Saturday, February 20, 2016

Getting Dressed to Kill

 by Cathy Ace
Thanks to the TYPE M team for inviting me along today – this is a super blog with some great insights for those who enjoy taking, or reading about, the creative voyage. Looking at the list of regular bloggers I’m keenly aware I’m a relative neophyte, so it’s not surprising if my name is new to you. My first novel was published in March 2012, and I’m still discovering something new about the creative process and the crime-writing business every day. Discovering new authors and readers is a part of that joy, so if we’re new to each other – hello, nice to meet you!

A lot has changed in my life over the past four years, as one would imagine when a person embarks upon a third career in their fifties. But I have realized that something has come full circle – and it involves a dressing gown. Let me explain…

When I wrote the first Cait Morgan Mystery, The Corpse with the Silver Tongue, in the winter of 2010, I was still teaching at university and squishing my creative writing into “stolen time”. For that first novel I would plant myself at my desk as soon as I got out of bed (and had thrown the ball around for the dogs, and made coffee…you know) and wouldn’t move until I’d done what I needed to do that day in terms of word count. It meant I, essentially, wrote that book in my dressing gown and slippers.

Since then I have written ten more books across two series and each has brought different challenges, but there’s been one constant, and ever more keenly-felt reality; I’ve discovered that with each extra title published, the promotional effort required of me seems to increase exponentially. This means that, although I no longer teach at university, I am still squishing my creative writing into “stolen time”. It’s weird. I wouldn’t have believed it if someone had told me this was how it would be. It seems that being a “full-time author” means I’m still a “part-time writer”.

When I mention this to those who have much more experience than me, their response tends to involve the rolling of eyes and a world-weary smile conveying “now you know how it feels”. So, this is the norm, it seems. The new norm. I admit I struggle with it. It seems it’s more difficult for me to compartmentalize “work” and “creativity” when the work is promoting the output of my creative effort. And there’s the problem you see – without the creative output, there’s nothing to promote; without the promotional effort, there aren’t the sort of sales figures a publisher wants to support. It’s both, or nothing, so I’m trying to reach the right type of balance for me. As any author does, for them.

Thus, over the past few months, I’ve gone back to the basics; I wrote my first novel wearing a green silk dressing gown, and I am currently writing my eleventh wearing another green silk dressing gown. I don’t write first thing in the morning anymore; being on the west coast I find my email inbox is already quite busy when I get up, and my brain tells me I have to deal with “work” before I can feel fully “creative”, so now I work all day, then write at night. I pull on my dressing gown and slippers, and sit at my desk from about 9.30pm until maybe 1am or 2am to write. The house is dark and quiet, my husband and the dogs are asleep, any emails I receive can reasonably wait until the next day to be answered…so it’s just me and my characters. And my dressing gown.

And about that dressing gown…I love old movies, the black and white ones you see on TCM where so many of the glamorous 1930’s stars sported a fluid, embroidered, kimono-style dressing gown. I admit I coveted those flowing garments, so determined to find one for myself. And I did. In a tiny store specializing in Asian artefacts in British Columbia’s New Westminster, just half a block away from the Raymond Burr Theatre, I found an entire rail of silk kimonos. Black on one side, a variety of solid colors on the other, the fact they were embroidered with dragons (being Welsh means I have a soft spot for our national emblematic creature) and reversible meant I went a bit mad and bought three! I’ve worn the two green ones so far – I’m saving up the blue one for future use. One dressing gown per series of books; one dressing gown for each set of characters. It might sound a bit odd, but I find that getting dressed to kill really helps my creative process – the slippers don’t seem to matter so much, but the dressing gown plays a big part.

Maybe you could help me out here – is it just me who does this? Do you have other “rituals” that help you get into the creative frame of mind? I know some authors have a favorite writing spot, some have a preferred time of day – but clothes?

Cathy Ace is the author of two series: the Bony Blithe Award-winning Cait Morgan Mysteries (book #7 The Corpse with the Garnet Face is published in April 2016) feature a Welsh Canadian professor of criminal psychology who sleuths her way around the world tackling traditional, closed-circle mysteries; the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (book #2 The Case of the Missing Morris Dancer was published in February 2016) feature four softly-boiled female PIs who operate their business out of a converted barn on a ducal estate in Wales. Cathy is National Vice President of Crime Writers of Canada, and also belongs to Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime and the UK’s Crime Writers’ Association. Her website is here:


Cathy Ace said...

Thanks for inviting me to join you guys today - Cathy :-)

Allan J. Emerson said...

Hmm...wonder if I'd be able to up my production if I had a particular outfit to write in? Those dragons must be exhausted by your pace sometimes, Cathy :)

Kathleen Costa said...

I have been enjoying writing along with reading my "cozy" favorites, and have found I work and read well in my favorite lounge wear. I have a comfy cotton lavender Henley shirt, floral pattern drawstring pants and pink slippers. It's comfortable and relaxing, but I may "fancy it up" by finding a delicious silk dressing gown...yeah!

Vicki Delany said...

Pajamas. Always.

Jane Risdon said...

Fascinating and really enjoyable reading your writing day and about your process. I don't wear anything special to write but I need lots of cups of tea and if the crime is going to be complex (red herrings and sub plots) I need lots of liquorice to nibble on. I really wish you continued success with your novels and am sure that soon an enterprising garment maker is going to design and make a line in green kimonos just for you. :)

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Cathy, may be I should go for a classy kimono, too. You seem to get more done than I do even when I wear my favorite fluffy pink robe.

My favorite writing clothes are tee shirt and old work out pants with socks and sneakers in winter. Shorts, tee shirt, and flip flops in summer.

When I don't have time to trim my cat's nails, I opt for long sleeves knowing that he will climb from the desk into my lap while I'm working.

Cathy Ace said...

Hello folks - please excuse the lateness of my reply...I have been having a few problems with my smartphone (which has decided to go all dumb on me) and now I can;t find the REPLY button for each comment. My apologies! I saw Allan at a reading in New Westminster yesterday, and could have said this to him personally - but didn't: I believe all dragons are related, so the ones on my dressing gowns must have some Welsh blood in them, so we fly together ;-) To Kathleen Costa -I like the sound of the floral ensemble...and comfy is a must, I agree :-) To Vicki Delany: pyjamas or pajamas (yes, I always spell it the north American way now, though have a love of that rogue "Y") they'd be comfy too...I treated myself to a few pairs of matching silk pajama pants when I bought the dressing gowns, but they haven;t lasted as long! To Jane Ridson: coffee for me too, but liquorice? Oh, you're brave! A line in kimonos just for me would be great...capacious would be a word I'd use in the briefing, but not too long ;-) To Frankie Y Bailey: I'm sure cast mean long sleeves are a good idea...we had a cat (named Smokey) who liked to jump onto my lap and dig his claws into my chest - one of those kevlar vests would have been useful ;-) Like Castle, I'd have opted for one that had WRITER printed on it .

Patricia Gligor said...

I wish, like you, that I could write at any time of the day but the simple fact is that I'm the most creative first thing in the morning. As the day (and the responsibilities that come with it) goes on, my creativity goes with it. So, having said that, I usually wear whatever pajamas I wore to bed the night before while I write. On my more "energetic" days, I'll throw on sweatpants and a sweatshirt before I sit down to write and, sometimes, I even brush my hair too. LOL