Monday, June 12, 2017

A Writer's Life - the Unvarnished, Smudged-Mascara Truth

Every so often, I run across a picture of Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher. She’s sitting at her kitchen table in front of a typewriter. There’s a coffee cup to her left, a coffee pot to her right, and a sweater casually draped around her shoulders. She’s wearing make-up. She’s also wearing a satisfied smile—as if writing is a lark and she’s just sat down to dash off 5,000 words.

I too write at the kitchen table. On a laptop. I too have a coffee cup nearby. The Keurig is but steps away. But chances are, if I’m writing, there’s no sweater. There’s definitely no make-up. And there is absolutely no satisfied smile.

Since I write early in the morning, I want no pictures. No photographic evidence that my hair is twisted into a messy bun (did I mention Jessica is well-coiffed?). No one need view my comfy, seen-better-days bathrobe, or the smudges of yesterday’s mascara.

Jessica makes writing look almost glamorous.

I find the process of writing to be anything but glamorous. There are mornings when 500 writing words feels like a win. There are mornings when we’re out of cream for my coffee (HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?). There was even one dreadful morning when we were out of coffee.

Jessica makes writing look almost effortless.

If writing is effortless, why do I spend so much time with my head buried in my hands wondering what the heck happens next? And, why, when I figure that out, won’t the words fit together like puzzle pieces? Preferably one of those wooden puzzles where the cow and the sheep and pig are cut out of a wooden board and the pieces have pegs.

How does Jessica actually finish a book when she’s investigating a new murder every week?

And, given that Jessica writes murder mysteries, isn’t solving one something of a busman’s holiday? Yet, her well never runs dry. There she is, arguing with the sometimes obtuse Amos, offering sage advice to the earnest young person who is somehow embroiled in murder, and solving crimes.

The well at the Mulhern’s is not bottomless (see above for head in hands). Any advice I offer is to my teenage daughters (who think I am obtuse) and the only mystery I ever solve is who swiped my phone charger (looking at you, youngest daughter).

Kitchen table and coffee cup aside, I am nothing like Jessica Fletcher. Perhaps because I am real and Jessica is some writer’s dream of what writing should be like.

All that said, whoever wrote about Jessica’s adventures in Cabot Cove got one things absolutely right—the joy and excitement of sending a new book into the world.

I’m so thrilled that Watching the Detectives is out in the world that I might even comb my hair and put on lipstick before I sit down in front of my laptop (kidding).

Julie Mulhern is the USA Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders. 

She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean--and she's got an active imagination. Truth is--she's an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions.


  1. Thanks for sharing the "real side" of author life!

    1. The real side. Coffee. Messy hair. More Coffee. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  2. Whatever. Each book is even more fun than the last one. Which may be a result of reading them ALL in order. Good good work, Julie.

    1. Janey, thank you. So much. Bottom of my heart. You have no idea how much an author LOVES hearing that!