my Darcy Saga series of novels, come to my website.

***Giveaway Details:***

Want to win a copy of Mr. & Mrs. Darcy: Two Shall Become One? This contest is international because I am donating my gently used copy to the cause and the U.S./Canada winner will receive one directly from Sourcebooks. So there will be 2 winners!

1. To enter, leave a comment here (other than “Enter Me” or “Pick Me”)

2. Spread the word about the contest to others, and come back here leaving me a comment with a link to your blog post or other form of “word-spreading.”

Deadline will be March 14 at Midnight EST. Good Luck!