I’ve known Lauren Chater on social media for a few years and had the absolute pleasure of first hearing her work read aloud at the Historical Novels Society Conference a few years ago. It immediately struck me as unique, lyrical and the kind of writing I wanted to hear more of. So I was absolutely thrilled when her first book, The Lace Weaver, was picked up by Simon & Schuster and published recently.You can win a signed copy of this gorgeous book just by leaving a comment on the blog post below. Over to Lauren to take us through her writing room!
1. My stories are made … at home or elsewhere?
Inspiration for my stories comes from everywhere however the actual work of ‘extracting’ them takes place mostly at my desk. We have a really small house so my desk, which I bought second-hand off Gumtree, sits in a corner of my bedroom. I do like to write in cafés and libraries; I find it comforting to be around other people.
Writing can be so isolating that I sometimes find I need to get out of the house. If I’m on deadline though and need to concentrate, I’ll chain myself to the desk. I have small children so I can’t afford to waste time traveling to the café!
One small indulgence I allow myself is a self-imposed writing retreat once a year in the Blue Mountains. I love to stay at this little place called Poet’s Cottage in Wentworth Falls. It’s where I wrote the first lines of The Lace Weaver and also where I did some editing on the book once it had been contracted by my publisher. It’s such a gorgeous spot, surrounded by bushland and native wildlife. It also boasts the most gorgeous set of leadlight windows; I wish I could take them home with me.
2. My stance on notebooks is …
Awfully non-committal! I tried so hard for years to be one of those people who wrote in beautiful notebooks! I loved the romantic idea of it, but for some reason it just never worked for me and I always ended up falling back into my old habit of jotting down ideas or observations in my phone.
Having said that, I did buy a notebook last year which I have dedicated to my current novel, Gulliver’s Wife. I’ve been using it to keep track of my progress with the manuscript and so far, so good! It’s a gorgeous notebook which really captures the 18th Century aesthetic of the novel. I jot down some notes after every single one of my writing sessions, such as how I felt while I was writing, whether the scene worked or if it will need editing later and whether it was easy or hard to write. This at least has the very satisfying effect of making it feel as though the project is moving forward even when I have to stop for long periods of time between working on it. So perhaps the tide has turned at last!
3. I am … tidy or messy?
In many other areas of my life, I’m quite messy. I’m a messy cook, my handbag is always full of receipts (and the odd kids’ sock) and my husband will tell anyone who listens that I’m not known for my house-cleaning prowess. However, when it comes to my desk I like to have things neat and tidy. I think I’ve convinced myself that if my desk is tidy, the manuscript will magically tidy itself as it progresses. This rarely work out as planned!
One of the things I love about having a dedicated work space is being able to reach for certain books when I need them. Because I write historical fiction, I’m always stopping to look something up or check a date. There is quite often a large pile of research books beside my desk, waiting for me to rummage through them. Sometimes, the pile becomes a teetering tower and that’s when I know it’s time to clean up or risk being killed by falling books! Let’s be honest, though, it would be the perfect way to go for a writer, wouldn’t it?
4. I like … noise or silence?
I don’t mind noise if I’m working in a café or a children’s play centre during the holidays (shudder), but if I’m working at home, I prefer silence. Writing takes so much out of me – I find it very exacting and have to really psych myself up before a session. I’ve still got my author training wheels on; I’m still learning how to exert control over language and the story I want to tell so for the first draft, I prefer a quiet space. Then hopefully I end up with something half-decent which I can edit later and redraft. It’s not always possible, of course, since I’m a mum to two busy children but I’ll take what I can get.
5. On my desk, I must have …
Books! I’m not hugely fussy about needing certain talismans on my desk in order to work but having research books to-hand is a must! I also keep some of my favourite writing books on the shelf above my desk; if I’m feeling blocked or stuck in a particular scene, I’ll open one up at random and just read some advice from someone far wiser than me, like Margaret Atwood. You (Natasha) put me onto Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing a few years ago, and I’m so grateful you did. I love that book!
I’ve also been known to inhale a packet of Tim Tams (or two) during a writing sprint. I wanted to put a ‘thank you’ to Arnotts on my acknowledgements page, because I’m not sure my book would have been written without them, but there wasn’t room. If anyone reading this works for Arnotts, please know I am available for sponsorship.
6. My walls are covered in …
Although I only have a small workspace, I’ve tried to surround myself with inspiring images and beautiful things that make it a pleasant place to be. On my walls, I have a framed print of a masked woman on a stage which I think is mysterious and beautiful, as well as a quote my lovely publisher sent me when I was in the midst of a manuscript meltdown: You Have the Magic. I had it printed out and framed just to remind myself on the days when I feel very unmagical, untalented and undeserving of anything good. I really struggle with imposter syndrome, so this print is a lifesaver!
7. I love my writing space because …
We have a love/hate relationship. I love my space because when I sit down, I know I’ll get the work done no matter what. But I’m also aware of the long hours I’ll spend there and how sweaty and uncomfortable I’ll be by the end of the day. For me, writing is literally like exercise – it’s like running a marathon, but without the benefit of losing weight. In fact, it’s more likely the opposite will happen (see Tim Tam comment above)! In spite of that, I’m lucky to have a dedicated space. I know I’ll be sore, hot and cranky when I’m done but I’ll be one step closer to finishing that draft or handing in those edits. And really, that’s all that matters.
Win a Signed Copy of The Lace Weaver by Lauren Chater
To win a signed copy of this book, which I absolutely loved, all you need to do is leave a comment on the blog post. Let us know which part of Lauren’s writing space or writing practices most resonate with you. Good luck, and here’s a little more about the book.
A breathtaking debut about love and war, and the battle to save a precious legacy
Each lace shawl begins and ends the same way – with a circle. Everything is connected with a thread as fine as gossamer, each life affected by what has come before it and what will come after.
1941, Estonia. As Stalin’s brutal Red Army crushes everything in its path, Katarina and her family survive only because their precious farm produce is needed to feed the occupying forces.
Fiercely partisan, Katarina battles to protect her grandmother’s precious legacy – the weaving of gossamer lace shawls stitched with intricate patterns that tell the stories passed down through generations.
While Katarina struggles to survive the daily oppression, another young woman is suffocating in her prison of privilege in Moscow. Yearning for freedom and to discover her beloved mother’s Baltic heritage, Lydia escapes to Estonia.
Facing the threat of invasion by Hitler’s encroaching Third Reich, Katarina and Lydia and two idealistic young soldiers, insurgents in the battle for their homeland, find themselves in a fight for life, liberty and love.