Hailey Lind, the writing duo of Julie Goodson-Lawes and Carolyn J. Lawes, as guest bloggers. Their blog today was a collaborative effort!
Be sure and check out other guest blog Partner in Crime writing partners: So far we've had Guest Blogs from Mark Zubro, Bill Crider, Charles Todd (Caroline & Charles), Mary Reed & Eric Mayer, Max Allan Collins, David Corbett, Michael Stanley, Jeffery Deaver, Reed Farrel Coleman, and Charlotte Elkins, and Eric Beetner & JB Kohl.
Julie Goodson-Lawes is a muralist and portrait painter who has run her own faux finishing and design business in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than a decade. She now writes paranormal mystery series under the name Juliet Blackwell. Carolyn J. Lawes is Associate Professor of History at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, where she specializes in American women’s history. Feint of Art, the first in The Art Lover’s Mystery Series, was nominated for the Agatha for Best First Novel. Arsenic and Old Paint, the fourth in the series, is due out from Perseverance Press in September, 2010.
“Where she sees mauve, I see taupe.”
That should have been my answer when my sister and I, who collaborate on the Art Lover’s Mystery Series, were first asked that now-familiar question: how do you two make your writing partnership work?
It wasn’t my answer then, because I don’t think that fast on my feet. But it will be from now on.
The whole thing started on a dare. For years we had passed novels back and forth to one another, often accompanied with the flippant phrase: “It was good, but we could do better.” One day I decided to actually try it: I wrote the first chapter of a novel featuring a faux-finisher who used to be an art forger. I showed it to my sister, who promptly brought out her red pen and “re-wrote” it. When I read the manuscript with her changes, I loved it. We started plotting the whole story, and kept writing. Thus our collaboration was born more as a fun sister project than with serious thoughts of eventual publication.
To be sure, there are practical issues to overcome in order to create a successful writing partnership. Living 3,000 miles from your writing partner could have posed a problem. Thanks to modern technology, though, that’s been the least of our challenges. The miracle of the Internet makes it possible for us to send chapters back and forth in the blink of an eye and with the ease of a mouse click. Free-on-the-weekends cell phone minutes enable hours-long conversations about what to do when, for example, our ex-art-forger protagonist, Annie Kincaid, fell for a character we’d intended to be a villain. (That woman is impossible to control! And the novels have been all the better for it…)
But though the mechanics of our collaboration are 21st-century, the substance of it is as old as the ages: she sees mauve where I see taupe. We have enough in common to draw us together without being so similar that we see the world as one.
We’re sisters, and we’ve always been close. Our upbringing and education created a strong foundation, and we share an ironic sense of humor. We “get” each other. But as individuals we’re different enough—in our tastes and life choices—that we don’t compete, we complement. It is this balance of similar-yet-not-the-same that has made our collaboration so fruitful, and so much fun to be a part of.
Where one has a gift for quirky characters and plot twists (how does she do it?), the other has a knack for banter and exposition. She sketches out scenes and characters and sends the story to me as a document attached to an email. I download the document, expand upon it, and return it to her. She revises and edits, and sends it to me, and so on, back and forth, until we’re both satisfied. When we encounter difficulties—for example, the story took a twist in chapter four that we must now incorporate into the earlier chapters, which inevitably means jettisoning some material and rewriting so threads don’t get lost—we set aside time on the weekend, break out the cell phones, and talk it through. In the process, our words and phrases and sentences blend and meld until I can’t remember who wrote what. Because I didn’t write it, and she didn’t write it. We wrote it.
But it is the emotional tie, which runs like a ribbon of steel through our every interaction, that built the foundation of trust and goodwill any partnership must have to be productive and to endure. It’s not simply because we’re sisters: shared DNA doesn’t dictate a happy relationship. What our sibling bond did do, in our case, was give us a jump start on navigating the give-and-take involved in working closely with another person. When I fumble the ball—as I have and no doubt will in the future—she picks it up and runs with it. When she’s frustrated and mad as hell and just can’t face another blank page, she punts to me and it’s my turn to sprint for the goal. It doesn’t matter which of us gets there first because we both win. You don’t need to be sisters to collaborate, but you do need to be friends.
Still, there is an undeniable sweetness to having a sister who is also your friend and writing partner.
Even if she does see mauve when it’s clearly taupe.
Hailey Lind is the pseudonym for two sisters, one an artist and the other an historian.
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