Friday, 15 June 2018

Upstaged, The Writing Journey




Upstaged began as a casual conversation between Steph Danielson and myself as to what it might be like to collaborate on a book.

I'd met Steph when she was running Romance First Publications. She published my very first paperback, The Unfairness of Life, which is soon to be re published under the name Lab Rat. She also published my one and only m/f, Fallen Angel.

The idea was to write one book and see how it went. It was never going to be easy, as Steph lives in the Mid West and I live in Wales, but decided to "suck it and see".

As a committed pantser, it was a new experience to sit down and plan a book before we started, even though it was a rough plan. All our plans were rough and changed as we went along, but I can't deny it was good to have some kind of plan, and someone to plot with.

We decided from the start that we would each "own" our characters and be responsible for all scenes involving them. It was great fun, but could also be very frustrating to bounce our characters off each other. When you are writing both (or all if more than one) characters in a scene, you know exactly how they are going to react and what they are going to say. You know exactly what they need to do to drive the scene forward to where you want it to go. When you're controlling only one (or more if multiples in a scene) character you never quite know, a) how the other person is going to react and b) what they're going to say.

Of course, we both had a good idea of where the story was going, but things often took unexpected turns when Steph's characters misunderstood what mine was saying, or was heading off in the "wrong" direction, or simply wasn't going to do what I wanted them to do. Isn't that how it is in real life. Mostly, we just dived in and wrote. Words came so easy, and from the words came conflicts, emotions, resolutions and all kinds of shit from all kinds of people.

Steph and I would be constantly sending each other pictures of what we thought our, or her, characters looking like, of wedding cakes, rings, even the London Eye.

Sometimes, we would write into an online document, which completely blew my mind. As an absolute beginner at technology, I was amazed by how I could see the words she was writing appearing on the screen. Not only that, but I could write in my own words and the entire document was saved and could be downloaded by both of us. WOW!

Sometimes, we would brainstorm on messenger, sending pictures back and forth, firing off dialogue, getting amazing ideas, and some crazy ones. We'd dicuss seating plans for weddings, what stones would be in class rings, what the hell were class rings, and all kinds of things. Those were, perhaps the most fun times of all.

Sometimes, when we had to go away and write a scene or part of scene on our own, we would put it into a word doc, email to each other then copy and paste into the online document when we were happy with it. As mindblowing as the online documents was, it was bloody frustrating because it kept crashing and lagging.

Of course we had our disagreements and frustrations. I'm sure Steph is absolutely fed up of me pulling her up on passive voice and forbidding her from using certain words. I, for my part, would probably have strangled Erik twenty times if he were real. There were times when he just wouldn't go where I wanted him to go, and I had to accept that and change my ideas around him. He really is a meathead. Fortunately we are both laid back people and I've never closed down my computer cursing Steph - although I have cursed Erik, loudly.

Perhaps the most difficult and frustrating thing was the time difference. Steph lives in the Mid West and I live in Wales which means a five hour time difference. It often meant either Steph writing in the very early morning, or me in the very, very early morning. I saw the sun come up more than once.

As we approached the end of book one, it became abundantly clear that we had far too much to say to contain in one book, or rather our characters did. We gave them their HEA, but they weren't satisfied. Oh no, they turned it into very much a HFN and drove us on.

We started getting ideas for the second book whilst still writing the first, then we went crazy with what if's and wouldn't it be crazy if's and before we knew it we were on book four and still not done with all the ideas we had. We never though, though, when our characters started having children that we would end up writing their stories, but when we got to the logical end of the stories The Von had to tell, we were left with a gang of kids who wanted more,

Jayden, the twins, Quinn and even Caitlin insisted on having their say and before we knew it we were off again, with Jayden following his father down the rabbit hole, Erik being about as good at handling Jayden as he had with Asher in book one, Vince and Billy being sweet enough to give you cavities, and their kids running rings around them all.

If only you could see, from where we stand, the trials and tribulations that lie before The Von and their friends as they tread the path to stardom, and from there, superstardom. Some have it easier than other, and those tend to be Steph's characters, she doesn't have quite the same taste for torturing hers. There was a point where I was saying - what can I do to Asher next? I do a lot, but he asks for it. He should have got help in book one. Although I guess he couldn't help the plane crash.

Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed your peep into the creative process of two completely mad authors and their even more insane characters. We've thoroughly enjoyed the ride while writing and we hope you will enjoy the reading just as much.

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