Please join us in welcoming Leslie Budewitz, award-winning author of the Seattle Spice Shop and Food Lovers’ Village mysteries, to Chicks on the Case! We’re thrilled to have you visiting us today, Leslie.
What Do You Mean, It’s Tuesday?
It was a cold, wet Saturday. I’d walked to work in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, where I run a spice shop, from my loft on Western Avenue, my red rain coat tightly fastened, my red plaid rain boots keeping my feet warm and dry.
So why, when I glanced at the window, did I see a forest of trees—spruce, birch, larch—against a clear blue sky?
Because I am a writer. And sometimes, that means I’m not where I think I am.
I don’t live in Seattle, though I once did. My rain coat is black and I would kill for a pair of red plaid Wellies. But it was a chilly cold wet Saturday on the page, and until the real world intruded and told me it was in fact a cold, clear Tuesday in Montana, that was my reality.
Not every writing day is like that. Some days, I am all too aware of what’s going on around me—the phone ringing, the UPS truck rumbling up the driveway, the cat barfing on the floor, or worse, the bed. “Flow,” psychologists call the state of losing track of time and place because we are utterly in the work. There are many circumstances in which losing track of time and place is not considered a good thing—when driving, or doing surgery, to name a couple. There’s a reason medical types want to be assured that a patient is “oriented X 3,” meaning person, time, and place, when examining her for a possible concussion. Orientation is good.
But in writing, being oriented to the reality on the page is also good. It’s addictive. It’s a bit of a high. Coming out of it can be, well, disorienting. (You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?) When Mr. Right and I were dating, he’d make the 60+ mile drive to my house on Friday afternoons. My dogs could hear his car a mile away and start barking. That was my cue to turn off the computer and desk lamp, and leave my story people to their own devices. But for a good hour or two, I was still with them. My hunny, being a very tolerant sort, simply laughed and called it “writing world.” (Twenty plus years later, he’s still laughing. See why he’s Mr. Right?)
My good friend Barb Heinlein, who writes romantic suspense as B.J. Daniels, tells of sitting in her office, a converted telephone company building from the 1920s, and writing a scene in which the characters ate oatmeal cake. She reached for her fork and plate, only to discover she had none. The cake, sadly was fictional. Just last week, my friend Vicki Thompson, who writes fabulous historical mysteries, admitted leaving her office and asking her husband what movie they were going to that night because it was Tuesday and they go to the movies on Tuesdays. He is also the tolerant sort, and gently broke the news that it was Friday.
A few years ago, I turned in my first novel, Death al Dente, in which my main character, Erin Murphy, runs the Merc, a local foods market in her family’s hundred-year-old grocery in the village of Jewel Bay, Montana. My mother’s birthday was a couple of days later, and we were headed over the mountains to celebrate with her. I wanted to take her a gift, so I decided I’d stop in to the Merc and see what I could find. Then I remembered that the Merc only existed because I’d made it up. Either I’d done a really good job or I’d gone around the bend; I’ll leave that to you to decide.
So if you see a writer on the street, or anywhere, really, be gentle with her. Because she might be somewhere else.
Dear readers: have you ever found yourself looking for something or someplace that isn’t quite real?
Leslie Budewitz is the best-selling author of the Seattle Spice Shop and Food Lovers’ Village mysteries, including the fourth Spice Shop mystery, Chai Another Day(June 2019, Seventh St. Books). Her first historical fiction, “All God’s Sparrows” (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine), set in Montana Territory in 1885 and featuring real-life figure “Stagecoach Mary” Fields, won the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Short Story, and is nominated for the 2018 Macavity Award. Death al Dente, the first Food Lovers’ Village mystery, won the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. A practicing lawyer and a past president of Sisters in Crime, Leslie currently serves on the Mystery Writers of America board. She lives in NW Montana with her husband, Don Beans, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their gray tuxedo cat, an avid bird watcher.