JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: "Write what you know" is a truism many authors follow, but few of them are as knowledgeable about their subjects as Reba White Williams. When she wrote Restrike, the first in a series about gallery owner Dinah Greene and her art-magazine-editor cousin, Coleman, Reba didn't just take a stroll through the Met and download a copy of ARTnews. She tackled her art-world mysteries after a lifetime of collecting American prints, writing scholarly articles and earning a PhD. in Art History. (She also has an MBA and a masters in fiction writing. Talk about overachieving!)
Her first book did well, she got picked up by a larger publisher, and her second book, Fatal Impressions, came out less than a month ago to excellent reviews. The picture of contentment, right? Well...it turns out even the most well-prepared author isn't immune from struggling with The Book That Will Not Be Written...
I enjoyed writing my first two novels. The words flowed swiftly and easily like butter melting on a hot plate. I told my friends how easy it was to write. How much I enjoyed the experience. That I laughed out loud at the antics of my characters and couldn’t imagine having any problems writing. I was ever so smug.
I began my third book in January, and within days I knew this book was different. The words wouldn’t come. The sentences weren’t there. I lost a completed section and had to rewrite it. I was constantly interrupted by trivia. I caught a hideous cold with drippy eyes and nose that led to an infection that led to something worse, and finally, minor surgery. I couldn’t see to read or write and I struggled to get words on paper. My deadline was April 1. I feared that I couldn't make it.
We had a series of electrical blackouts and after the second one the refrigerator went insane. It began to make horrible noises and we couldn’t turn it off (it was built in). For two days it screeched at me. I could hear in every room. I couldn’t escape it. My friend Susan wrote that she had a vision of me shooting the refrigerator, making headlines all over the country. I sent it to my editor but accidentally sent an old version and had to send again. When the book was finally finished, I was exhausted and drained. I felt that the book and I had been at war. I wondered if the book tucked on a shelf somewhere was rewriting itself. Is my book an escaped Stephen King novel?
Have other writers had this experience? What can I do if the next book challenges me? A friend suggests hanging garlic near where I am writing to fend off witches. Any better ideas?
How about you, dear readers? Do you have any superstitions or charms to make your writing go smoothly? And what do you do when the work just won't come? We have three copies of Fatal Impressions to give away to some lucky commentors, so be sure to join in the discussion!
You can find out more on Reba White Williams' remarkable career, and read excerpts of her Coleman and Dinah Greene mysteries on her website. You can friend Reba on Facebook, follow her on Twitter as @RebaWWilliams, and include her in your circle at Google+.