Monthly Archives: February 2018

Author Interview: Catherine Bannon

Having lived both in Canada and the US, Catherine Bannon gives a unique perspective to experiencing two different worlds.  She has used this understanding in her writing, and I got the chance to chat with her about that.

I see that you were born in Canada but live in the U.S.  What do you miss most about Canada?

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how best to answer that. I was eleven when we moved to the US because of my father’s work, so my memories are those of a child and I’m not sure of their accuracy. I think Canadians are better about respecting your personal space; Americans are so friendly and open and that’s not a bad thing at all, but I’m just made so that I need a wide space around me. And I’ll probably make some people mad with this but when it comes to the concepts that America is supposedly all about, the “Land of the Free” and the “All Men Are Created Equal” type thing, quite honestly I think Canada does it better. On a more personal level, I wish I could have grown up closer to my cousins; there are some I haven’t seen for thirty or forty years just because we live so far apart. And one of my absolute favorite places on earth is the Banff National Park. I probably wouldn’t have been able to get there any more frequently from Ontario, but I still miss it.

What has writing this book done for you?

It’s made me more completely aware of how much I still identify as a Canadian. Jillian is not Canadian; she’s British, but the point still holds. I’ve lived in the US most of my life and all of my adult life, but there’s still something in me, when the wheels of the plane set down in Toronto or Calgary or Vancouver, or when the car clears the Customs station, that settles down happily, sighs, and says, “Home!” I love my home in the Boston area but that little inner something is never completely satisfied until I’m north of the border.

Was there anything specific that inspired you to write this book?

I first started thinking about writing Imperfect Cadence when a friend of mine kept asking me, “Is that a Canadian expression? I never heard it before,” on a fairly frequent basis. I began to realize that I didn’t even know, a lot of the time, whether the idioms I used were Canadian, British, or American as all three had an influence on my speech. That started me thinking about culture shock, and my realization that even after spending most of my life in the US I still was undergoing a certain amount of culture shock that I’d never really gotten over. So I started writing Jillian’s story, and how she tried to reconcile the more reserved British culture she was used to with the more relaxed US culture here. They are similar in many, many ways but there are subtle differences that will over time become more evident. I wanted to try to make my readers see that, as great a country as the US can be, it isn’t the whole world.

What’s your favorite book?

That’s a really, really hard question. It changes every week. I suppose if I had to pick just one, it would be either Anne of Green Gables or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Both children’s books, but both books that have a lot to say to adults on many levels as well.

What are you reading right now?

Right now I’m re-reading the books of Charlotte MacLeod. She’s also a Canadian author who lived in the US, and her books are very, very funny. They’d qualify as cozy mysteries, I think, but the characters are drawn somewhat larger than life and in fact are deliberately overdrawn. She died a few years back and I’m still mourning that there won’t be any more of her wonderful stories.

With working at a university, how do you find time to write?

I have to use all my time as effectively as I can. I use my commuting time to do my plotting and planning; I named all the characters in Imperfect Cadence while at a baseball game. My husband is very good about doing things like the dishes and his own laundry to leave me time to write, and I can sometimes make time during the day by bringing my lunch, eating it at my desk and using my lunch time to write. I try to get a couple of writing hours a day during weekends and when I can after work. I always have a pen and notebook with me so I can jot down ideas as they come to me.

Do you have more books coming?

I certainly do! Pas de Deux, a sequel to Imperfect Cadence, should be coming out in late winter or early spring; I’m just doing the last revisions on it now. It picks up the story about a year and a half after Imperfect Cadence leaves off but follows when Joyce, Jillian’s next door neighbor in the States, goes to graduate school in London. I have plans for a couple more books in the series but I’m not ready to talk about them yet. I’m also working with a co-writer on a series of contemporary mysteries about a different set of characters, but set in the same universe as Imperfect Cadence, and also on a series of historical fiction with a paranormal twist.

Catherine Bannon was born in Canada and lived there until her family moved to the United States while she was in middle school. Despite living in the US for most of her life, she still finds the mix of cultures confusing, which is why she wrote this book in the first place. Catherine likes to travel but doesn’t have to time to do as much of it as she wants. She also is fond of classical music, which drives her classic-rock husband crazy. Catherine likes to cook, and her idea of hell is being stuck somewhere with nothing to read. She likes cats, but doesn’t have any at the moment because her husband is allergic to them. Occasionally she borrows a friend’s cat or dog just to get her “furry friend fix”. Catherine is a Christian and sings in her church choir. The church that Jillian, Josh and their families attend is the same one she went to for many years before she got married and moved out of town. Catherine works in the Employee Benefits office of a university in Cambridge, MA. She is married to Brad Bannon, a political analyst and adjunct political science professor. They live in Marshfield, MA, which is just south of Scituate. You can check out Imperfect Cadence on Facebook and Amazon.

 

 

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Book Review: Five Weeks in a Balloon by Jules Verne

It’s not often that I have a cold, rainy Saturday with nothing to do.  Oh sure, there are plenty of things I could have done, but since I didn’t have to I decided to finish this book.

Five Weeks in a Balloon is the first in a collection of seven novels in this gorgeous volume I picked up at Barnes and Noble a few months ago.  The tale follows Dr. Ferguson, Dick Kennedy, and the faithful Joe Wilson as they traverse Africa in a balloon, attempting to investigate the depths of the continent that have up until that point been unreachable by other explorers traveling on the ground.

Verne, as always, did a fantastic job with his description.  As the trio explores vast landscapes, battles dangerous animals, and fights the elements, the reader is easily pulled into every scene.  They say that as a writer you have to learn how to torture your characters in order to make a good story, and that most certainly happens in this novel.  The characters are almost constantly in danger of some sort, just barely pulling free before it’s too late.  One of my favorite examples of this is when the men in the balloon pull a man from his horse to safety as he’s being pursued by a group of angry horsemen.

A tale of exploration, peril, and constant adventure, I recommend Five Weeks in a Balloon to anyone looking for a little excitement.  I would also suggest that the reader keep in mind the fact that this book was published in 1863, so the rather Eurocentric viewpoint is a manifestation of its time in history.

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Author Interview: Claire L. Brown

Between cooking, writing, fundraising, and spending time with her dog, author Claire L. Brown always has something happening.  Check out my interview with her below.

Did you do any writing as a child?

I’ve been a writer all my life. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t telling stories.  If there was a story I didn’t like as a child, I’d write my own ending.  Then if I couldn’t find a book I wanted to read I started writing my own.  I was also badly bullied as a child so my imagination and writing became my safe haven and a place where the characters were friends you could trust.

Tell us a little bit about your charity, The Poppy Garden.  

After the publication of The Poppy Garden, on 11th November 2016, I decided that I could do more than just tell a story so I decided to start the Poppy Garden as a charity to help veterans of our armed forces to deal with their PTSD.

I was Inspired by my grandfather, SGT Joseph Robinson, who was part of the RAF during WWII, and how he dealt with his experiences of war by throwing his effort and his passion into his garden.  In the novel, the issues around PTSD and how this affects not only the veteran but also their family are looked at and examined in more detail.

I now aim to establish The Poppy Garden Trust – a charity to create a Poppy Garden in various areas of the UK for veterans to seek assistance and support and create their own poppy garden experience.  The Poppy Garden will be a centre to provide support, assistance and recuperation facilities, retraining and family support.

I am currently in the initial stages of setting up and starting to fundraise.  I am also currently in the process of identifying a suitable property and site in the North East for the very first Poppy Garden to be developed. You can track my fundraising progress at Go Fund Me.

Your blog includes several posts about recipes and cooking.  What’s your favorite thing to make?

I love cooking and baking and I also love experimenting with food.  What I love to cook changes with the seasons and with the ideas that I come up with or recipes I research.   Lately I my most prolific tests have been with Cinnamon Sugar Madeline’s and Ginger Bread tray bake.

With books like The Draco Chronicles and Jonah Axe and the Weeping Bride under your belt, it’s clear you like fantasy.  What first got you interested in the genre?

I think it’s the pure escapism, in fantasy nothing is impossible the only limits are your own imagination.

What’s your favorite time of day?

Early morning, especially on a day off when I can wake up naturally, get up and go for a walk with my dog Hero.

Tell us what your writing process is like.  Are you an outliner or a pantser?

I class myself as an organic writer and my process changes to fit the project.   Sometimes I plan manically and have every page plotted out in fine detail, other times I have a brief idea of the story and I just start writing it and see how the words flow.

What are you reading right now?

I’m currently reading The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith. I love crime stories and have for the last year been reading a lot of cosy mysteries.  This is my expansion out in to other branches of the crime genre and I’m enjoying it so far.  I’m also reading The Little Book of Lykke, the research carried out by the Happiness Institute in to what constitutes and how we create happiness.

Do you have any future books in the works?

I’m currently working on a project with the working title Dear Diary. I’m just in the initial writing phase and I’m not sure where it’s going, but I’m enjoying meeting the characters and starting on their journey.

 

Be sure to check out all of Claire’s links below:

Website     Facebook     Twitter     Pinterest     Instagram     Amazon Author Page

My Life As A Writer Blog  & My Life As A Writer When I’m Not Scribbling Blog

 

 

 

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The Benefits of Paying Attention to Your Supporting Characters: Guest Post by J.E. Nice

by J. E. Nice

I love a good supporting character.  Not only do I personally tend to find them more interesting than the protagonist, but they can add so much to your stories, whether it’s adding to the plot, creating more scenes or to be used as a device for your main character.

Many writers may be tempted to overlook fully developing their supporting characters, because they’re putting all of their effort into their main cast. It’s understandable. Sometimes your main character just needs a best friend to lean on, and that’s all they’re there for.

But by not discovering who that best friend is, you could be missing a trick.

Let me give you an example.

Nearly ten years ago I started writing a fantasy novel. I had a vague idea for the plot but I had a definite protagonist, antagonist, and one supporting character who was going to help my heroine.

I wrote half of the book before I had to stop and acknowledge that something was missing. My main character and the bad guy were in two separate places, and I needed something extra there until they met towards the middle of the book.

I created two new characters for this purpose, a young maid and an old army veteran, and placed them in the vicinity of my antagonist.

What I wasn’t expecting was for the maid to be so curious about what was going on or quite so headstrong. Neither was I expecting the two to hit it off quite so well in the first scene I wrote with them alone together.

By the time I’d written the two into my existing manuscript, the maid had nearly completely taken over the plot.

What did this add to my novel? Well, it’s now the first in a trilogy. The whole story went from being one of a strong woman to three women all at different stages in their lives but all on the same path. By adding those two characters, the whole book became stronger and more fun to write.

If that hasn’t convinced you to pay more attention to your supporting characters (or to create some more), here are five benefits those characters could bring to your stories:

1. They will help to strengthen your plot.

No matter how much you plot and plan your stories (if you do at all), your characters will always surprise you as they develop and grow. It’s the sign of a well written character, a good story, and that you’re really getting into the writing. (Which is good; if you’re bored of writing, the reader will be bored reading it.)

By giving some focus to your supporting characters, you’re giving more scope for surprise from your cast. Who knows which supporting character could throw up a red herring for you or be the key to the whole mystery.

They may not take over the plot, but on the other hand…

2.  They may take over your plot.

If your supporting characters are particularly strong-willed, they may surprise you and this could include taking over the story, as mine did. If this happens, you can choose to embrace it and see where they lead you, embrace it but make sure they stay in line, or keep them quiet but take notes (see point five).

Your plot and story might change if you allow them to take over, but it could become so much better than you originally thought.

3.  Their stories will make the whole story more interesting.

By getting to know the backstories, motivations and personality traits of your supporting characters, you’ll be able to create subplots. Those little storylines that occur alongside, and potentially weave in and out of, your main plot. These subplots give your reader something else to focus on, especially when they need a break from the frantic drama and action of your main plot, or maybe when you want to create a little suspense. This can also include some comic relief and a bit of humanity, and could end up being integral to the climax of the overarching storyline.

4.  They’ll help to develop your protagonists.

If you create your supporting character with a full backstory and personality traits, then you’ll have someone complete for your protagonists to bounce off. By doing this, you might get to see a new side to your main characters. Maybe a supporting character will rub them the wrong way, or perhaps they’ll get on better than you had anticipated.

However your main characters react, it’ll give them a little more depth and something new for your reader to consider and potentially love about them.

5. You’ll find they give you more material.

If your supporting characters turn out to have a particularly interesting backstory, or if they’re trying to take over, they could give you new ideas and material for further stories and books.

A particular favourite supporting character in your novel could have a short story, novella or even their own novel. This can be great fun for you as a writer, but readers who loved the original story will be more than happy to have more of what could be their favourite characters.

If you’re building your author platform and business, a short story about a supporting character can be a great freebie for your growing readership. Or you can try submitting it to publications as a marketing tool for your novel.

So those supporting characters could not only make your plot better and give your main characters more depth, they can be great for sales, marketing and building a loyal readership.

Honestly, you have nothing to lose by devoting more attention to your supporting characters. So give them a chance to shine. They may surprise you.

Jenny Lewis is a fantasy writer, freelance marketing assistant and runs the fiction writer’s resources hub Write into the Woods. Her trilogy, The Last War, is available now and you can get the first book, mentioned in this post, Matter of Time, for free. Jenny lives in Bristol, UK, a city where it is downright encouraged to be weird, wonderful and every inch yourself, with her husband and Labrador puppy, Bucky.

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Author Interview: Val Rainey

One look at Val Rainey’s website, and you’ll be in love!  It’s a treasure trove of beautiful illustrations and fun.  Val and I spent a little time talking about her children’s book, Sunny’s Grand Adventure.

What was your inspiration for writing Sunny’s Grand Adventure?

Well, it was a daisy pin that belonged to my mother Betty. Sunny began as a six-page double spaced hand written piece of silly and grew into a story/colouring book.

She is limited to a print run of 1000 copies and naturally I sign them all.

Part of her earnings is donated to children’s charities.

Do you have children in your own family who enjoy your books?

Yes. I gave my brother and my nieces and nephews their own copies for Christmas 2004.

Since then Sunny has been doing a lot of flying. Some of her adventures have taken her to Australia, Germany, New Zealand and of course Canada and the U.S.

Your website, The Elf and Toadstool, is a wonderful place full of whimsy and fantasy.  Have you always been interested in fantasy?

I guess so. I always loved the faerie tales that I was read and learned how to read on my own.

What’s your writing process like?

Oh, now there’s a dangerous question! The adventure begins when a character comes to visit the way Sunny and Marigold both did. From there it can get pretty crazy with everyone telling me how the story actually happened. Yes. Past tense.  I end up being an overworked recording secretary as much as the author.

Marigold is a series that I am working on. Marigold is a dragon. She is definitely not your regular dragon…oh no…not her.

Did you have a hand in choosing or creating the illustrations?

You want to believe it. I have a lovely lady Emily J. Hercock who lives in the U.K. I let her know what I want and voila.

What is your favorite children’s book?

It is a series of books that has been around a very long time. It is called simply My Bookhouse. The early illustrations were absolutely scrumptious. They were done in plates. The set I had was printed in the fifties. The series started with easy poems like the Little Red Hen and went all the way through to Shakespeare. I sure wish that I still had it.

Do you have more children’s books planned for the future?

Always! One series that I’m busy working on is called The Sunshine Collection. The first book, Fun and Frolic, is a collection of stories and poems written by my mother and I over a 75 year period. I never knew that she wrote until a box arrived from one of her sisters in 2000 with her work and other family treasures.

I’m busy with Down on the Farm and plan have it out for Christmas. The lovely Emily Hercock is doing the illustrations and cover for it.

Oh! I almost forgot……. I will also have a special poem about Max the Christmas Mouse available then too.

 

You can find Sunny’s Grand Adventure and Fun and Frolic at The Elf and Toadstool under the Book Nook tab.  Also, check out the Facebook page for The Elf and Toadstool.

 

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Author Interview: Harriet Hunter

While many books are written purely to entertain, Harriet Hunter seeks to help those dealing with alcoholism.  Since she has been through it herself, she is able to provide an insider’s perspective for those looking to walk a higher path.  Miracles of Recovery is due out later this year, but her website provides a lot of valuable information.

Since Miracles of Recovery was an outgrowth of your own experience with addiction and recovery, was it difficult for you to write?

No, quite the contrary. I’ve been writing (journaling) for years and writing each morning was natural, as a way to focus on one thought or a specific emotion.

The idea for Miracles of Recovery came to light after the death of my only child four years ago while overwhelmed with emotions. I realized I was already writing what I knew about, so for the first year, I never had to think about what I was going to write. Spiritual and emotional reflections were right before my eyes. It was after that first year I said to myself, “You realize you have a daily reader here, don’t you?”

It’s obvious that you’ve put a lot of work and caring into your website and blog as a service for those who are seeking help.  How do you find time for it all?

I try to wake up before my two dogs, a golden retriever and an American bulldog, and I am driven. Losing a child, a husband and two brothers, three in the last four years, has a way of propelling me to “see each day as if it is my last.” I write as if squeezing as many hours most days as possible.

My dogs demand a lot of physical attention and in between, I have my home I care for, volunteer work, and outings with friends. And of course, my critique groups!  Between these, including articles for submission, I try to write and edit at least five hours a day, but even this is not nearly enough.

Is there any one thing that you feel can help people most when they’re struggling with addiction?

The desire to change is an individual need that must come from the user, and no one else. Other than sharing with them what was so freely given to me, the responsibility for anyone who wants sobriety rests with the individual.  If new to recovery, we can help to allay fears and provide insightful information and literature.  This is a program of attraction, not promotion. Short of prayer, emotional support and encouragement while providing information about the AA program is about all we can do. We know manipulating, begging, jail, and loss of home and family isn’t enough at times to stop this terrible disease that demands it have all of us.  Jails, institutions, and death are a typical outcome for those with addictions. Any life-altering requires dedication from the individual to go the distance. They have to want change above everything else.

Recovery allows those who care to, to share with others our experience, strength, and hope so they may identify and see they too, can have hope to maintain sobriety one day at a time. Miracles of change that have happened to me and millions of others occur every day in our meetings of recovery. Those returning to the program already know what to expect and find it easier, sometimes, than the newcomer to come back.

I have always believed information is power. My book, focused on the newcomer and relapse, is a holistic attempt to provide reminders and an “inside look” at what they can expect coming into Alcoholics Anonymous. It takes a small mustard seed of willingness to walk into the rooms, which is often the most difficult thing to do of all. The AA program of recovery, as with any 12-step program, is a one-day-at-a-time commitment to not drink.

When can we expect Miracles of Recovery to be released?

I hope to be ready before the close of 2018, the very latest.

What are your favorite books?

The Outlander series, Gone with the Wind, Prince of Tides and many others.

What’s your favorite time of day?

Early morning before the angels fly and my dogs awake!

Do you have other books in the works?

Yes, I’ve been preparing a sequel to Miracles of Recovery, which will focus on recovery as being a program of action, with exercises, tables and personal accounts from others on each of the 12-Steps as to how the program has changed their lives.

We know normal people never have to think they may have a problem with alcohol. If they wonder, then chances are good that they do. Please visit http://www.aa.org/ for more information, telephone numbers and meeting schedules in your area.

 

Harriet Hunter lives in Florida with her dogs and when she’s not writing, she can most often be found outdoors gardening, walking or helping others. Visit her at Harriethunter.org or on Facebook. You can also follow her on Twitter @Elizza6. For personal questions or information, contact her at Harriet@harriethunter.org.

 

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Author Interview: Elle Spellman

Elle Spellman draws inspiration from her love of comics to create stories about the heroines we all want to be.  She found time in her busy schedule to tell me a little more about herself and her work.

If you could have just one superpower, what would it be?

Hmm, there are so many possibilities! Being a comic fan, it’s a question I’ve always pondered. I guess it would all depend what would happen to me to get my power! Personally I’d love super strength like She-Hulk (she’s one of my favourite characters!), or sentient hair like Medusa from Marvel’s Inhumans series. But in reality I’d have to be sensible and would probably take teleportation, to get more time in the day!

I see that you like comic books; do you have a favorite?

I like so many! But I’m a huge Batman fan and my favourite is probably Batman: Year One.

 What do you do when you aren’t writing?

When I’m not writing, I’m reading! I run a book blog about women’s fiction called Super Heroines, so I’m always on the lookout for new books to feature and review. Aside from my bookish and nerdy interests, I also love running and keeping fit. I have a full-time job, too. My life is a busy one, but I enjoy every minute of it.

 Favorite breakfast food?

That’s tricky! I tend to have porridge with blueberries most days, or pancakes with fruit. But let’s face it, who doesn’t love a huge bowl of chocolate-covered cereal now and again?

Tea or coffee?

I love coffee, but I’m more partial to tea. I drink a coffee each morning and tea during the day! I also have a chamomile tea at night.

 Who are your greatest influences that you know in real life?

Being a book blogger, I have been lucky enough to meet so many talented authors that have influenced me, but my greatest influences are my mother and grandmother. They always encouraged me to read and write from a very young age, helped me with my stories, and encouraged me to send my work to publishers. Sadly my grandmother passed away when I was younger, but she will always be a huge inspiration to me.

Do you participate in NaNoWriMo?  Why or why not?

I do indeed! I love NaNoWriMo, maybe because I’m quite deadline-driven, so I like having that end goal in sight. There’s a great feeling of achievement once you hit that magical 50k, but I always know that even if I don’t get there, just half of that target is something to be proud of. Plus, with so many people across the globe taking part, there’s a great sense of community that can keep you inspired. I’ve completed NaNoWriMo for the past three years and hope to again this year (I tend to take a week of holiday in November to lock myself away and write!)

Bookstore or library?

I always find myself wandering into bookstores when I’m in town, just looking at all the new novels and the beautiful covers, trying to refrain from buying them all! Books are my weakness. That said, Bristol has a fantastic central library in a beautiful old building which I really should go and visit more often.

Where’s your favorite place to write?  What’s your writing process like?

Honestly? I write anywhere. At home, in coffee shops, in notebooks at work on my lunch break or on the train home. Ideas tend to pop into my head at the strangest moments so I always keep a notepad and pen handy! I tend to work best when I have a short time frame, such as an hour before the working day begins, or some time before bed. I don’t have a specific schedule, and kind of envy writers who can set one and stick to it! (Tips greatly appreciated! Hehe.)

Tell us a little bit about book #2!

I can’t really say much about it just yet, but it’s a completely new novel. It’s contemporary fiction with magical realism; light-hearted but at the same time rather dark, so quite a bit different from She’s Bad News.

Elle can be found on Twitter at @capesandcorsets.  She also maintains a personal blog and a book blog.  Check out She’s Bad News on Amazon UK, Amazon US, and Goodreads.  Read more about the book below:

SHE’S BAD NEWS

By Elle Spellman

What would you do if you woke up with super powers?

For Bella Brown, life hasn’t gone according to plan. She’s almost thirty, still living in her uneventful hometown, and her dreams of becoming an investigative reporter have fallen by the wayside.

 

 That is, until she wakes up one morning to find she’s been gifted with some amazing new abilities. What’s a girl to do with heightened senses, super speed and the ability to lift a truck one-handed? Bella quickly discovers that her new powers can easily help her land front-page leads at local newspaper, The Hartleybourne Gazette. 

 Soon Bella’s out every night chasing down local criminals for stories, while keeping her powers a secret from everyone besides flatmate Chloe. But when a burglary-gone-wrong accidentally turns her into the mysterious Hartleybourne Heroine, Bella finds herself on the front page for the wrong reasons. Her secret becomes harder to keep as she tries to track down the source of her powers, and especially when crime reporter Matt Gilmore is intent on unmasking the town’s new vigilante…

 Suddenly, having an extraordinary life is far more dangerous than she ever imagined.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 Elle Spellman is a writer and comic book geek living in the South West of England. She’s been writing since a very young age, spending her childhood afternoons penning stories about fictional adventures, and illustrating them too.

 

 

 

 

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Surviving Co-Authorship: Guest Post by Jennifer Pallanich

By Jennifer Pallanich

 

Co-writing a novel can be the best idea you’ve ever had. Or it can be a miserable experience that causes you to swear off co-authorship for the rest of your life.

Think back to those group projects in school. Sometimes the group was a dream team, and everyone contributed well and evenly, creating something that was far better than any one person could have done solo. The project was fun and you got an A. This is what you want.

But more often than not, one or two people did all the work while the rest contributed some or none at all. The keeners felt taken advantage of and the others felt nagged by the barrage of requests to participate. Not fun for anyone.

I hated group projects.

But I love co-writing: the collaborative process, working with someone I trust completely, each bringing our own writing strengths to the table.

What’s at the core of our co-author relationship? My brother and I make a good team. There’s the trust I mentioned, developed from earliest childhood and our shared upbringing. We have similar tastes in reading, culture and entertainment. We share many of the same interests and outlooks. We have similar work ethic and drive. We share certain writing ambitions and have a shared vision for what we want to accomplish.

We started our co-author lives with a deck stacked deeply in our favor.

But there are three more essential elements that make our collaboration enjoyable: artistic chemistry, mutual respect, and clearly defined expectations.

Artistic chemistry means bringing out the best in the other person’s writing and thinking. We spend countless hours kicking around ideas and brainstorming to work through knotty plot problems together. His ideas spur mine, and mine spur his. The artistic chemistry that is evident when we brainstorm makes me happy. It makes all the hard hours in front of the laptop fun.

Mutual respect is huge, and is borne of the trust we share. We treat each other well. We know the other person’s strengths and weaknesses as well as we know our own. We can see the other grow and improve in the craft of writing. We listen to the other’s opinions and respond respectfully, even when we disagree or just don’t like a suggestion. In the end, we make choices based on what’s best for the story we’re trying to tell, not based on whose idea it was or who just gave up and gave in because they just wanted the discussion to be over. To us, the story is bigger than the ego.

Probably the most important thing my brother and I did when we decided to create a superhero universe and co-write and co-publish a trilogy is draft a set of responsibilities and expectations. Our co-author agreement stipulates who has final say over story points and who has final say over the words. It outlines who handles which marketing actions. It states who works with the editors and who works with the artists. These roles are obviously in line with our strengths. I wouldn’t ever dream of collaborating with someone without clearly setting out the expectations of each party.

So, for example, if one of us believes the story should go one way, and the other thinks it should go the other, we’d both make our cases. Through the discussion – which often will include the question “what’s best for the story?” – one or the other of us might be swayed, and the discussion ends. But sometimes the person in charge of story makes a ruling. Once that’s done, the discussion is over and we move on, no ego involved.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that co-authoring is less work or somehow easier than doing your own thing. Collaborating makes far more work, although I think the final product is worth it.

We’re both plotters rather than pantsers, so while we share the same writing approach we must harmonize two different writing styles. To address this, he revises the chapters I write and I revise the chapters he writes. This approach helps blend our styles and ensures every chapter shines with both of our voices.

Right now, my brother and I are in the final throes of revising the fourth draft of our second book to send to our editor at the end of January. It’s pretty intense, with each of us spending two or three hours a day on the project. Some of that is solo work – laptop hours editing and revising. But we spend a lot of time discussing the draft and fixing loose ends and broken logic.

The process isn’t perfect, and we’ve fine-tuned it a bit since we starting writing the first draft of the first book, but it works for us.

Happy writing.

 

Jennifer Pallanich is a freelance writer. As a trade journalist, she has bylined over half a million words about the oil and gas industry. She and her brother, Baltimore Russell, created the Children of the Solstice universe and between October 2014 and January 2015, they co-wrote the first draft of the entire trilogy. They co-published book one, Awakening, in late 2016 through their publishing imprint Pair Tree Ink. The second book is expected out in mid-2018. Jennifer loves to read good versus evil stories. An avid scuba diver, traveler, reader, and writer, she lives with a lab mix named Houdini and a cat named Possum. She volunteers with a local no-kill animal shelter.  Check out her Amazon page.

Baltimore Russsell is an actor, producer, and writer.  He and his husband created the People You Know new media series, which aired on HereTV.  Almost from the time he learned to work a pencil, he could often be found creating his own stories.  He lives in New York City with his husband, John Dylan Delatorre.  Check out his Amazon page.

 

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Author Interview: S. J. Brown

Spending time out in the wilderness with animals has been inspiring for S. J. Brown, who combines her love of writing and photography to create books that educate and entertain.  I got the chance to ask her a little bit about herself and her work.

Do you remember the first thing you wrote?

No, I don’t remember. I am sure it was in high school that is when a teacher encouraged me to explore the possibly of pursuing a career as a writer.  My first published piece took 10 minutes to write.  It was about clipping coupons.

What was one of your most memorable encounters when photographing wildlife?

There are many; my most memorable encounters are the ones that last a little longer and get me just a little closer to my subject.

Some, like the alligator in Florida and the Puffins on their own little island, I covered in my book Close Ups & Close Encounters.  Others, like the coyote in South Dakota and the bear in North Carolina, I have documented on film and may include in another book in the future.

With all of the work you do with nature (tagging butterflies, planting trees, recycling, growing your own veggies, etc.) it’s clear that you care about the environment.  What do you feel is one of the most important things people can do to help the Earth?

Educate themselves.  There are so many things each of us can do: recycling, planting, conserving energy, buying local. The list goes on and on.  It’s really not difficult to find ways to lesson our impact on the natural world. The important thing is that each of us do something.  Our children and grandchildren will be inheriting the earth.

Do you consider yourself more of a writer or more of a photographer?

It depends on what day it is.  Some days I spend the entire day in the field with the critters.  Some days I never leave my office because I am busy working on a manuscript, an article, or blog.  Photography gives me a chance to get close to wild critters.  Writing allows me the opportunity to share those experiences and my love of the natural world.

Your website mentions that you prefer to use film instead of digital imagery.  How do you feel the technological advances in photography have affected the art form?

Technology makes me wonder when I am looking at an image.  Did the photographer actually get that shot or was it enhanced and created on the computer?  A digital image is called a print; a photograph is captured on film.  To me there is a difference between a photograph and a print, and I prefer photographs.   The best way I can explain the difference is if you have two painters, and one uses oils and the other watercolors.  It is a preference.  Each is a different medium.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished reading A House Divided Against Itself by Bob O’Conner.  I like reading books by authors I have met, regardless of the genre.  So I have read sci-fi, horror, memoirs, westerns, historical, true crime, fiction and non-fiction.

Are there any future books in the works?

Yes.  My sister and I are putting the finishing touches on our manuscript Suburban Sisters.   I also am playing with the idea of doing another children’s picture book and revisiting a manuscript from the past that hasn’t been published yet.

Each Sunday I share an image on my Facebook page. Those on my  email list hear accounts of my recent adventures in the field.    They are the first to know when I will be signing books, or releasing a new book.  I am part of a blogging group and I share my blog posts on Authors Den.

Susan’s website can be found here, and you can also reach her on LinkedIn.

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