Today I’m very excited to welcome Bestselling author, Beatriz Williams to It’s Only A Novel. Go grab a cup ‘o joe and settle in for a nice visit!
“Write drunk, edit sober,” Ernest Hemingway is supposed to have advised us (which begs the question: Hemingway was sober when?), but most writers don’t need the old man to break the shocking news of the link between creativity and chemical influence.
Now, let me get this out of the way up front: I’ve never written drunk. Not that I can’t put away a flute or two of bubbly with the best of them, but (unlike Hemingway) I have to drive kids around town to soccer and ballet, make dinner on a gas-fired stovetop, and put away the glassware in a soaring upper cabinet in between my writing bouts. So that sneaky sip of red wine before I toss the rest into a bubbling pot of Bolognese is about as close to the downward spiral of Jack Daniels-fueled creative mania as I ever get.
Coffee, on the other hand.
I never was much of a coffee drinker before I wrote my first novel. I went in for the occasional fluffy-topped peppermint mocha during the holiday season, but I wasn’t a regular, not like those people in the Starbucks line rattling off a dozen cryptographic instructions to the barista. Oh, how smug I was. No habits and addictions, not me! A clean liver.
But somewhere in May of 2009 the story and characters that became Overseas took over my brain, and all those orderly hours that had made up my previous writing routine went flying out the bedroom window at three o’clock in the morning, along with my sanity.
About a quarter of the way into the manuscript, I became so thoroughly obsessed, I couldn’t leave my computer alone. I had to force myself to feed my kids, to dress and shower, to stock the kitchen with a minimum of supplies, and all the while I was sleepwalking through the grocery store aisles, dreaming of Kate and Julian, grabbing the skim milk instead of the 2% and the arrabiata instead of the marinara. (Imagine my family’s delight.)
The third morning I crawled out of bed at seven a.m. after three hours of sleep, I knew I was in trouble. I had the worst hangover of my life, and I hadn’t even sipped a snifter the night before. My head was full of rocks, my limbs were made of sticks. Coffee, I thought, out of nowhere. I need a cup of coffee.
I must have mewed it aloud, because my husband, lost and bewildered, said: “Did you say coffee?”
“I need a cup of coffee.”
He must have thought I was crazy. We didn’t even own a coffee maker. But he looked a little more closely into my bloodshot eyes, and whatever he saw there made him grab the car keys and race to Starbucks, running every red light on the way. He brought back the largest, blackest, sludgiest cup of unsweetened Arabica he could fine, and I took a sip, and…
It was like magic. I was cured. An hour later, the spring was back in the step, the rocks had emptied out of the head. The kids made it to the school bus, homemade lunches in hand, and I sat back down in front of the computer with body and soul intact and words flowing like honey from my fingers. I finished Overseas in six weeks, followed by another month or two of editing sober enough to make Hemingway nod in his grave, and by the following Valentine’s Day I had a book deal.
Since then, I’ve written six more books, and drunk countless gallons of coffee to keep up with myself. I still like it black and bold, with a little sweet something on the side, and it’s sitting right here in a venti cup by the side of the computer as I type this very post. And do you know what appeared under the Christmas tree last year, wrapped up in festive Williams-Sonoma green, with a gold tag that read To Mommy?
Oh, yes. My very own coffeemaker.
Beatriz Williams lives in Connecticut with her long-suffering husband and four children. She is the author of Overseas and the upcoming A Hundred Summers from G.P. Putnam’s Sons, and of three award-winning historical romances under the pen name Juliana Gray. Her coffeemaker is named Rupert. She’d love to hear from you! beatrizwilliamsauthor & @bcwilliamsbooks
Beatriz is giving away a signed copy Overseas to one lucky commenter, so don’t be shy!
Elaine F., congratulations! You’ve won an autographed copy of Overseas. <g>
Beatriz will be in touch!