Tuesday, March 1, 2011


As I write this, I’m sitting on the terrace of my mansion on the island of Mustique. The blue-green waters of the Caribbean swirl below and lap at the pink-tinted sand. Hunky native boys wearing loincloths dive from the cliffs facing my sprawling house.

My gorgeous houseboy brings lunch on a silver tray. Lobster bisque and fresh sea scallops, delicately grilled, on a bed of jasmine rice. Yum! A bottle of Italian pinot grigio complements the meal. And for dessert, lemon cheesecake. My cook has outdone herself again.

My two beautiful daughters are in Paris attending the couture shows. They dropped out of college, but who cares? They don’t need an education or jobs. My writing income will keep them in couture for the rest of their lives. Every major fashion magazine loves to publish pictures of them partying their way
around the world.

My agent just called with the news that my publisher has offered another multi-million dollar contract for my latest romance novel.

Ah, the life of a romance novelist.


I shake my head and wake up from my fantasy. I’m not in the Caribbean, but sitting at my desk in my small office. Rather than blue-green water, I face a window overlooking the spindly rose garden. It’s winter and all the roses are gone. I once saw a fox bury a dead squirrel under one of the bushes. That’s about as exciting as it gets around here.

Sure, there are romance authors who make scads of money and could afford that mansion overlooking the Caribbean. There’s no doubt they worked very hard to get there. My hat is certainly off to them and their success.

For the vast majority of us writers, though, life is much different. I liken romance writing to the entertainment industry. In the movie business, there are those actors who make the mega bucks. You know who they are: Brad, Angelina, Jennifer, etc. You get the picture. Then, there are the thousands of actors who struggle for jobs and eek out an existence working for Starbucks between acting roles. Some of these actors eventually make a living at acting, but we barely know their names. As tough as it is, most won’t give up acting because they love their chosen work.

It’s the same with writers. Some of us will never publish; some of us will publish one or two books with small presses and make minimal money, maybe enough for a few lattes at Starbucks. But we won’t give up. We can’t give up. We love writing. There are stories in our heads crying to get out. We can’t not write. I know that last line is a double negative, but it says it so well.

Let me tell you about a day in this writer’s life. And it doesn’t include a house in the Caribbean and hunky houseboys. Or a cook who makes lobster bisque. I’m the cook and I don’t know how to make lobster bisque.

When I was a corporate drone and cubicle dweller, I wrote every lunch hour at my desk. I squeezed in writing every Tuesday night and every Sunday afternoon. It was all I could manage, but I was organized and I wrote five books while working full time. I published two of those books.

Now that I’m no longer working, I’m not so organized. I wish I could make myself sit at the computer by eight every morning and write away. But I had to be to work by eight a.m. five days a week for decades and I now enjoy my leisurely breakfasts too much. Much as I love writing I need balance in my life, so I’ve devised a schedule of sorts. Four days a week are devoted to writing, with time out to go to the gym. Exercise is very important, especially with such a sedentary occupation as writing. I manage to write between five and six hours on my “writing” days.

I have a house to maintain and meals to cook and food to buy. And my husband actually expects me to talk to him once in a while. Plus, there’s my fat black sweetheart of a cat, Killer, who craves my attention. She comes into my office during the day, crying for me to pet her or walk her to her food bowl. How can I resist those big yellow eyes?

Left alone, I’d never leave the house, but spend every waking hour writing.

Balance. We all need it.

Therefore, three days a week I devote to everything else that doesn’t involve writing: cleaning, food shopping, doctor’s appointments, hairdresser appointments, etc. Even on my supposedly “non-writing” days, I manage to keep up with emails, do online promo and squeeze in a little writing.

Where do I write? In the aforementioned office. I do have a very nice side porch though, overlooking the driveway. On warm days I take my laptop to the porch. Until two years ago, I wrote at a desk in the crowded, dark basement. My husband and I converted a spare bedroom on the first floor into my office.

Not a very exciting life by a long shot, is it?

So what’s my point? Writers, especially romance writers, are compelled to write because we love the genre, love the written word, love those sexy heroes and the happily-ever-afters. We don’t need the fabulous lifestyles of the rich and famous, although we wouldn’t turn it down. Our imaginations will transport us to that house on the Caribbean, to that ranch out West, to glamorous cities, and lovely small towns. Our imaginations will take us back in time to Ancient Rome, Medieval France, the American West. We’ve got a wealth of stories knocking around our heads, a plethora of evil villains and beautiful, strong heroines fighting for freedom and for love.

We’re rich, after all. That’s the life of a writer.

PS-I love Starbucks, and their lattes are awesome.



Vicki Batman said...

Hi, Cara. We have to meet at Starbucks sometime. I adore their hot chocolate!

I agree with your point about writing romance. I love challenging my head this way and have learned and am continuing to learn.

Cara Marsi said...

HI, Vicki, thanks for posting. I'd love to meet you at Starbucks.

Cherie De Sues said...

Oh my gosh, that was so true! I have a big overstuffed rust-colored armchair and ottoman where I sit next to a window with my laptop. I look out at a large well-kept lawn and garden. I agree, I couldn't give writing up either.