Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Romantic Life of a Romance Author

You may be wondering about how romantic a romance author's life actually is. Forget bonbons, mink-lined slippers and thong-clad cabana boys. My writing friend Marcella Burnard actually lives on a sailboat! How's that for romantic?

Marcella is part of the fabulous critique group I belonged to when I lived in Seattle. She joined the group after I left, but I still feel a kinship with her. And I feel nothing but envy for her life aboard a sailboat! She's offered to share a bit with us about that life today. Take it away, Marcella!

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Nine months out of the year, my husband, my cats and I live aboard this 34’ Performance Cruising Catamaran. It’s 14’ wide. Inside, that gives us roughly 300 square feet of living space. Why does this matter? Emily, long may her books sell spectacularly well, has graciously invited me to blog about what it’s like living aboard a sailboat. I hope it will provide some insight into what life might have been like aboard the historic ships that populate a few of Emily’s books.



I know that life aboard has certainly informed my writing. I write science fiction romance. My first book, Enemy Within, comes out in November of this year. A good portion of that story takes place in space, aboard ships. One of the things I can say with confidence that crosses all time periods and genres is that room on a ship is an issue. No matter where you’re standing in the boat, you’re in someone else’s way. Passages and companionways are wide enough for one person. Everything else is dedicated to storage, equipment and the stuff that makes the boat go. Everything brought aboard must do double or triple duty.



Boats do not have the space for anything that does one job. Even the anchor will do more than one job in a pinch (like pulling you off the bottom when you’ve run aground, heaven forbid). My bread pans hold spice bottles when not actually cooking something. The cats are multi-useful. They’re an extra layer of warmth at night. They’re endlessly entertaining, and they scare away the seagulls so I don’t have to scrub seagull poop from the decks. Often.



Ships require enormous self-sufficiency – or at least the ability to learn self-sufficiency. When your toilet breaks at the house, you call a plumber. When the head breaks aboard the boat, my husband and I take it apart, figure out what’s busted and fix it. There are no plumbers out in the middle of Puget Sound, we’ve discovered. Just as mariners two hundred years ago found they couldn’t just hop off and go buy new lines when their sheets (control the foot of a sail) or halyards (lift sails) parted in a blow. Just as, I suspect, space-going heroes and heroines will find that when something breaks in space, you’d better be carrying a spare and know how to install it. And if something punctures the hull, if you don’t have the ingenuity to plug it until you can limp into port, everyone’s going to be sucking vacuum.



Ships exist to get a job done as safely and swiftly as possible, and that means crew comfort counts, but not at the expense of the job to be done, whether the ships in question plied the seas laden with cargo two hundred years ago, or skim the space lanes responding to disease outbreaks far in the future, or whether they carry two adults and their seasick cats (oh, yes) across Puget Sound just for the love of sailing.

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Emily here again. Ok, living aboard a sailboat isn't quite the daydream and starlight I thought it was, but I bet it has its moments. Thanks so much for stopping by today, Marcella. Give Darcy, DeeAnna, Lisa and Melinda big hugs from me.

Be sure to pop over to Marcella's website for more info about her fabulous sci-fi romance, EMENY WITHIN! If you have questions about the sailing life, cats on the water, or Marcella's book, please leave a comment!

22 comments:

Gillian Layne said...

Great post! All I kept thinking was, I bet you and your husband wrap up arguments really quickly in that small space. :)

You book sounds like great fun--a welcome escape during the holidays--and they gave you an awesome cover.

How long did you write before the call? Was it always science fiction romance?

Sherri Browning Erwin said...

Goodness, that is not the life for me. I was on a sailboat once. My college roommate's dad's boat. He gave everyone aboard important jobs with ropes and rigging and gears, took one look at me, and assigned me the "important job" of sitting in the corner and staying out of everyone else's way. :)

Congratulations on your book, Marcella! Enemy Within looks great. I'll watch for it. :)

EmilyBryan said...

I've always been drawn to boats, even though I suffer from motion sickness. (I just slap on my scopalamine patch and go!) I love being on the water, tasting salt spray on my lips and the sense of adventure.

Marcella, have you and your husband ever taken any extended trips on your boat? Down the coast to California or north to Alaska?

Sandy said...

To think I once wanted to live on a boat out in the middle of the ocean. lol I must admit that I wanted something a little more luxurious than your sailboat sounds. Grin.

Interesting post.

Nynke said...

I've only ever been on a small sailing vessel (just over 21 ft.), but I loved it - especially one trip where I shared a boat with three attractive male friends, sunshine, and all I had to do was hold a rope and relax in my bikini. Yay :).

Marcella, I love the phrase 'sucking vacuum' - is it in your novel? Enemy Within sounds great - please come back to this blog in November to remind us all to buy it!

Edie Ramer said...

This is so interesting. Living on a boat -- especially a sailboat -- is my husband's dream. I'm going to have him read your blog when he gets home. It sounds like a little too crowded for me.

I just checked out Enemy Within, and that's more my style. :)

Jane L said...

Hello Ladies,

Oh I love water and boats also. My fear would be storms! I would absolutley be terrified in a storm! LOL! I will hop over and checkout your story next. Thanks for sharing your sea adventure with us!

Barbara Monajem said...

I've often wondered about booking a houseboat for a river trip, just to see what it's like. Not sure whether it's a good thing I couldn't afford it! I got hooked on the idea of sailing long ago, reading Arthur Ransome's children's books, but never had a chance to try that out, either.

I love sci fi romance, so will definitely check out Enemy Within. Marcella, do you have a newsletter or email list?

Beth said...

Congrats on your debut novel! Can't wait until I finish editing mine.

Thanks for sharing your sea travels. Do you go on the intracoastal waterway? That is my husband's dream. I worry about pirates (and storms) during the times we'd have to boat in the big pond.

For now, we'll use our flat pontoon boat on beautiful Table Rock Lake. :)

Hannah Howell said...

Kudos for being able to live that close with someone for 9 months and not toss him overboard. LOL! Your book looks intriguing and that cover is definitely eye-catching.

Marcella Burnard said...

It's a day or running around like a mad person for me - but I will be back to answer your questions! I swear. As the fantasy of living aboard a boat - it is not an easy on to fulfill (or get someone else to buy into) for one very big reason: Giving away your stuff. More when I return...

Jeffe Kennedy said...

Ah, Marcella, you are so exotic! I agree that it must be true love (true compatibility) that you can share such a small space with someone else.

My favorite part though? Kitty in the porthole!

EmilyBryan said...

Hi Marcella! Glad you came by and hope you can make if back later because there have been lots of questions. ;-) Giving away stuff would be no hardship for me. I'm not a "stuff" person. I'd rather have an adventure than a new sofa.

FYI, everybody: Marcella's on PST time, so it may seem later to those of us on the east coast. I'm used to the delay. My agent, Natasha Kern, is a West Coast gal. When we first started working together, I'd think, "Wow! She's working late" when she'd call in the evening till I remembered the time difference and realized it wasn't quite 5pm in WA yet.

Marcella Burnard said...

Phew. Groceries and catfood secure. The feline riots have been quelled. Now. Where were we?
Gillian: I've been writing since I could write...but my first rejection letter came from Marion Zimmer Bradley in 1994. My call came in September of 2009. Slow learning curve. :) As to the boat: we've not yet taken long term cruises. We're still learning. A week out is our record so far. This summer, we'll try a two week cruise. Neither of us has the sailing experience on this boat for blue water (open ocean) yet. Nynke - 'sucking vacuum' :D I so wish I could claim that phrase, but I can't. I can't even tell you who coined it. Enemy Within is the first book in a series. The third book's heroine is the one most likely to use the phrase. Ah, Jeffe, see when I'm cleaning up after the sea-sick cats, it occurs to me how thin the line might be betwixt 'exotic' and 'stupid' in reference to my choice of lifestyle...I do have a newsletter that is slated to come out once a quarter. If you visit the contact page on my website www.marcellaburnard.com you can opt in. If Emily will have me, I will definitely return, armed next time with goodies to give away. Thanks so much for having me and for so warm a welcome.

susan said...

I loved this article. I oftened thought about a houseboat and how much fun that would be for a home. I still rather have a houseboat but your sail boat sounds great. I can see how the peace and quiet could be nice for writing a book too. I truly enjoyed your article. susan L.

EmilyBryan said...

Absolutely, Marcella! My readers and I want you to come back when ENEMY WITHIN comes out! If I forget to remind you, please remind me.

疲累 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
librarypat said...

My husband has a friend that has lived on his sailboats in different post off and on for many years. He loves it. We sailed on a 55 ft sailboat once and it was lovely. Only one million dollar plus you would need a small crew or a family who know what they were doing. It all seemed like too much trouble and expense. You have the right idea - a reasonable size and something you two can handle on your own.

Good luck with your book. I hope it does really well.

EmilyBryan said...

To the commenter designated 疲累.

I deleted your comment because I can't read it. I welcome international visitors to my blog. Readers from 49 different countries have stopped by to date. But since I'm responsible for the content, I have to be able to read your comments. Which means writing your comment in English please.

Glynis said...

What a fascinating post, I am not sure that lifestyle would be for me. I need space to throw my clutter about. How adventurous the cats are, I hope they have a pot of honey and plenty of money ;0.

I look forward to more, thank you for sharing your friend, Emily.

Marcella Burnard said...

Coming back late with a suggestion: For those of you interested in what living aboard a boat (whether the boat is tethered to a dock like mine is, or whether that boat is actively cruising the world) there is a magazine called Living Aboard. B&N carries it. West Marine carries it. Their website is: http://www.livingaboard.com/
They are a wealth of information about what the life is like without you having to leave your armchair. :D

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks to everyone who dropped by and left a comment. And thank you, Marcella for this sneak peek into an unusual lifestyle. I'd still love to give life aboard a try!