Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How It Began

Kristina Wright

by Kristina Wright

A year ago in the very early morning hours of Thanksgiving here in the US, I sat in a dark room pounding out a few thousand words of a proposal for my first single title anthology. I had promised the proposal before the end of the week, despite the very busy holiday weekend, despite the fact that I had a not-quite-three-month-old baby sleeping upstairs (sleeping more than I was that week, to be sure) and a not-quite-two-year-old sleeping across the hall. So, before I had even put the turkey in the oven, before dawn had streaked the morning sky and running on an average of four hours of sleep a night for three months, I finished the proposal.

The proposal was approved, the book was contracted and I proceeded to write an eighty thousand word book in less than three months. The book hit the virtual shelves on October 25-- almost eleven months to the date of that dark Thanksgiving morning when I finished and sent the proposal. And because I wrote the book in such a compressed span of time-- and because there are roughly twenty short stories-- I have forgotten much of what I've written.

It's a strange thing, rereading my own writing and knowing I wrote the words because the story feels familiar, but not really remembering writing them. It has happened a lot in the past few years, as my production has risen while my sleep has decreased. Being pregnant, having babies, caring for children, being continually sleep deprived, having an endless stream of deadlines to meet-- it all makes for a sometimes faulty memory. And so I often lay in bed at night staring into the darkness and wondering how I'm doing it all, why I'm doing it all, whether I can do it all. Sometimes those questions-- and the lack of answers-- keeps me awake at night. It's a vicious cycle.

But this book I wrote in a frenzy at the beginning of the year, that is now available in all the usual online stores, is a point of pride for me. It is my first entire book in over a decade. I am proud of my anthologies-- six published to date, a seventh on the way in a month, four more contracted and in various stages-- but to have an entire book that is me, all me, has been a goal for several years. There is the inner critic that grumbles that it's "just" a collection of short stories and not a real novel, as I still dream-- scratch that-- plan to write, but even I can see how ridiculous my inner critic is being. I wrote a proposal, sold a book, wrote a book and saw it published in the span of a year. A very, very busy year, with a new baby in the house, a toddler going through all sorts of adjustments (along with my body, my marriage and my mind) and several other contracts and commitments to meet. I wrote a book in what everyone told me would be the hardest year of my life-- the year I had two babies under two. I wrote a book.

That thought, that single thought, is why I keep writing. Why I will always write, no matter what path my life takes. Writing sustains me. It keeps me awake in the dark, yes, but since I was a very young child, I have soothed myself to sleep by telling myself stories. The darkness is where dreams become words for me.

My book, Seduce Me Tonight (HarperCollins Mischief, October 2012), contains a collection of loosely linked short stories about couples in various stages of their lives and relationships. From people just meeting and falling in love (or lust), to long-married couples rekindling the passion between them, it's a book about people connecting in different ways, about the need to be held, comforted, loved, desired, wanted and understood. Many of the stories overlap, with recurring characters and settings. It was a fun book to write-- yes, even as I was killing myself to make deadline-- and I'm hoping it finds a wide readership who also believe in the power of love and lust.

Many of the stories include night scenes and darkness-- perhaps because that's where secrets are to be discovered. Here is a snippet from my story "Coming Home":

I knew I shouldn’t be there. I mean, hell, it wasn’t like I had even been invited. I’d broke in for god’s sake. I’d broken the law—and for what? To sit in the dark and wait for Quentin to come home so he could throw my ass out. Not for the first time, I wondered if he even would come home. It was 3 AM and I’d been sitting at his kitchen table for two hours already, running my fingers over the scarred kitchen table and planning what I was going to say to him. Two hours in—make that two months—and I still wasn’t sure what words were going to come out of my mouth when I saw him. For the hundredth time, I reflexively pressed the keypad on my phone and watched it light up with the time. 3:17.
Quentin and I were a lot alike. Both of us slung drinks for a living—alcohol for him and coffee for me—and we were both quiet and introspective, which made us good listeners for other people’s issues but not too good at sharing our own problems with each other. Quentin was stoic in dealing with life’s curveballs, whether it was his father’s unexpected death or a tree falling on his truck, and he could get focused on work or helping his brother rebuild that old Mustang of their dad’s, or repairing the fence on that piece of property out in the country, until the crisis passed.
Me, I was more inclined to run away from anything I couldn’t face head on—and sometimes that meant skipping town for a few days. Or a few weeks, in this case. I’d told my boss I had a personal crisis and needed to take as much of my vacation time as he could give me. He said my job would be waiting when I got back. All I could do was hope he was telling the truth. I was going to need a steady paycheck. Especially if Quentin bailed on me.
I knew he was still bartending at Kayla’s—but this wasn’t the city where bars stayed open until dawn. One or two, maybe, but it was getting on to the time where I either needed to pack it in and go or plan to make a night of it and hope he didn’t call the police when he found me on his couch in the morning.
I was still debating my limited options when I heard the distinct snick of a key in the front door lock. I threw a quick prayer up to the patron saint of stupid, lovelorn women that he hadn’t brought some chick home from the bar, and waited.
I hadn’t wanted him to call the police as soon as he pulled up, so I’d left the place dark when I’d helped myself to the spare key I knew he always kept tucked under the mat. He didn’t turn on any lights either, so he was just a shadowy figure standing in the doorway. Could’ve been anyone, I guess, except I knew it was Quentin. Five years with a man will make you remember tilt of his frame and the cant of his walk. And a whole lot of other things I didn’t want to be thinking about just yet. It was Quentin all right, and by the tight way he carried himself he had either jacked up his back again or he knew I was here.
“Little late for a visit, ain’t it, Rebecca?”
He knew it was me. “Hey, Quentin.”
Two months of trying to sort through the mess that was my life, two hours of sitting at his kitchen table, and that was the best I could come up with.
***
I like Rebecca and Quentin. I feel like I'm revisiting them after a long time away. So, I'm going to tuck myself into bed now (it's nearly 11 PM here on the east coast of the US) and finish reading their story. 
Good night.
(Seduce Me Tonight by Kristina Wright-- that's me!-- is available from all the usual ebook retailers.)

14 comments:

  1. Speaking of anthologies, how is the Cleis erotic romance one coming along, Kristina? The 1,500-word story one? You seem to have been sitting on that one for a while. (I know, health issues and toddlers and other deadlines and all that. But still.)

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  2. Thanks for the comment, Anonymous. Please feel free to email me at the address to which you submitted your story and I'll be happy to discuss it with you.

    I appreciate your concern about my health, family and work. All the best to you.

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  3. You do an amazing job, Kristina. I can't imagine how you accomplish so much, and so well; my kids were pretty much grown up before I started writing and editing.

    If either of my sons takes up writing, and one may well do so, I'll make sure he understands the publishing process and the fact that once an editor turns in a project to the publisher the process is out of her hands until the publisher is ready for the next step. I don't think I'll need to tell him how to behave with common courtesy to everyone, including editors.

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  4. Good grief. I have NO idea how you do it, Kristina. You are amazing!

    I will now haul my inadequate ass over to my laptop and try to write a mere 2K, while feeling like a complete loser...
    ;-)

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  5. Thanks so much for your kind words, Sacchi. You were one of my favorite writers before I started editing anthologies and it has been an honor to include your work in collections like Dream Lover and Duty and Desire. Thank you for your beautiful stories!

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  6. Oh Janine, trust me, I haven't kept up that writing pace all year. I wish I could, but life intrudes. And writing a "mere" 2k a day is more than I've done any time this month. I seem to be good in short bursts-- especially under tight deadlines-- but everything else suffers. Also, your write NOVELS. Great, big juicy novels. I'm in awe. Thank you for stopping by-- I am so thankful to be surrounded by writers who inspire me!

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  7. How on earth could someone read this column and leave a comment like yours, Anonymous? I'm stunned.
    Your comment is breathtakingly callous and ridiculously self absorbed.

    Kristina, I am amazed at what you do, and most of all by the grace with which you consistently manage to deal with both random fuckwittery and an enormous amount of responsibility. Please take care of yourself, and don't worry - there is plenty of time for the things that matter. xxx

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  8. As the Anon who left the question about the 1,500-word anthology, I'd like to apologize for any hurt I may have caused with my remark, which I admit was a bit callous. I'm sorry, Kristina. I didn't mean for my question to come out the way it did.

    I do appreciate that you have an awful lot on your plate. I've read your columns about your health issues, your kids and your busy publishing schedule, so I know your life hasn't been easy lately and will probably continue to be hectic for some time. Honestly, I understand your situation and I admire you for everything you seem to be managing. It was just a question that popped into my head while reading your column, and I chose the wrong way to ask that question. Again, I apologize.

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  9. Kristina, this is an inspiring post. Like everyone else here, I wonder how you do it, and your ability to write a lot in a short time and then barely remember what you wrote suggests that you (and probably each of us) has several personalities, or can tune in to multiple channels. Fascinating.

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  10. No worries and no hurt feelings, Anonymous. I don't bite-- drop me a note if you have a question about a submission.

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  11. Thanks so much, Jean! I definitely have to channel certain personalities to get things done... though that makes me sound mad as a hatter, I suppose.

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  12. Kristina, dear,

    Sorry to be popping in so late - I was away all week.

    A great post and a fabulous excerpt. I'm putting this on my TBR list.

    I've had the same experience, forgetting what I've written after the fact. I look at the prose and think, "Where did that come from?" But I know that sort of prose flows out from some hidden place during those wonderful, frantic, intense sessions (all too rare for me these days) when instinct takes over, flows out of the dark and onto the page with no censors or critics to hinder the flood.

    I do worry about you, a bit, that you're pushing too hard and you're going to shatter. But then I realize that this wild productivity, these ever more ambitious goals, really are what keep you going.

    Hugs,
    Lisabet

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  13. Thank you so much for your thoughtful words, Lisabet. And thank you for understanding... this is what sustains me.

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  14. As an artist, wife and mother, my hat is off to you! More power to you!

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