Jun 15, 2009

Guest Post: Emily St. John Mandel, Author of Last Night in Montreal

Emily St. John Mandel, author of Last Night in Montreal, was kind enough to take time out of her schedule to share with us her writing space. She even included some great shots from her space for this tour.

Without further ado, here's Emily and her writing space.

I do most of my writing in a small white room, typically with at
least one cat on my desk. I’ve thought about repainting (the room, not the cat), because off-white is pretty unadventurous, but I’m typically paralyzed by indecision when I visit paint stores and I have to admit, there’s something restful about the pallor of the room.

There’s a small desk and a wooden chair, a lamp, two bookshelves and two filing cabinets, a lot of books, and several uncontained avalanches of loose-leaf paper. Above my desk there’s a window; when I’m working I can’t see much above the air conditioner, just sky and a neighbor’s ancient TV antenna, but if I stand up there’s a landscape of Brooklyn rooftops and fire escapes. The room’s very quiet. There are neighbors who play bad music in a garden below the window on Sundays, but that’s what noise-blocking headphones are for.

There are photographs on the walls—street and subway photography from New York, Rome, and Montreal—and also two images from Google Maps that I find particularly gorgeous; both are satellite images of the north coast of Russia, improbable greens and deep blues and frozen lakes like silver mirrors. They remind me of stained glass. There’s also a particularly nice letter from my agent, which I keep on the wall for encouragement purposes; a poster for La Femme Nikita; and the most famous section from Raymond Chandler’s essay The Simple Art of Murder written out on a piece of scrap paper (“In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption . . . ”)

Just above my desk there are innumerable little scraps of paper taped to the wall, containing notes of varying depth and legibility related to whatever project I’m presently working on. This is because my note-taking system isn’t particularly organized or actually even really a system, and there’s always some risk of losing whatever idea just occurred to me (see paragraph 2: “avalanches of loose-leaf paper”) if I don’t immediately stick it on the wall in front of my face.

I’ll occasionally become desperate for a change of scene and go work in the living room by the windows, looking down over the avenue four stories below, or I’ll go out and lose myself for a while with a stack of manuscript pages in the pleasant din of a local cafĂ©. But this room is my oasis, and I spend a shocking percentage of my life working between these four walls with the door closed.

Thanks again to Emily for sharing with us her writing space. Stay tuned tomorrow for my review of Last Night in Montreal.

Until then, check out this video and this post by Emily at Powell's Books.

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Sandy Nawrot said...

What a simple, happy place! No computer? I can't imagine! Thanks for such a wonderful insight into this author's environment!

Anonymous said...

I loved her book 'Last night in Montreal'. I like how simple her writing space is.

Thanks for the guest post.

Anna said...

I think this is a cozy little writing space. I love the cat on the desk. :)

Looking forward to your review.

Diary of an Eccentric

Serena said...

Thanks everyone for checking out her space. She does have a computer, which she used to take these shots of her writing space since the digital camera was missing in action.

I've updated the post with some other photos she sent...so hopefully, you'll come back and check it out.

bermudaonion said...

I was wondering about the lack of a computer too. I love that her cats are her writing companions.

naida said...

great post!
its always interesting to get a glimpse into the authors workspace.

Bonnie said...

Thanks for sharing a peek into Emily's writing space. It was interesting to see what works for her as a writer. The hardback chair doesn't look that comfortable for spending time writing but maybe it keeps her focused. I am intrigued by her novel and am very interested in reading it.

Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books said...

What an interesting insight into her personal space. I enjoy the peek at what's on the author's walls.

Iliana said...

I love to see where writers (and other creatives) work. Thank you so much for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Ha, the fear of paint affects me too, but I went very bold in my office remodel. The kitty is a great touch! Thank you for sharing.

Before & after pics of my writing space: