Every parent is shocked when the pediatrician tells her that sleeping through the night means the baby goes to sleep at midnight and doesn’t wake up until 5:00 AM, but eventually you realize it could be worse. You realize this when your children are in college and you lie awake when whatever was most recently divulged about their lives via text message or e-mail or tattling siblings wasn’t exactly reassuring.
It’s completely different when my writing keeps me up at night. It’s a great sign. I wake up with butterflies in my stomach and an idea in my head that’s so good it can’t wait until morning to announce itself. It means that whatever work I did the day before is bearing wee-hour fruit. It means that my bedside notepad will be the starting point for another productive day—if the pen has ink in it and if I can later read whatever I scribbled in the dark.
Nights are important in my debut novel, The Lifeboat, too. It’s hard to sleep in an open boat, so the characters tell each other stories to pass the time. Nights are when Grace Winter tries to make sense of the horrific events of those days at sea and when she reveals something of herself to the timid Mary Ann. But what else is Grace doing under cover of darkness?
There’s nothing that isn’t wonderful about getting a novel published after 25 years of closet writing, but these days I am waking up with anxiety about upcoming talks and public events. One sleepless night I went outside to savor the darkness and saw the eyes of some nocturnal creature glowing at me across the dark. The family next door has a new baby, and the lights in an upstairs room were on. Yes, nights are a strange time—there is both less to see and more.
Charlotte Rogan graduated from Princeton University in 1975. She worked at various jobs, mostly in the fields of architecture and engineering, before teaching herself to write and staying home to bring up triplets. An old criminal law text and her childhood experiences among a family of sailors provided inspiration for The Lifeboat, her first novel. After many years in Dallas and a year in Johannesburg, she and her husband now live in Westport, Connecticut.