Writing ‘The Forgotten Room’
The Forgotten Room is a collaboration from New York Times bestselling authors Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig. It is a rich, multigenerational novel of love and loss that spans half a century. Before they went on a trip to iron out the story and hit send to their editor, they first worked on their sections separately. The three authors share where they write—and why.
Lauren Willig (writes at Starbucks):
I know, I know. It’s such a cliché. But at Starbucks, there’s always coffee at hand, the music is on low, and when the phone rings, it’s never for me.
Since my first book was published, back in 2005, I’ve had four different primary work Starbucks, along with at least a dozen back-up Starbucks for those days when you need a change of scene to get through that Chapter That Doesn’t Want to Be Written. My last eight books, including my segment of The Forgotten Room, were all written at the same corner spot at the very end of the counter in the Starbucks on 57th between 8th and 9th. (I can reveal the location of my bat cave because I’ve since relocated and had to switch Starbucks, to my sorrow and to the relief of other authors angling for that corner spot.) By the third manuscript or so, the baristas there all knew my name, my toddler’s name, and the names of my books. They would check in on me, let me know when my favorite seat was freeing up (“Okay, it looks like that guy is moving…. Go, go, go!”), share toddler-wrangling stories, and sneak extra shots of espresso into my coffee.
Oddly enough, I’ve never met any other authors at Starbucks, although I have eavesdropped on some deeply entertaining job interviews. I am currently in the process of breaking in a new writing Starbucks—that corner spot will be mine; oh yes, it will be mine!—as Karen, Beatriz, and I start work on our follow-up to The Forgotten Room…. And, of course, my own next stand alone book.
Karen White (Her porch in Atlanta):
I live out in the countryside north of Atlanta in a rambling house with lots of different nooks and crannies in which to write, depending on the weather. My favorite spot is our screened porch at the back of the house that overlooks our back yard and a horse pasture behind that. We’re high up on a hill so that we (me and my canine writing companions Quincy and Sophie) can witness the inspirational changes of season through the skyline of trees that border that back of our property.
In the early days, when my children were still at home, I wrote most of my books in my Volvo SUV while parked outside the football field during practice or at the horse barn where my daughter rode. Now I just have to find a seat large enough for me and the two dogs. I do have an office, but that’s strictly for the “business” side of writing. When it’s cold, I have a lovely sitting room upstairs next to a fireplace with a switch I can turn on and off (no messy wood or stoking necessary). It’s a tight squeeze but Sophie doesn’t mind perching on the ottoman as long as she can rest her chin on my leg.
I also sneak away to the beach for a month before deadline (dogs in tow) which is where I’m headed in a couple of weeks to finish my next stand-alone novel and to start my next collaboration with Lauren Willig and Beatriz Williams. Hopefully it will be warm enough when I get back to Atlanta so that I can resume my spot on the sofa on the back porch–just as long as nobody gains any weight we should all still fit!
Beatriz Williams (Her Treehouse):
As a mother of four young children, I have a hard time writing at home, unless I’m in that obsessive stage of creation during which the dinner gets burned and the kids run naked. There are just too many distractions! Laundry, dirty dishes, dropped socks and piles of Legos — they all conspire to drag me out of the book whenever I get the smallest bit stuck. So until last summer, I would march out the door as soon as the school bus squealed away from the curb and walk to the Starbucks on the Boston Post Road in Greenwich, Connecticut — not the one on Greenwich Avenue, too crowded and scene-y — or else to the Putnam Restaurant for the best diner breakfast in town.
And then we moved.
Don’t get me wrong. I love everything about our new town in a more rural corner of the state—the people, the antique houses, the nearby shore, the absence of soul-destroying traffic. But you can’t walk anywhere here; you have to drive, and I used to love those long morning walks that ended in hot coffee and a seat by myself where I could discard my domestic self and just write. During the summer, I discovered that our new treehouse—kitted out with Adirondack chairs and sited blissfully outside the Wifi umbrella—gave me just enough distance to remain undisturbed, but once the autumn zephyrs started a rain of acorns through the treehouse window, I had to search farther afield. I’ve now discovered a diner that nearly matches my old haunt in the quality of its bacon and eggs, and the Ashlawn Farm Coffee shop makes ferociously good scones to go with the best coffee anywhere. But I’ve also learned the gentle art of brewing my own pot, finding a quiet corner, and building an invisible wall of discipline around me. Because Mommy’s working.
The Forgotten Room is so seamless that we doubt you’ll be able to tell where any of the parts were written!
Whose writing space do you most want to visit?
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