There’s one name that comes almost immediately to mind when the phrase “paranormal romance” is mentioned: Laurell K. Hamilton. Her two series of novels, based on the characters of Merry Gentry and Anita Blake, have brought a decidedly darker take to the serial romance field, and did much to rekindle the sex appeal of the various creatures of the night between Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire novels in the mid 1990′s and the recent, and decidedly more youth-oriented, Twilight series. Adding to her geek cred is an upcoming collaboration with Jennie Breeden (of The Devil’s Panties) on the next Anita Blake novel, Flirt.
We’re used to various supernatural characters we encounter having powers beyond what most mortals are typically capable of. Fortunately, Laurell possesses a few of her own – not the least of which is a wickedly fast pair of hands at the keyboard. Don’t believe us? Check out the daily page counts on her Twitter feed.
We had a chance to catch up with Laurell to see how her workout regimen fits in with her life and writing, how pumping iron helps her pump out words, and whether Anita, Merry, or any of the other characters who go bump in the night are liable to be gym rats.
ShrinkGeek: How long have you been doing the fitness thing?
Laurell K. Hamilton: I started doing serious fitness related stuff about three years ago, but I fell off the fitness wagon and really only jumped back on about 10 months ago.
How did you get into going to the gym and working out?
I was completely a couch potato and bookworm as a child. I didn’t actually do much physically until I was in college. I ran, did Judo, and hit the weight room for the first time. I loved it. Then I broke my leg in two places and cracked it in another [while doing] Judo, and when I got off of crutches, I just didn’t go back to it. I’ve been on and off the fitness wagon for years, mostly weights and running, and then I injured my ankle a couple years ago fairly badly.
My doctor told me that if I kept up with the weights and had enough muscle around my joints, I would stop injuring myself as much. That was a much better reason [for me] to go back to the weight room than to go down a dress size. About three years ago, I dropped fifty pounds. Still have 10–15 pounds that keeps coming back on and off, and I’m still struggling to find that routine for life. I’ve almost found it, I think.
I think we can all relate to trying to find the perfect routine to make a habit out of, as well as trying to reach that long-term goal. What is your gym schedule like?
I try to make it to the gym at least three times a week, sometimes four. My schedule really has to be flexible, depending on how the writing is going.
Do you try to keep it up when you’re on the road, or is that usually downtime?
I try to work out on the road, but it’s really about the timing. Most of the time we have very little “down” time between signings and catching planes. Traveling does make it hard, but I try.
Do you usually work out with your husband, or someone else?
Jonathon and I complement each other in most areas, but one area we really, seriously do not complement each other is exercise. He hates weights; I love weights. He mostly wants to do cardio and doesn’t want to bulk up; I haven’t been able to do cardio for the longest time, because of my ankle. I’m just now being able to get back into it. We have completely opposite needs and desires in the gym.
I have another friend that I work out with, and when she and I go, we complement each other and want the same workout.
What does your typical workout involve?
We start with stretching, then move to cardio on the treadmill. Now, I’m up to 40 minutes, but [generally like to get] at least a half hour. We have four routines that we cycle through, which are a mixture of free weights, machines, and core exercises. We work different muscle groups each time.
Any inspirations or motivations that keep you going, even if you don’t necessarily feel like it that day? Making excuses is really easy, but doesn’t burn any calories.
What does it is that if I go even more than two days without some type of serious exercise, I start getting depressed. It really, really impacts my mood if I don’t exercise enough.
The other day, we cut our workout a little short because the gym was getting ready to close, and my elbow, which I have also injured, let me know that maybe it was done for the day. I did not get as “high” off of the workout, because I didn’t quite hit that moment. [It's a combination of] mood, health, and, I will admit that I like having gone down six sizes in jeans. I was a size 14 and now I’m an 8. That’s worth staying with it.
Does your working out affect or inform your writing?
Since it affects my moods, yeah, it affects my writing. When I’m depressed and moody, I’m less likely to be productive. As far as working out and being in shape, I can get a better idea as to what the characters are capable of and know how it works in the real world. In the sex scenes, strength helps, and it improves your stamina, which helps a lot, and exercise improves your flexibility, which is very important.
I’m glad I’m not the only one who has not-completely-innocent motivations when I hit the gym! As far as the mood-elevating and head-clearing benefits of the gym time, how else does that translate into your writing life?
It gives me more energy, but when I work out, I think about the weights I’m lifting, how my body is working, and when I’m on the treadmill, I think about how I am moving. With the ankle injury, I have to be very, very careful on the treadmill. I have to be sure where my feet are going. I really have to concentrate physically. The gym is the one place I can go and not think about work. It comes up occasionally, but most of the time I’m really focused on the workout and I really, really like that. I live in my head so much that getting into my body is how I relax. I’ve found that almost everything that relaxes me has something to do with being very physical.
Do you think any of your characters would hit the gym? I mean, other than as a place to pick up a healthy snack, so to speak.
I’m one of the least competitive people I know, so my characters aren’t very competitive, because I just don’t understand it. I’m only competitive with myself, so my characters tend to do that as well. It’s about how much better I can be than I was.
Anita does the workout that I did when I was in college, because she’s not married, and the people that she hangs around with are very physical. So, she’s still doing the running, she’s still doing the weights, and the martial arts. I find that once you enter the real world, you have a job where you are working sixty hours a week or more, or something like that, then you add a child to that, and suddenly all your gym time gets eaten up. Nothing like a happy family life to cut into your fitness routine. [laughter]
It looks like you’ve found a way to fit working out in, because it’s important – something a lot of folks might struggle to do initially. Do you have any particular fitness goals you’re shooting for?
I would like to be able to bench press my own body weight again like I could when I was in college, but that is unrealistic, because I’ll never be able to go to the gym that much. [Back then] I was working out almost every day. My main goal is to put more muscle mass around my joints for health reasons. Also, what I’ve noticed from friends, is that those that exercise a lot in their 30’s and 40’s, when they get in their 50’s and 60’s, they’re doing a lot better health-wise than friends that don’t exercise.
I think of exercise as putting money in the bank for retirement. The more exercise you put in now, the more health you have to get out later. I’ve noticed this across the board with my friends. So, I’m trying to put more exercise into my health bank.
That’s a really great way to think about it! Anything else you would like folks to know?
Just do something, do anything, from yoga to tai chi, to just taking a walk on a regular basis. It’s just been proven again and again that how much you use your body dictates how well you age. Genetics be damned, get your butt up and move and you will feel better.
We’d like to thank Laurell for taking the time to chat with us, as well as being an absolute dynamo when it comes to creating, working out, and posting entertaining music, writing and dinner snapshots.
Now, you heard the woman – that’s enough sitting around and reading for right now. Let’s get going!