Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rhys Bowen: A Writer's Life

I'm thrilled to welcome the fabulous Rhys Bowen as our guest blogger this weekend. Not only is Rhys a New York Times bestselling author and winner of a gazillion awards, she is a fellow British transplant. These days Rhys divides her time between California and Arizona—to escape the harsh California winter, she says. Having been a professional writer all her life, Rhys was happy to talk about what "being a writer" really means. Rhys ... over to you!

When I was young I'd read about writers sitting in their lonely garrets waiting for the muse to call. When the book was finally finished (written in longhand, complete with ink blots and a few tears on it), it was shipped off to the publisher and the writer's job was over.

Oh, how I long for that lonely garret, because actually writing the book is only a small percentage of my writing life. Take what I am doing now, for starters. I blog, I guest blog, I group blog, I have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, Goodreads, Linkedin and my website all of which need my constant attention.

I go around the country to speak, sign and attend conventions. Sometimes these occasions are lovely and really worthwhile. I meet people who have driven miles to come and see me. I reconnect with loyal fans who have been to all my signings. I meet up with writer friends and we gripe together over a glass of wine. And then there are the not-so-brilliant ones, like the ladies luncheon clubs who just need A Speaker and don't care who it is. They tell me they can't give me an honorarium but they will offer me ... and I quote "A free lunch." Do I look as if I'm starving? And then comes the kicker. One of them tells me that they found one of my paperbacks in a used book bin at the retirement center and "they have passed it around all their friends." I'm supposed to drop to my knees with gratitude.

So I'm learning how to say no—politely, of course, because one never knows who one will meet—"Oh, by the way my husband is the head of NBC drama" or "we need a speaker for our huge fundraiser which will be televised".

And then there are the blurb requests. If you have been successful with historical mysteries like me, you become the go-to person for historical mystery blurbs from all the publishers. Since I won't blurb a book I haven't read I find myself with a lot of extra reading to do. It's hard to say no to important editors or fellow writers. Because I was certainly helped when I was a new writer and really believe in paying it forward. So maybe I could forget the book writing and make a good living from my blurbs. My blurbs could range from the hundred dollar variety: "This book was okay," to the thousand dollar quote: "This was the best book I ever read."

And of course for the books that weren't so good one can always say, "I never read anything like it" (meaning no other book was ever this awful) or even "Wow. This was a book!"

I'm just kidding, of course. Blurb quotes are part of the writer's life these days and I'm happy to give fellow writers a little help when I can.

But it all eats into the writing time. I hope to find an hour or so left in every day to do a little writing.  Book writing, I mean. The reason I got into this business in the first place.

Ah, for that lonely garret!
Or a desert island wouldn't be bad either—with pina colladas.

Rhys writes two historical mystery series: the Molly Murphy novels set in early nineteen hundreds New York City and the lighter Royal Spyness books featuring a penniless minor royal in 1930s England. Her next title is The Twelve Clues of Christmas due out this November and preceded by a Lady Georgie e-story called Masked Ball at Broxley Manor coming this October.


Charlotte Hinger said...

Rhys, I went to my regional mystery writer's meeting Thursday night and listened to ebook publishing gurus. The level of recommended activity was manic. Crazy, in fact. Something has gone seriously wrong.

Rick Blechta said...

Many thanks for dropping by Rhys. Excellent piece!

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Loved your post, Rhys. I always thought being a writer would involve writing in a cozy room with a view of a lovely garden. Only problem, I don't have time to plant or tend the garden.

Donis Casey said...

Rhys, your comment about not knowing who might be in the crowd is what makes me keep accepting speaking engagements for the price of gas or a free lunch. You never know when that Hollywood producer's sister-in-law will show up.

Hannah Dennison said...

I must admit I'm not great on social media although I love interacting with readers. I do long for the lonely garret as long as I'm fed at regular intervals.