The author reveals her four-legged inspiration and explains how the very special Laurel Canyon trees help her stories take flight
My main muse
I write the opening paragraph of each chapter of my books on the hillside trail behind my house. I rise early, make breakfast for my children, then reach for the beaded African collar my dog wears on our hikes.
In the hour we trek through the trails overlooking the San Fernando Valley, I compose three to ten sentences in my mind. I rehearse them and rephrase them, drawing closer to my story’s hero with every step.
The hope, when I return to my computer, is that there is no struggle into the flow. I have already waded neck-deep into the world of my stories and have no choice but to swim on.
What my desk actually looks like when I’m in the middle of a novel
I write at home so I can be near my children, who are both still very young. I cannot write without slippers on my feet, even on boiling summer days. I drink tea and coffee at varying temperatures.
I am never not struggling in a first draft. I am frequently soaring through revisions – even when, especially when, they are gruelling and require total reconstruction of a narrative.
Recently I write in layers – draft one to get the action of a scene out, two to finesse the prose, three to add specifics, four to focus my hero’s emotional situation and so on.
My view of the birds
My writing is 90 per cent staring out the window, 10 per cent pegging away at the keyboard, so I prefer an inspiring view. The love stories of Luce and Daniel, Eureka and Ander, and now Cam and Lilith all first took wing from the Laurel Canyon trees outside my window (above).
What my desk looks like when I’m staging it for a photo
Three good pages in a day satisfies me, but often I struggle to get one bad page. Regardless of the dent I make, at the end of a day writing, my mind is weary, my body jittery.
The best remedy I know is to turn toward the kitchen where I aspire to something unexpected. For a little while, my hands’ instincts with a knife or a skillet can surpass those of my mind.