A Room Of Her Own: The Writing Space of Susanna Kearsley

Today’s post by this month’s featured author, Susanna Kearsley  | @SusannaKearsley

If you look at the actual blueprint for our house, there’s a room marked “Dining Room “, set quite conveniently between the kitchen and the formal living room, with glass French doors and lots of light. Except it never got the chance to be a dining room. As soon as we moved in, I filled one wall with my Ikea Billy bookcases and claimed it as my writing room.

Here’s what it looked like, then:

Kearsley 1

It’s changed a bit, in the twelve years that we’ve been living here. The bookshelves, for one thing, are noticeably fuller—most of the shelves are stacked two deep, with books behind books, and I keep buying more.

Kearsley 2

My mother-in-law, a skilled seamstress, made me beautiful curtains for the window, and my parents gave me the comfortable wing chair I’d always loved best from their house. The desk in the photo got passed on to a friend, and was replaced by the antique oak table my dad always used as his desk in our various houses, when I was growing up. And we painted the walls a soft yellow that glows warmly gold when I’m writing at night.

It’s really a lovely room, and it’s a great place to write, but the truth is that most days it’s also Incredibly Messy. I try to keep up with the clutter, but when I’m at work on a book, it just Happens.

I couldn’t help but smile recently when someone tweeted the link to a Victorian-era book of etiquette by Eliza Leslie titled “Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book “, which in a chapter on how to behave when meeting an “authoress ” warns: “If, when admitted into her study, you should find her writing-table in what appears to you like great confusion “, it’s best not to comment on the mess. “In all probability, she knows precisely where to put her hand upon every paper on the table: having in reality arranged them exactly to suit her convenience. Though their arrangement may be quite unintelligible to the uninitiated, there is no doubt method (her own method, at least) in their apparent disorder. It is not likely she may have time to put her writing table in nice-looking order every day. ”

Those words are just as true today, I think, as they were then. So in the interest of authenticity, instead of cleaning up the evidence and giving you the Better Homes and Gardens version of my writing room, I thought I’d show you what it actually looks like this morning, complete with a few days’ accumulation of coffee cups (I have a weakness for Starbucks Skinny Cinnamon Dolce lattes). It looks a bit chaotic, but I do indeed know where each paper is, and what it’s there for, as the good Miss Leslie says, and it’s decidedly my space, the room of my own where my stories take shape.

Kearsley 3

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (2014), FLIGHT OF DREAMS (2016), and I WAS ANASTASIA (2018). Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her family.


16 Responses to A Room Of Her Own: The Writing Space of Susanna Kearsley

  1. Wendy July 10, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Ah, this is so great to see! I would really love to have my own reading- and writingspace, when my boyfriend and I are going to move in together, but for now I have to be content with what I have: my bedroom. Not bad either 😉

  2. Anita July 10, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Love your room and your honesty!! What a wonderful space to call your own!!

  3. Katherine Jones July 10, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I did notice all the coffee cups… and look at all those glorious books! Very telling, both these things.

  4. Nancy July 10, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Love it. I thought for a moment that those were my bookshelves, but mine are more crammed with books, pictures, etc. But I know where everything is — altho I can’t always get to it because of the books stacked on floor!

  5. judith schara July 10, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Love this post–Susanna K. is one of my favorite authors. And as an author, I admire her courage is giving a public view to her work area. I do remember a series run by either The Times or The Telegraph showing author’s writing rooms and it was fascinating.

  6. Christi Craig July 10, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Love the multiple coffee cups–and the whole room in general 🙂 Iwish I had so many bookshelves. They’d fill up quick, I’m sure!

  7. Susanna Kearsley July 10, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Wendy, I still haul my laptop upstairs to my bedroom when the kids (or my husband) get too noisy with the XBox 🙂

    Anita, thanks. I love it. It was kind of a condition of our buying this house in the first place, that I’d get to use this space for writing. Before this, my “writing room” was a sectioned-off part of the baby’s room.

    Katherine, I know, I do like my caffeine! In my defense, that was a couple of days’ worth of cups (so you can tell what a great housekeeper I am) (not). And the yellow cup hiding under the documents on the righthand side isn’t for coffee–it’s where I keep my memory sticks and paper clips.

    Nancy, I’m happy I’m not the only one with a bookshelf-stuffing habit. I’m very attached to my books. (And you’ll notice I don’t let you see my floor…)

  8. Carla Gade July 10, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Susanna, your office is just perfect! I love it, and I love best the authentic version of it. It really is charming. Thanks for sharing Miss Leslie’s quote!

  9. Susanna Kearsley July 10, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Judith, thanks, that’s very kind of you to say. And was this the series you meant? (I feel an instant kinship with Marina Warner, on page 3…) http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/series/writersrooms

    Christi, yes, be careful what you wish for 🙂 The bookshelves are Incredibly Easy to fill. My husband’s convinced our whole house is going to just fall over one day and sink into the swamp like the castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, because of all my bookshelves.

    Carla, I was actually going to clean it up before I took the picture, but my friend and fellow writer K.C. Dyer convinced me not to. I’m glad she did. And isn’t Miss Leslie’s book wonderful? A whole section on what to do when meeting a Victorian authoress. It’s amazing to see how little has changed in almost two hundred years!

  10. Mini Jacques July 11, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Loved the pics – I am in the midst of setting up my writing room – home office so this was perfect timing.
    Love your honesty and as always you authentic look at life and writing.
    Inspiring as usual…..But when aren’t you….
    Hope to see you soon in “Port”
    All my best
    Mini Jacques

  11. LJ Roberts July 11, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I love seeing an author’s writing space, and particularly Susanne’s. It’s nice to see where some of my favorite books are created.

  12. Tasha Seegmiller July 11, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I love to see where people work, and Susanna is hands down one of my top five favorite authors. Thanks so much for sharing!

  13. Ann Hite July 11, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    God, I love you for showing the desk as is. Mine is stacked and packed with an hazelnut ice coffee–my weakness. Perfect writing space to me. Ann

  14. elizabeth deneny July 11, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    just love this, thank you for sharing and NOT cleaning up…sooooo much more friendly!! and can i tell you how much i am loving The Firebird. I have devoured ALL your stories, i would love to live in your world, must be so magical. actually, where i really want to live is in Robbie’s. who wouldn’t..

  15. Allison July 14, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    WOW! Now THAT is a writing room! I would get so much more done if I had a space like that! I also agree that organized chaos is best. I still swear that I know what is under each thing on my desk, even if I can’t see it.

    It drives my husband mad!

  16. stacybuckeye July 24, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Love sneak peeks into writing rooms 🙂 The messier the better! I am in awe of all of the shelves.

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