Hi, it’s Anne Barwell back for my 2nd monthly post on Authors Speak. Thanks again for hosting me, Lou.
A week or so ago a library patron asked an interesting question. “What does it mean when a book has the names of two authors on the cover?” He had no clue how two authors could write one book, hence the question.
Co-writing can be approached very differently. In some cases one person has the idea—and perhaps even the outline—of the story, but another actually writes it.
In others, two authors write the book together. This can be done in several ways, but for this post I’ll share how Lou Sylvre and I approached it.
When Lou asked me if I was interested in co-writing a story for Dreamspinner Press’s ‘World of Love’ series, I thought it was a great idea. Lou and I are already co-authoring a longer project—a novel called The Harp and the Sea which is an historical with an element of fantasy in it, set on the isle of Skye in 1746. Although this has been put on the backburner for a while because of one thing or another, we’re hoping to complete it and sub it next year. We’re already a good way into the story so it’s not going to take long to finish.
Anyway, back to our ‘World of Love’ story. We started with the idea that we wanted to set the novella in Wellington, and that one of the MCs would be a local, and the other from the US. As with Harp and the Sea, we’d each take one character and write the scenes which are from their POV. Much discussion followed as we needed not only defined characters, and but also a plot!
Ideas flowed back and forth across google chat, and email, until a few days later we had a plan in place. A detailed outline followed with chapters, scenes, and which of those was going to be from what point of view. We also needed to send a proposal synopsis to the publisher to secure our ‘claim’ for New Zealand, and this needed to be far more detailed than usual so that Lou and I were sure we were on the same page. The proposal was handy for us too, as it and the outline worked well together, with the proposal expanding on the bullet point outline. As this is a novella we had a one page outline and a three page proposal.
The Harp and the Sea being a longer project has a much longer bulleted outline – thirteen pages!
But I’m digressing. With our claim for our novella, Sunset at Pencarrow secured, it was time to start writing. We decided early on, as well as keeping in touch by email, to have weekly google chats. I really enjoy these, and we often go off on tangents that have nothing to do with the story. The chats and emails are important as often stuff changes as we write or the story diverts from the outline and we need to ensure we’re both happy with those changes.
It’s fun taking turns writing a story. When I’ve finished Nate’s scene, I send it to Lou, and wait to read what happens next once she’s finished the next part from Rusty’s point of view. Writing each other’s characters, as well as our own, is an interesting experience and I love seeing her perspective on these guys grow alongside mine. Once we have the first draft finished, we’ll go through and tweak the little things to make sure everything meshes, and that Nate sounds Kiwi, and Rusty, American.
The important thing with working with another author this closely is to be open to each other’s ideas, and be ready to compromise to reach agreements that we’re both happy with. Having worked with Lou before, I knew that wouldn’t be a problem. We also both have other projects on the go as well, so it’s not as though we’re both sitting twiddling our thumbs while we wait for the other to send the next scene over.
As I write this, we’re over 30K into the story and the end is quickly approaching. Naturally now we’ve got this far, our MCs, Nate and Rusty, have started misbehaving somewhat and doing a lot more things that aren’t in our carefully planned outline.
However, with both of us having several novels under our belts, we’re used to this kind of behaviour from characters, and agree that it is better to let them do their thing. It makes for a better story, and we can stick to our protestations that it really wasn’t our fault!
I’m finishing with a raw sneak peek from the opening scene of the story when Nate first meets Rusty:
Kiwi Nathaniel “Nate” Dunn is in a fighting mood, but how does a man fight Wellington’s famous fog? In the last year, he’s lost his long-time lover to boredom and his ten-year job to the economy. Now, he’s found a golden opportunity for employment where he can even use his artistic talent, but to get the job he has to get to Christchurch today. Heavy fog means no flight, and the ticket agent is ignoring him to fawn over a beautiful but annoying, overly polite American man.
Russell “Rusty” Beaumont can deal with a cancelled flight, but the pushy Kiwi at the ticket counter is making it difficult for him to stay cool. The guy rubs him all the wrong ways despite his sexy, rough, working-man look, which Rusty notices even though he’s decided not to even look for a man to replace the fiancé who died two years ago. Yet when they’re forced to share a table at the crowded airport café and Nate reveals the kind heart concealed behind his grumpy façade they find themselves on a slippery slope that just might land them in love.
Why the hell had the fog decided to pick today of all days to turn up. Beautiful weather for weeks, and the only day he needed to fly out of Wellington, and the bloody stuff had foiled his plans. His flatmate, Amy, had warned him to be prepared for it, but he hadn’t listened to her. Sure, he couldn’t see the airport from across the harbour, but it didn’t mean the stupid stuff had to hang around. Typical. Windy Wellington and there was no wind to blow it out.
It was a conspiracy.
Much like the rest of his life. One could only take so much of pretending everything was hunky-dory, and plastering on a false smile. He was sick of it. Bad enough that Glen—who he’d thought was the ‘one,’ the guy he’d be with forever—had dumped him, but to find out his job of the last ten years was finishing as well?
“Next please,” Heather repeated.
“Excuse me, sir,” a man said in an American accent, from behind him. “There’s a line here, and I’m sure the lady has done all she could to help you.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Nate mumbled. He moved to the side, but didn’t walk away. Although he knew he was being difficult, once he’d got started he couldn’t stop. He was a roll and this shitty morning was the icing on a very shitty year.
A year that was supposed to be better than the last one, but so far had started off way worse.
Maybe he should have given into his initial urge to curl up into a ball and ignore life, the universe, and everything. But then that would have been boring, wouldn’t it? And heaven forbid he let that arsehole, Glen, be right about anything.
Nate would give Glen ‘boring.’ He wasn’t boring. He was the least boring person he knew. Wasn’t he?
What if Glen was right? While Nate knew he wasn’t the most exciting person in the world, he’d always been comfortable with his existence. What if this was a sign he shouldn’t be going for this job?
Then why would they give him an interview? The guy he’d talked to seemed to think Nate might be exactly who they were looking for to run this new gallery. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, not to mention one hell of a move up from his current job—the one that was about to disappear out from under him. Opportunities like this didn’t come up often, but the rebuilding in Christchurch after the quake offered him the chance to be involved in something right from the beginning, to put his mark on it, and make a name for himself. But it wasn’t the only appeal. He’d sent them some of his sketches when he’d let it slip that he was an artist, and they had got really excited by those.
The whole thing was a dream come true. Nate had spent the last ten years watching others have their art celebrated, while pretending it didn’t hurt, that it would never be his on display.
Except now it was all turning into a nightmare. It didn’t matter how good he was, or how well he could wow the interview panel. None of it this made a damn bit of difference if he couldn’t get there for the interview. His life was going to custard—no, it had already done that, this was just the encore. The extremely sucky icing on the top.
“I hope this unfortunate incident doesn’t mar your experience of our country, Mr. Beaumont.” Heather’s words to the American standing next to Nate disrupted his train of thought. “I can assure you this doesn’t happen often.”
“Bullshit,” Nate mumbled. “It always happens this time of year.”
“Listen, man,” the American—Beaumont—said politely. “I know this is a drag. But she can’t fix it, right? Your pack looks heavy. Why don’t you find a place to sit down? Take a load off.”
“What a good idea,” Heather said brightly. She handed a slip across the counter to Beaumont. “I’m sorry we can’t offer more, but this food voucher is valid for today only and you can use it at the food court. Once the fog lifts, we’ll make announcements about the available flights over the loud speak system.”
Nate pushed past Beaumont. “You didn’t offer me a food voucher!” he said indignantly.
“Oh, no I didn’t, did I?” Heather gave him that annoying smile again. “My apologies, Nathaniel.”
Nate winced. He hated being called by his full name, especially as it usually meant he was in trouble. Perhaps he was being a bit rude? “Sorry,” he mumbled. “Apology accepted.”
“Here’s your voucher.” Heather handed him a piece of paper. “Have a nice day.”
“Yeah, sure.” Nate began to walk away then glanced at the voucher. “Bloody typical,” he grumbled, remembering there was a reason he always had a good meal before his flight. Given the prices they charged here, he’d be lucky if he got a decent cup of coffee for it.