I am back in my fortress of solitude again, my isolated mountain cabin. I’d returned to Santa Fe for a short visit, to spend some time with Parris, deal with some local business that had piled up during my months away, and of course fulfill my duties to CoNZealand, the virtual worldcon. But all that is behind me now, and I am back on the mountain again… which means I am back in Westeros again, once more moving ahead with WINDS OF WINTER.
It is curious how my life has evolved. I mean, once upon a time, I actually wrote my books and stories in the house where I lived, in a home office. But some decades ago, wanting more solitude, I bought the house across the street and made THAT my writer’s retreat. No longer would I write all day in my red flannel bathrobe; now I would have to dress and put on shoes and walk all the way across the street to write. But that worked for a while.
Things started getting busier, though. So busy that I needed a full-time assistant. Then the office house had someone else in it, not just me and my characters. And then I hired a second assistant, and a third, and… there was more mail, more email, more phone calls (we put in a new phone system), more people coming by. By now I am up to five assistants… and somewhere in there I also acquired a movie theatre, a bookstore, a charitable foundation, investments, a business manager… and…
Despite all the help, I was drowning till I found the mountain cabin.
My life up here is very boring, it must be said. Truth be told, I hardly can be said to have a life. I have one assistant with me at all times (minions, I call them). The assistants do two-week shifts, and have to stay in quarantine at home before starting a shift. Everyone morning I wake up and go straight to the computer, where my minion brings me coffee (I am utterly useless and incoherent without my morning coffee) and juice, and sometimes a light breakfast. Then I start to write. Sometimes I stay at it until dark. Other days I break off in late afternoon to answer emails or return urgent phone calls. My assistant brings me food and drink from time to time. When I finally break off for the day, usually around sunset, there’s dinner. Then we watch television or screen a movie. The wi-fi sucks up on the mountain, though, so the choices are limited. Some nights I read instead. I always read a bit before going to sleep; when a book really grabs hold of me, I may read half the night, but that’s rare.
I sleep. The next day, I wake up, and do the same. The next day, the next day, the next day. Before Covid, I would usually get out once a week or so to eat at a restaurant or go to the movies. That all ended in March. Since then, weeks and months go by when I never leave the cabin, or see another human being except whoever is on duty that week. I lose track of what day it is, what week it is, what month it is. The time seems to by very fast. It is now August, and I don’t know what happened to July.
But it is good for the writing.
And you know, now that I reflect on it, I am coming to realize that has always been my pattern. I moved to Santa Fe at the end of 1979, from Dubuque, Iowa. My first marriage broke up just before that move, so I arrived in my new house alone, in a town where I knew almost no one. Roger Zelazny was here, and he became a great friend and mentor, but Roger was married with small kids, so I really did not see him often. There was no fandom in Santa Fe; that was all down in Albuquerque, an hour away. I went to the club meetings every month, but that was only one night a month, and required two hours on the road. And I had no job to meet new people. My job was in the back room at the house on Declovina Street, so that was where I spent my days. At night, I watched television. Alone. Sometimes I went to the movies. Alone.
That was my life from December 1979 through September 1981, when Parris finally moved to Santa Fe, following Denvention. (Not quite so bleak, maybe, I did make some local friends by late 1980 and early 1981, but it was a slow process). When I think back on my life in 1980-1981, the memories seem to be made up entirely of conventions, interspersed with episodes of LOU GRANT and WKRP IN CINCINNATI.
Ah, but work wise, that same period was tremendously productive for me. Lisa and I finished WINDHAVEN during that time, Gardner and I did a lot of work on “Shadow Twin,” and then I went right on and wrote all of FEVRE DREAM. Some short stories as well. My life, such that it was, was lived in my head, and on the page.
I wonder if it is the same for other writers? Or is it just me? I wonder if I will ever figure out the secret of having a life and writing a book at the very same time.
I certainly have not figured it out to date.
For the nonce, it is what it is. My life is at home, on hold, and I am spending the days in Westeros with my pals Mel and Sam and Vic and Ty. And that girl with no name, over there in Braavos.
Current Mood: contemplative