Where the Books Get Made

by Alafair Burke

I’ve really enjoyed seeing where my fellow Murderati bloggers work, so now it’s my turn to welcome you into  the physical space of my work world.  We have a two-bedroom apartment in New York City, one of the few American cities where designated square footage for a home office is considered a luxury.  When I walk in, I am greeted by a photograph that my agent commissioned of a pretty cool full-page New York Times ad that Harper ran for my fifth novel, Angel’s Tip.  Photographs don’t yellow like newspaper.  Smart agent.



 One wall of the office is lined with storage.   


Turning to the next photo, my Eames chair makes me very happy.  I used to have a crappy one I bought at Costco until Lee Child persuaded me that I needed to buy myself better stuff.   (He’s a pretty good Persuader.  Ba-dump-bump.)

I also really like my desk.  In theory, all that junk on top should be on the pull-out surface, so it gets hidden away when closed, but, well, that’s just not what happens.  Sadly, that is actually pretty clean for me.  If you can see exposed wood, it’s clean.  The state of my office usually reflects how busy I am.  Five weeks ago, there was not a single inch of clear surface to be found.  Four weeks ago, after I finished my new book, it was incredibly tidy.  Now I’m working on edits, and once again, some mess is accumulating.

Beneath those photos of my husband juggling, you’ll see a bulletin board I bought last summer with grand ideas of storyboarding.  Note that it contains only three note cards and a newspaper clipping.  On the note cards I listed character and place names.  The newspaper clipping’s about a Minnesota court decision ruling that dirty bong water constituted an illegal drug.  A storyboarder I am not.


Remember how I said I cleaned my office a few weeks ago?  Well, cleaning for me usually means getting rid of stuff.  Or at least building a huge pile of things that I need to get rid of.  Still.  All these weeks later.  Can someone please call the Goodwill truck for me?



 This is probably my favorite thing one might find in my office, Duffer enjoying the one and only sunbeam.



Here’s a couch I had in my home office back when I had a house.  I rarely sit on it but see no reason to get rid of it either.  That’s my little laptop on its stand, but it rarely gets used anymore at home since I got an iPad.


From my desk, I look south over Greenwich Village.  I hate the people who live across the street for ruining my simple view with that ridiculous geo-dome-y thingey mcbopper.  They also have colored Christmas lights around the terrace year-round.  Classy.



Now that you’ve seen my home office, I should say that lately I seem to be most productive away from home.  At the end of summer, I nestled myself away in Portland’s West Hills and wrote a TON in ten short days.  Sans husband, sans dog, sans all responsibility, I found incredible energy and focus.  Try it sometime.

In the city, as I’ve previously mentioned, I often walk down to Otto (a Mario Batali pizzeria and wine bar) with my laptop.  Good wine.  Tasty food.  No internet signal. 



You can see from the guest name on this check that I’m a regular.  My bartender friend, Dennis, even made a cameo appearance in the last Ellie Hatcher novel, 212.


The wonderful thing about writing is that we can work anywhere.  We can set our hours.  We can travel.  We can scribble sentences on airplanes and in coffee shops if we need to.  We do what works for us.  The only thing that matters is the writing.

33 thoughts on “Where the Books Get Made

  1. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Alafair

    I'm not a big city person, but NYC is the exception to the rule. I could definitely live there – for part of the year, at least!

    I agree with Dusty – great apartment. And Duffer, of course, is fabulous ;-]

  2. pari noskin taichert

    I love seeing where you work and live. It's so different from the life I lead with a house and yard and garden. Your home looks wonderful, perfect for you and your husband — and that great dog.

    If I lived there, I'd be curled up in that sunbeam too.

  3. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Great, comfortable space, Alafair. I would probably spend most of my time in the sun spot with Duffer. And at first I didn't realize that your husband was juggling – I thought he was just a very bad tennis player and was about to get beaned.
    I'm with you on writing at the wine bar.

  4. toni mcgee causey

    What is the purpose of the dome thing? Is it covering a terrace or just over there zigzagging with intent to be annoying? I think I'd like it for a few minutes, but it draws the eye, doesn't it, and keeps hogging the view.

    I love that desk, Alafair – I need something with a drawer to push in to hide stuff. (oh. wait. I just remembered my filing cabinets serve that purpose. yikes.)

  5. Alafair Burke

    We have no idea why they have a dome there that barely fits on the terrace, let alone how they got it up there. I assume it came in pieces and was constructed, but elves must've done it when I wasn't snooping. You might be able to tell that there are two swings hanging from it, but we've never seen anyone sit in them and have no idea how one would step inside of the dome. Can you tell I've spent a lot of time considering this?

  6. Jen Forbus

    I think there must be some kind of story in that dome with all the consideration you've put into it!

    How cooperative is Duffer while you work? My two usually need to be well exercised before I sit down or I have labrador heads in my lap non-stop.

  7. Alafair Burke

    Duffer? Exercise? Oh my, no. If I'm in the office, he usually sleeps on the couch or preferably in a sunbeam when present. If he gets a burst of energy, he plays with his toys, which you can see scattered all over my office floor as they are throughout the apartment. He rattling a plastic bolt around now as I type.

  8. JT Ellison

    I thought I saw a body hanging in that dome…………..

    I adore your space – it's so light! The blond wood and the windows – that's an elegant, beautiful spot. Fitting for you, of course. Let me ask this, is your back to the door, or is the door on one side?

    Feng shui…

    Give the Duffer an ear scratch from us!

  9. Alafair Burke

    The door is all the way in a corner. My back is to two double closets, and I face my windows and the rest of the room. I don't like having windows at my back.

  10. Debbie

    Sorry about the view…I had no idea it was so distracting when I put it up!

    I absolutly love the desk with that great surface area around the keyboard. I could just see myself resting my tea, forgetting it was there and slamming the keyboard shelf shut as I raced to get the kids from school.

    That picture when you first arrive home, that is such a conversation starter. I love it. I'm going to add getting one of those to my bucket list!

  11. Alafair Burke

    Debbie, Great (or haphazard) minds think alike. In theory, the keyboard surface locks, but I usually only have it extended halfway as in the picture, where it is not locked in place. I have a tendency to place my water glass to the left of the keyboard. Danger danger!

  12. Dudley Forster

    Great space, I love the desk. As for the view, maybe the people who put up the dome are fans of Buckminster Fuller. Glad to hear Duffer is so mellow. Gizmo has a 6th sense telling him when I am writing, he starts dropping his ball at my feet and doing his “play with me” whine. A Mario Batali pizzeria, that’s one checkmark in the plus category for NY, but I don’t think I could live there. Some apartment buildings have more people living in them than the population of my town. Now I have chair envy, I still have my Costco special. I’ve been drooling over a Herman Miller. I wonder what the level of THC is in dirty bong water.

  13. Alafair Burke

    Dudley, I used the bong water case on my first day of class this semester to get the students talking generally about the crim law issues we'd be learning over the term. I brought a bong in as a prop. You may have seen the pictures of it on Facebook. No dirty water, though.

  14. Debbie

    JT, The body…is it still there? I thought I disposed of that little situation already.
    Is Gizmo a chihuahua Dudley and the chair…I'd fall asleep for sure! That's got to be the damn most comfortable chair I've seen!
    NYC has a quartre the population of my entire country. I've never been but I can't imagine any place for dogs to…well you know. The RWA con is in NYC next year but I've been given a flat 'no' from hubby. Not even a heated discussion like Gizmo might have overheard.

  15. Alafair Burke

    I can certainly see why you call him Gizmo!

    Debbie, NYC is a wonderful place for dogs. Good owners walk and walk and walk them around the city and clean up after them at the curb.

  16. judy wirzberger

    The light still shines in California, but I imagine all the lights are lit in the view outside your window. How marvelous that must be. Does the dome disappear at night. Looks like a lovely place for a murder. Love you room. Does he desk flip over and turn into a guest bed?

    That picture is marvelous. What a wonderful reminder greeting. But the Duffer is definitely not showing his best side.

    Portland, Pizza, and a passion for writing.

    thanks for cracking the door open to your world.

  17. Debbie

    Dudley, just had my cats to the vet today and both are over 8lbs! I really laughed at that pic-he's aptly named and adorable as hell.
    Alafair, Curbs eh? Never thought of that…and the cabs…isn't it kinda busy?

  18. Dudley Forster

    Judy – Using the phrase, "a lovely place for a murder," would raise eyebrows in a lot of places. But here everyone is thinking…hmm a body hanging in a geodesic dome, interesting… Is it just me or do these type of domes have an ominous feel to them, especially at night.

    Rob et al – Do I see the formation of a codependent group for messies? May I suggest http://www.messies.com/ <BG>

  19. Debbie

    Lovely Place For A Murder. Nellie Flander is one of those sweet old ladies that every town can't have enough of. Kids know it's okay to take candies offered from her purse, and parents don't hesitate to let their children eat her home baked goods at Halloween. She has cats, too many, but nobody would ever think to notify the authorities; after all, she's everybodys surrogate grandmother. She has an obsession for poppies and is always in her backyard, planting, tending…watching. No suspects in the recent serial killings have the small communitey locking their doors, glancing backwards, staying out of the shadows. But under Flander's fields lay rows of bone crosses. Could it be that Nellie knows more than even her neighbours would suspect?

  20. Alafair Burke

    This was fun. Duffer, as always, stole the show, of course. Debbie, Not in the gutter of the street, but at the curb of the sidewalk. Otherwise, that would be very dangerous indeed!

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