Hello, and welcome to the second installment of ‘A Day in the Life of a Writer’. If you missed the first one, you missed the lovely Pamela Hart sharing all about her day. You can read the post here.
This week I’m pleased to welcome best-selling historical fiction novelist, Natasha Lester.
Natasha Lester worked as a marketing executive for L’Oreal, managing the Maybelline brand, before returning to university to study creative writing. She completed a Master of Creative Arts at Curtin University as well as her first novel, What is Left Over, After, which won the TAG Hungerford Award for fiction. Her second novel, If I Should Lose You was published in 2012 and her first historical novel, the bestselling A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald, was published in 2016. Her latest book is Her Mother’s Secret (2017). The Age newspaper has described her as “a remarkable Australian talent.”
A day in the Life of Natasha Lester
My day naturally falls into four parts. Part One is from 6.00-8.00am and is all about housework, food preparation and getting kids up and off to school. Part Two is my favourite part, from 8.00am to 2.30pm, when I get to write and drink tea and go for a walk or off to yoga. Part Three is the busiest part of the day, getting kids to after school activities and making dinner as well as responding to any important emails etc. Part Four is the second shift of work, which involves either going out to teach or do author talks, or working on writing related admin at my desk. You can see how that all pans out into a regular day below.
6.00am: Leap out of bed with a smile on my face (yeah, right! More like drag myself out of bed). Shower, get dressed, make kids’ lunches, get breakfast ready, check emails and social media
6.40am: Wake up kids, put on a load of washing, wash dishes, plead with kids to eat and get dressed quickly and stop staring into space.
7.35am: Drop my daughters at the bus stop, ready to go to school
7.45am: Back home to hang out washing, make sure my son is all organised to go to school, finish household chores
8.00am: Husband and son head out the door. I sit down at my desk with a cup of tea! Best part of the day! I always respond to emails and quickly check/post on social media for half an hour.
8.30am: The real work begins. At the moment, I’m redrafting The French Photographer, which will be my 2019 book. This is the third draft, so this is where the really serious business of making it all work properly happens. I’ve read through it all and scribbled a lot of red pen all over it. Now I have to take in all of these changes. I have 6 weeks to do this—the school term is 10 weeks long, but I need to take 4 weeks out to do the structural edit of The Paris Seamstress (2018 book). The French Photographer is 454 pages long, so divide that by 6 and I need to work through 76 pages a week, or 15 pages a day. That doesn’t sound like a lot but in some cases I might have made a note to write an entirely new scene or to completely rework a scene, so some pages might be the work of ten minutes and others will be the work of a couple of hours.
9.30am: Time for a new cup of tea (yes, I drink a lot of tea) and a snack.
9.45am: Quick check of emails again before getting straight back into the editing.
10.30am: Time for a walk and some yoga stretches. I exercise every day. It’s a non-negotiable for me. All the time I spend sitting isn’t good for my back and neck so getting up and moving around helps. I also get lots of idea when I’m out walking. If I’m stuck with a scene, a walk never fails to present the perfect solution for to me as I’m pounding the pavement. I don’t listen to podcasts for that very reason when I walk as I want my own words to fill the space in my head, not other people’s.
11.30am: Back at the desk. Quick email check and straight into editing. I’ve made it through 15 pages already, but that’s because it’s the start of the book and that is always the smoothest and easiest part for me. It’s when the plot really stars to unfold that things get trickier, so it’s nice to be a little ahead of my schedule as I know that can collapse at any time!
12.00pm: Lunch. I’m so used to eating early now because of the kids that I find it’s a hard habit to break. Plus I’m always starving after my walk or yoga. You might notice that I rarely sit down and work in chunks of more than about 45 minutes. I find it most productive to have lots of breaks, and then do a solid, focussed 30 or 45 minutes of work. Over lunch, I always read a research book. Right now I’m reading a biography of Martha Gellhorn, war correspondent extraordinaire and Ernest Hemingway’s third wife.
12.30pm: Reply to emails, check social media, then back into editing.
1.15pm: Yep, time for more tea and a quick stretch.
1.30pm: More editing
2.30pm: Emails, unload dishwasher, tidy kitchen from lunch
2.45pm: Head off to get the kids from school
3.45pm: The beginning of the chaos. Homework to supervise, instruments to practise, washing to get off the line and fold and reload washing machine for the next day, run kids back and forth to dancing, make dinner etc. I end up peeling potatoes with the phone in the crook of my neck while I have a conversation with my agent, as well as checking kids homework that they bring to me in the kitchen, all the while continuing to peel and discuss contracts with my agent.
5.30pm: Corral kids into shower, then get changed myself and make up my face in readiness for an author talk, and generally try to not look as if I’ve just been peeling potatoes!
6.00pm: Shout instructions re picking up kids and feeding them dinner to my husband as I run out the door to my author talk.
6.30pm: Talk to a group of lovely readers about Her Mother’s Secret. I love author talks!
8.00pm: Back home, kids are in bed (they still go to bed at 7.30pm, which is wonderful!), ready for an hour or so of admin. At night, I’ll generally work on preparing courses I’ve been asked to teach, responding to interview requests, replying to emails, writing blog posts etc. Tonight, I’m writing this!
9.30pm: Get ready for bed. I always put myself in bed early so I can read for a good half an hour or more before I go to sleep.
10.15pm: Lights out, ready to start over again tomorrow!
Natasha’s Favourite Thing About Being a Writer
Writing. I’m one of those people who just loves to write. There is nothing better than letting my imagination run wild, and dreaming up wonderful, inspiring (and handsome!) people to populate my novels, people who do incredible things. I basically get paid for putting my daydreams into words, which is pretty cool.
Pretty cool indeed Natasha!
If you’d like to connect with Natasha, or check out her (amazing!) books, here’s where:
And find out more about Natasha’s latest book: Her Mother’s Secret here
Join me again in two weeks’ time for an insight into Louise Allan’s writing day. Louise has her debut novel coming out in 2018!