Thursday, May 26, 2011

Author Margaret George: Creating A Work Area For Inspiration

Please join me in welcoming author Margaret George as she makes a stop here today on her virtual blog tour as the special guest blogger.

Margaret’s latest release is ELIZABETH I. Here’s a brief synopsis: It is 1588, and the showdown between England and Spain has finally come.  Elizabeth and her island kingdom stand alone against the strongest country in Europe. Yet after that triumph, she cannot rest. There are many other challenges to her, and the ever-hanging question of the succession to the childless queen. Surrounded by such larger-than-life characters as Drake, Shakespeare, the Earl of Essex, Raleigh, and Francis Bacon, the queen proves bigger than all of them.

Her cousin and rival, Lettice Knollys, mother of the Earl of Essex and widow of Robert Dudley, who was Elizabeth’s love and soul mate, provides a dark counterpoint to the glittering aura of Elizabeth’s legend. Bound together in a love-hate relationship, the two women pursue their linked destinies.
Margaret is here to discuss ‘How to Create a Great Work Area for Inspiration.’

Your ideal fantasy work place…a little hut high on a mountain in Hawaii, overlooking the sea? A monks’ cell in a pine forest? A plush studio in Hollywood, with 50s blond furniture, and a view of the Hollywood sign? Or, something with no distractions at all, a room like a jail cell and a desk that faces a wall?

Hmmm….none of these is probably ideal in terms of your productivity. Either they’re too comforting, or too distracting, or too depressing. You need to create a work space where you live, that you can live with and in. But---and here’s the big but---it should be dedicated space.

I know, I know. I’ve heard those stories, too, of great literature
created at a kitchen table with screaming kids running around. And sometimes, if you are burning with a story, you can tell it no matter where you are. But writing is usually not that insistent but something you need to plug away at, that you have to work at getting in the mood for. There’s a German saying, “Only begin and the brain will grow heated; only begin and the task will be completed.” A dedicated writing space is invaluable in giving you a place where you can make yourself begin.

It should be off the main traffic area of your living space. It should not need to be cleaned up at the end of every day and returned to its ‘real’ function---a dining room table or an ironing room. Its very permanence should convince you that this writing thing deserves its own respect and its own footprint.

You should have the best equipment for your task. “Can’t do good work without good tools,” my grandfather always said. Don’t have a computer that still uses large floppy disks or a dial-up modem. You need a printer that prints. A desk that doesn’t teeter. A chair that doesn’t collapse or squeak. And you should have good lighting.

Then add things that inspire you. Art work that speaks to you. Mementoes of recognition and encouragement. Objects reminding you of the topic you are writing about---a photo or a facsimile of something in the story. I had a little Trojan horse (complete with men inside) when I was writing HELEN OF TROY and snake paperweights when I was writing THE MEMOIRS OF CLEOPATRA.

Music is nice if it inspires you. Background music, movie soundtracks are good for this. Period music if you are writing an historical novel. Music with words is usually too distracting. 

Even perfume or room spray can be helpful if it conjures up a mood or a setting. If you are writing about a forest, try some Pine-Sol in a handkerchief on the desk and you will feel like you are there. Or lily of the valley scent if you are trying to write about an English spring and it’s freezing cold and sleeting in Nebraska where you are.

When the work day is done, shut everything down, tidy up, and go elsewhere. It will be waiting for you the next day, and just walking into it should re-set your meter and tell you you are entering your private world of the imagination.

Margaret, thank you for guest blogging. I love the notion of having an place just to write (no matter what type of writing you’re doing). Wishing you much success with your latest release.

Here’s a bit of background on Margaret. She is the author of six epic biographical novels, all New York Times bestsellers, featuring larger than life characters like Henry VIII and Cleopatra. Although painstakingly accurate historically, their real focus is the psychology of the characters. We know what they did, we want to know why. Her latest release is ELIZABETH I.

Margaret’s research has taken her from the islands of Scotland to the temples of Upper Egypt, with experiences that include snake-keeping and gladiatorial training. She lives in Wisconsin and Washington DC. Her interests include reptile conservation efforts, Middle Eastern dance (aka bellydancing), and archeology. You can learn more about Margaret and her writing by visiting her website at

What are your thoughts on having a creative space? Do you have your ideal fantasy work place? If not, what would it be? Thanks again for stopping by, hope to visit with you soon.


  1. Hi Mason and Margaret - the books sound very interesting .. and so much history or threads to draw on. I'm not sure I'd like to do the research on snakes (thank you very much!) .. yet I'd love to read them and read more about the 'real' people that have been uncovered via the psychological insights.

    I'd like to ask a question about gladiators .. I understand that peoples' feelings in Roman times about pain, glory, death, injury etc were very different to ours now ... perhaps Margaret you could throw a little light on this for me!

    Many thanks .. and all the best with the book - cheers Hilary

  2. Mason - Thanks for hosting Margaret.

    Margaret - You're quite right that having one's own dedicated space for work can be really conducive to productive writing - thanks for your input on that. And I very much enjoy historical fiction, so your novels are intriguing. I wish you much success!

  3. I usually hide in my office, but music with words doesn't distract me.

  4. Thanks for hosting Margaret too. I love this article. It speaks volumes to how she can create such wonderful books. I'm thrilled to have my own office space at home decorated in a nautical theme to remind me of our lazy summer days on the Outer Banks.

    Wishing you the best,


  5. Thanks for having me on your site. As I sit here today in my dedicated space, loud lawnmowers are growling outside---definitely ruining the ambience. Nothing is perfect!

    Hilary, I do think people's ideas about pain and cruelty were different then, but it is hard for us to understand how they could find gladiatorial shows in the arenas to be 'entertainment.' And it went on for centuries and exterminated many species of African animals, who were shipped over, and killed thousands and thousands of people. It seems incredible they could do that. We do enjoy violence in the movies but the credits always say, "No animals were harmed." So I guess we've made some progress.

  6. Hi--That was Margaret George above, I don't know why it didn't register my whole name.

  7. I love the idea of research in Scotland - any excuse to go there, really.

    I know Lettice Knollys is a real name, but it always strikes me as something that belongs in romantic fiction.

  8. I can't write with a ton of distractions!


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.