Lauren Francis-Sharma’s debut novel ‘Til the Well Runs Dry is a tale of unorthodox love between Marcia Garcia and Farouk Karam in Trinidad during the WWII era and beyond.  The book delves into several issues including gender roles, dangerous family secrets, classism, immigration and obeah magic. The newly published author chatted with about how her book sprouted into being. Take note, aspiring authors.

Being a Secret Writer

Lauren Francis-Sharma started out as a “secret writer.”  “Writing was kind of my dirty little secret. I didn’t talk about it to anyone. It was my own personal place,” said Francis-Sharma.  After graduating from the University of Michigan Law school, the Maryland native dove right into a corporate law career at a New York law firm. During that time she wrote two novels that were never published. “I was very determined not to write anymore. I felt like I needed to focus on my legal career and it seemed that failing at getting those first two novels published was further proof that I needed to give up on writing,” Francis-Sharma explained.

From Lawyer to Stay-At-Home Mom/Author

Francis-Sharma practiced law for 10 years even though she knew it was not the career for her. “I knew I had a made a mistake on the first day I stepped into that law firm, but I stayed because that was what I had gone to school for and it was my life,” said Francis-Sharma.  While still practicing law, she got married and had two kids. “I quit my job because it was a tough balance. We had two kids under the age of two and my husband is also an attorney, so I had to make a decision that was best for my family. This was supposed to just be a year to two, but it’s gone longer than that.”

90 Minutes a Day

Once at home with her two small children, Francis-Sharma once again got a tug from her inner writer.  “This book popped up in my head and I worked really hard not to do it, but it just wouldn’t go away, so I made the decision to do it a different way. I couldn’t close myself up in a room this time.  I took a class called “Extreme Novelist” at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda,” said Francis-Sharma. The eight-week class encouraged students to write for at least 90 minutes a day. “With two kids at home, I never sat down for a straight 90 minutes to write, but I found a few minutes here and there when they were watching television or coloring to hop on my laptop.  The thing is that you trick yourself into writing for more than 90 minutes per day. I ended up snatching minutes here and there and writing this novel.” It took Francis-Sharma approximately two years to finish the first draft.

The Muse vs Reality
The would-be published author’s grandmother served as the muse for the protagonist of the novel. Francis-Sharma’s grandmother was dying in a hospital when she found the courage to finally ask questions about her grandmother’s life in Trinidad. She wasn’t able to get many answers and she notes that one of her greatest regrets is not talking to her grandmother sooner.  But after Francis-Sharma she did continue to ask her relatives for more family stories and she visited Trinidad, both her parents’ native land. “Mostly, my family members told me what I already knew And sometimes it was just ‘Oh, you’re writing a book? How cute.’ There is a tendency for our elders to keep things from us. They want to protect us from harsh truths,” said Francis-Sharma.  As far as what’s the same between my grandmother and Marcia, the both grew up in the same village, had a troubled marriage, decided to be a domestic in the US and leave the kids behind with the dad and eventually settled in New York. Something horrible happened here with my grandmother and I still don’t know what. Marcia has a more fleshed out story and the other difference is that Marcia is a seamstress and my grandmother knitted,” noted Francis-Sharma.

The Draft vs The Published Version
‘Til the Well Runs Dry did not end up under the bed with the other two novels. Francis-Sharma scored a publishing deal with Henry Holt and Barbara Jones as an editor. As with any book, this novel took a bit of massaging to get it to the published version that sits on shelves today. “We cut out about 200 pages from the initial version and that’s without cutting out chapters or significant events. It was line by line, precision editing. She trimmed the fat. Barbara would say ‘We don’t want bad actors in this movie.’ That means no shortcuts, no relying on clichés or unnecessarily drawn out descriptions, but really getting to the character’s being,” Francis-Sharma explained. From the time she started working on the first  draft to the book being on shelves was about four years.

‘Til the Well Runs Dry is available now online and in stores.