Friday, August 20, 2010

This Sentence Is Wrong, Daddy! by Gary Corby

Today we welcome back an old Pens Friend, Gary Corby, whose first novel comes out on October 12. The Pericles Commission is the first in a series of historical mysteries starring Nicolaos, the ambitious son of a minor sculptor. It has already racked up great reviews from Library Journal and Publishers Weekly!

We must say that we are very intrigued by the concept of a "man shed." And we are wondering why we don't get one.

"That sentence is wrong, Daddy. It should be like this..."

So says my 11 year old daughter, who has more literary talent than me. One
day, if she wants, she's going to make some publisher very happy. In the
meantime, she rebalances my sentences.

We have two daughters, 8 and 11, and I have an office at home where I write
books. The office used to be our garage. It was converted long ago, and
it's the perfect hidey-hole for any writer. It's detached from the house,
and it has a door I can shut.

Being a writer at home is a dream job for any parent. My commute to work is
to stumble out of bed, shamble down the corridor, out the front door, across
the courtyard and into my man shed and shut the door behind me. Works just

Having a work-at-home dad does however make for a different world view for
our girls, and a different role model. Other children have normal fathers
who work in an office and come home in time for dinner. Our girls have a
dad who hangs around the house, and it's not so exciting when he walks
through the door. On the plus side I can take the girls to school.
Sometimes I pick them up in the afternoon. I can get them to after-school
activities. If you have children, you'll be all too aware of the phenomenon
whereby two children need to be in two different places on the same
afternoon, usually at opposite ends of the earth. This can drive a solo
parent to madness, if not speeding fines. 2 Kids + 2 Parents + 2 Cars means
never being late for music lessons, ballet, sport, and debating. In short,
a writer dad can be more involved. I pay for it by working at night when
the girls are asleep, but I was going to do that anyway.

It also means I can be the Father From Hell when the boyfriends begin. Have
you seen the scene in Castle where the boyfriend rings the doorbell, and
Castle appears in the white coat with the severed head and the bloodied
knife? That'll be me.

A lot of people asked me, when I took to writing, whether I would actually
do any work. Surely the temptation to slack off would be overwhelming?

Umm, no. What's overwhelming is the temptation to work on the books every
waking moment. What's hard is to walk out of the office and pay attention
to the outside world. The girls know that when dad's in the office with the
door shut, it's like he's gone to an office somewhere else. They are
fantastically good about following this rule. In fact, working from home if
anything has made the work ethic role model more graphic than it probably is
for most kids. Plus they get a realistic view of how things really work,
since from time to time they catch me playing games or fiddling on twitter
instead of doing the work I said I was about to do. Naughty Daddy.

Two good decisions we made: I deliberately did not install wireless
internet, and we've put all our computers in that one office. When the
girls are online for homework or fun, they're right next to where I can tap
away at books. There's no such thing as unsupervised internet access in our
house. It also means the girls can peer over my shoulder to fix my



Gary Corby said...

A man shed is a place in the yard where the man of the house can go to potter about. A shed full of men would be something else entirely.

Sophie Littlefield said...

No no, you silly man. We want our own pottering place. Where *none* of the men would be allowed to go! Scotch would be served at 4pm.

Juliet Blackwell said...

Hi Gary! Nice to see you back on the Pens ;-)I completely agree with what you said about the temptation being not to slack off, but to work all the time. That's a tough one for me, too, and it's what makes living with writers so hard! I wonder how I'll be next year, when my son goes away to college and I no longer have to contend with his needs...suppose I'll work less, or more???
Can't wait to see you at Bouchercon!

Rachael Herron said...

Sophie, I'll be by around 4.
Gary, this is great, and makes me long for the day that I can spend all my time at home writing (wait, I do that already -- I mean not have to leave the house for 50 hours a week to be a place I have to sneak the writing in on breaks). Enjoy! And good daddy.

Sophie Littlefield said...

PS Gary I apologize for the weird formatting. It looked perfect in preview mode - honest!!

Sophie Littlefield said...

Rachael - rubbing hands together with glee - since it's afternoon and all, and the end of summer, i might start us off with a nice bourbon. :)

seriously at 4pm today I am going to be at the santa cruz beach boardwalk on one of those upside down rides with my kids and sister and bob, screaming my head off and looking forward to fried dough. yay!

L.G.C. Smith said...

Gary, your girls are lucky to have you kicking around the house all day. I gotta say, though, after the three weeks I spent driving my brother's two girls through their complicated schedules when the new baby came in June, that kids + parents + cars + right-place-on-time equation is one version of hell. Ditto hanging upside down on boardwalk rides followed by fried dough. I admire you parents ferociously.

Janet Reid said...

Gary, just remember that contract you have with me includes both incredibly talented girls of yours. I'm not about to let any of my evil ilk get their claws into them!

Gary Corby said...

Hi Sophie,

Somehow a "woman shed" doesn't sound all that salubrious. You might need a "lady's retreat" instead.

Won't you need some handsome, well-muscled male slaves to serve the drinks?

Gary Corby said...

Juliet, I'm so glad I'll be seeing you all again at Bouchercon. Once a year isn't often enough.

Yes, I'm not so sure that I write efficiently, but I do know I spend a lot of time doing it.

Gary Corby said...

Rachael, yep, it's a really different way of doing things when you're actually supposed to be writing. One thing I found though that I didn't expect: sometimes it's tricky to be creative-on-demand first thing in the morning, especially when the internet beckons.

Gary Corby said...

Thanks L.G.C., you're very kind.

I'd probably be a failure on the hanging upside down bit.

The average parent can schedule people movements with military precision.

Gary Corby said...

Janet, as per contract, am shipping the girls to you via parcel express. They'll require occasional feeding.