Friday, July 23, 2010

A Day in the Life

By Caitlin Rother

People often ask me what my routine is as a full-time author. With six books under my belt and two more in the pipeline, they seemed surprised when I tell them that I have no routine, because every day is different, depending on where I am with my current project and how many other cats I'm juggling -- and trying not to get scratched, let alone drop one of them.

One day, for example, I worked for 15 hours straight on a book proposal that was due the next day, and by 11 p.m., when I checked to see what time my doctor’s appointment was the next morning, I was shocked to realize that I had worked right through it. The doctor wasn't pleased, but at least I made my deadline.

Another day, I worked for 14 hours on a story for The Daily Beast about the John Gardner murder case. It was tough to find a fresh angle on a story that had been so heavily covered by TV and the U-T, which even with its reduced staff, far outmanned me in terms of resources, but I did it. The second post I did for the website took me only seven hours, and I'm happy to say it was all worth it. I saw a pretty compelling book there, and after some more legwork, I ended up with an exclusive story that got me a book deal with Kensington/Pinnacle.

But those days are more the exception than the rule. Most days are quite manageable because after four years of doing this full-time, I have found my rhythm, and although I'm not getting rich, I'm happier professionally now than I think I've ever been. I love what I do and I can't tell you how much I enjoy the freedom of working on what I want when I want and where I want.

I do have some structure to my day. I get out of bed and walk directly to my computer, where I start going through e-mails and catch up on FaceBook. Now, I admit to playing a bit on FaceBook, but I find that it is also an amazingly effective networking tool that has helped me tremendously. Yesterday, for example, I received a friend request from a nice man in the Chicago area and within a couple of hours we were on the phone, talking about having me speak and do a book signing at a huge journalism conference in LA right after my next book, Dead Reckoning, comes out.

Although I've written one thriller, and I'd love to write more fiction, it really doesn't pay well, at least for me, so I focus on the narrative nonfiction books that pay my bills. Each one is different -- some require me to attend out-of-town trials or do research out of state -- but I generally do most of my work from home, conducting interviews by phone with people all over the country. I do face-to-face interviews when I can, but it's not always possible or the most time efficient. So, while I'm in the writing phase of a book, as I am now, I usually schedule a few interviews each week, as I work on one chapter and revise and sketch out several others. My interviews generally last around 1½ to 2 hours, but I've been known to go as long as seven.

One of the best things about my job is that I can do it outside in the sun, generally at my “office” at the Einstein's bagels a few miles from my house. After working at home for a few hours, I like to do my reading or editing there, sipping my Diet Coke and eating my breakfast, red pen in hand. I also teach at UCSD Extension – my writing workshop that starts tomorrow still has some room by the way – so I do my course preparation and grade papers there as well. I also do two other important tasks there that to others may look like I'm just daydreaming: thinking, planning, and setting goals, both grand and small. And, yes, sometimes I'm dreaming and feeling grateful to be doing what I'm doing, most of which I record in a journal.

By this point, it's early afternoon, and I get home to either start or continue writing what I started that morning and just finished editing. I often need to make calls back east before two or three o'clock, so I need to fit those in as well. Depending on what I'm working on, I also may do interviews in the afternoon and spend the whole next day writing. See what I mean about the freedom of it all?

By late afternoon, I go to the gym to stretch, swim laps and take a steam, or I take a walk around the neighborhood to get the blood circulating after all this sitting. Then I usually come home, write some more, answer e-mails, edit or do an interview before I start making dinner.

The fun thing is that some days I do none of these tasks and spend the day doing my other full-time job, and that is promotions and publicity. I can write an entire blog on that topic, and I most likely will, but for now suffice it to say that I do quite a few web radio interviews and am usually talking to one or more TV producers for a show on the Investigation Discovery Channel, bookstores about signings or stock, community groups about giving speeches, and my publishers and agents to make sure that I have my published books in the stores and new book deals going to keep the ball rolling.

Caitlin Rother, a Pulitzer-nominee who worked as a investigative newspaper reporter for nearly 20 years, is the author of five books, Body Parts, Twisted Triangle, Naked Addiction, and Poisoned Love, and is the co-author of Where Hope Begins. Her next book, Dead Reckoning, the story behind the murder of Tom and Jackie Hawks by Skylar Deleon and his clan of outlaws, including his wife, Jennifer, will be out in February 2011. For more information about Caitlin Rother, check out her Web site,


calpoet said...

Carol: Very interesting blog. I just finished "Poisoned Love" and loved it. Wrote a review for amazon. You managed to be both thorough and objective, which is rare in that genre, where authors usually take one side or the other. It left me wondering, though, if you believe Kristen is guilty...I suspect you do. I lean that way, but there's enough reasonable doubt for me to say that if I had been on that jury, I doubt I would have voted to convict. Good to see all this work coming your way.

Caitlin Rother said...

Hi Carol,
Thanks so much for your kind words! I haven't ever said publicly whether I think Kristin is guilty or not, but I think the evidence speaks for itself. Fentanyl is 100x more powerful than morphine and very fast-acting. Yet the police found no syringes, pill vials, capsules or packaging of any sort in the apartment that would have explained how the drug got into Greg's body. 'Nough said! Come back and visit the blog anytime!

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