The author I am featuring today is Chris Chalmers, author of the novels Five To One, Light From Other Windows and for children, Gillian Vermillion — Dream Detective. His third adult novel, Dinner At The Happy Skeleton is published by J.Mendel Books on November 2nd.
So without any further ado, here is Chris Chalmers to tell us all about his day!
I have two sorts of writing days. The ones where I write my novel, and the ones writing the other stuff.
My ‘day job’ is advertising copywriter. It has been since the late Eighties, though it’s changed a bit since I went freelance in 2002. I mostly work in London agencies, helping out where there’s an overspill of creative briefs or someone is on holiday, maternity leave etc. All those predictions I read in my Dr Who Annual when I was ten— how by 2020 we’d all be working remotely with a robot dog to bring us coffee — aren’t looking good. Ad agencies still like bums on seats, so when I’m freelancing you’ll usually find me somewhere glassy and open-plan in Farringdon or London Bridge. I’m the one waiting for I.T. to hook me up, trying not to look twenty years older than all the bearded, tattooed striplings around me.
You can’t blame a chef for settling for beans on toast after a long day at work. Similarly, I can’t bring myself to dive into my novel after a shift writing about mortgages. I have deep admiration for those novelist mums, up at half-past five, putting in two hours before they whip up the family breakfast and rush off to work. Hence my other sort of writing day.
When I’m not copywriting I write contemporary fiction about people-like-us — with a side order of helicopter crashes, tsunamis and murderous cryptozoologists. I’m awake about seven a.m. My other half, a fervent yogi, is long gone by then, off to his early morning practice in Soho. My own kick-start isn’t quite so reliable, but I’m usually at the MacBook by eight. After four adult novels and another for children, I’ve weaned myself off starting the day by reading what I wrote yesterday. It’s too easy and it eats away the productive hours. And hell, I’ll be redrafting this thing again and again and again — so why worry what colour I chose for next door’s cat?
Five days out of six, at 10.45 everything stops for gym. This is preceded by a coffee for the necessary caffeine boost; out, if I’m feeling flush, at home if I’m not. Keeping to a routine comes easily to me, a big advantage for a writer. I’ve kept a diary since I was 13 and never missed a day, bar the odd double-duty after a messy night out. I find the gym as easy to stick to. I don’t claim superhuman willpower — it’s just the way I am. I also think I’d go crazy if I spent all day at my desk, so I relish the excuse to get out.
That’s followed by lunch, cooked by my adept husband who makes vegan eating a delight even when you’re not one yourself. He is a concert pianist and composer, so much of the time we’re both at home, which I love. My study is upstairs overlooking the garden. He works downstairs, at one sort of keyboard or another. Our house is small, so when he's practicing I can hear every note — if I want to. Mostly I don’t even notice, for which I thank years of crashing out ad concepts in offices with Spotify blaring in the corner.
I’m back at my laptop by two, and work through till six or seven. When I’m writing a first draft, I try to hit a thousand words a day and feel bad if I don’t. (Where would we be without that little word counter?) I’d like to say I’m the driven sort, who takes his writing down to dinner, the settee and eventually up to bed. But I have no problem switching off. I rarely give my novel a thought till I’m back at the coalface next morning. A bit of distance does me good — and by then I’m ready to pick up the threads all over again.
Thank you so much, Chris, for appearing on my blog!
Check Chris Chalmers out here: www.chrischalmers.net
Until next time :)