by Deborah Raney
“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
–Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
I started writing to help put our kids through college. But it’s a good thing I hadn’t read the above quote by Virginia Woolf before I wrote my first ten novels.
Because, you see, I didn’t have a room of my own then. My first three books were written in the eat-in kitchen at a small antique oak table, which was the only table in our four-bedroom duplex. Each day, when my husband and kids got home from school, my little Mac Classic computer got moved to the floor in the corner, with research and reference books stacked on top so we could set the table for supper. And breakfast. Once everyone headed off to their respective jobs and classes the next morning, back the Mac went on the table, and I was up and running for another day.
When our oldest son went to college I had a chance, for the very first time, to have a room for a dedicated office. I thought about it for a while and decided I rather liked working in the hub of the house. Having family drama and teen angst and toddler tantrums and true love teeming all around me was conducive to writing about those things.
So we turned that extra room into a TV room where my family could sequester themselves while I wrote. And I moved a new farmhouse table to a corner of our living room and set up my office there. I wrote my next eight or nine books at that makeshift desk surrounded by all the chaos a family of six-in-a-duplex can create.
After ten years, I had a dozen published novels, and we had three kids with college degrees–and a four-year reprieve before our youngest followed in their footsteps. So we bought a house just outside a tiny town in Kansas. And this time I happily accepted the opportunity to have a dedicated office–a room of my own. My sunny office had a lovely fanlight window overlooking the front yard where I could watch for the UPS man and the mail. It had a bookcase and file baskets and a wall where I could display my book covers. It had a door that I could close on the chaos that even one teenager at home seemed to create.
Now we’re in the (quite lovely) empty nest years and I feel like I’ve come full circle. We recently bought a house in the relatively big city of Wichita and I’ve chosen the space the architect intended for a formal dining room to be my office. We’ve never been formal people anyway. I write exclusively on a laptop now, so my new office has a loveseat and comfy chair and a coffee bar with space for my collection of more than fifty mugs. The “hub” of our home is remarkably quieter these days, but I’m still in it, happily writing away. And now that every nickel I make isn’t going to some college, I even have a tiny bit of money. (I think Virginia Woolf would be pleased.)
Still, I’m reminded every day that a “real” office was absolutely not necessary for me to write a publishable novel. In fact, some of my easiest-to-write books came long before I had a dedicated office. One of the great advantages of a writing career is the fantastically low overhead. All you really need to be a writer is a laptop (or even a pencil and pad) and a spot–whether it be your favorite recliner or a porch swing or a table at Starbucks–where you can let the creative juices flow.
DEBORAH RANEY’s first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched her writing career after 20 happy years as a stay-at-home mom. Since then, her books have won the RITA Award, National Readers Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, the Carol Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. Deb’s 23rd novel released from Howard/Simon & Schuster in May and she is currently working on a new five-book series for Abingdon Press Fiction. She and her husband, Ken Raney, recently traded small-town life in Kansas –the setting of many of Deb’s novels–for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita where they enjoy gardening, antiquing, movies and traveling to visit four children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away. Visit Deb on the Web at www.deborahraney.com.