Monday, May 17, 2010

Partners in Crime: Hailey Lind Guest Blogger

Partners in Crime: Authors who Collaborate. I'm happy to continue this series here on Mystery Fanfare. Today I welcome 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.

Hailey Lind:

“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.


Mysti said...

Yay! I can't wait for Arsenic and Old Paint.

There's nothing cooler than working with someone to create something that is so much more than the sum of its parts!

Mason Canyon said...

It amazes me when two people write a book. This sounds very intriguing.

Thoughts in Progress

Juliet Blackwell said...

Thanks Mysti! I'm excited to see Arsenic and Old Paint come out as well -- we had such fun writing it. And Mason -- you should give it a try! If you get the right partner, it really can be a transcendent experience.
--Julie (aka, half of Hailey Lind)

susan C Shea said...

Aha - I finally see the other half of the dynamic duo! You make it sound almost easy to write as a team. I'm looking forward to reading the new "Hailey Lind."

Jamie Freveletti said...

"...there is an undeniable sweetness to having a sister who is also your friend and writing partner." What a nice statement and great article.

Nice to see you again Juliet, and happy to meet you Carolyn!

michael said...

Julie, how does the writing experience differ when you write alone vs when you write with your sister?

Carolyn, when will you try writing alone?

Juliet Blackwell said...

Susan -- I hope you'll meet my other half in person when you're in Virginia with your brand new book!!!

Jamie -- thanks for stopping by! Good to see you here. Yes, that sister thing is hard to beat.

Michael -- The greatest difference for me, writing alone, is that I don't have that continuous, constant feedback. I do still reach out to my sister for her opinion of my writing -- she's very generous with her time and thoughts. The upside is that I get to have my own way, all the time! You know how sisters can unreasonable ;-)

As for Carolyn, she's up to her ears in academic writing at the moment but hasn't yet ventured out into fiction....

Janet Rudolph said...

I was going to ask you about the difference writing alone. Thanks for answering.

Really appreciate your Guest Blog!

Carolyn Lawes said...

Hello everyone! This is Carolyn, Julie's sister and the other half of Hailey Lind. Thank you all for your lovely comments!

Hard Boiled -- Your words are music to our ears, and it is indeed totally cool to work with Julie (but then, she's totally cool)!

Mason -- Most of my writing has been academic history, a discipline in which collaborative writing is the exception rather than the rule. Writing fiction was a new thing for me (no footnotes!) and writing collaboratively was really new. It turned out to be way more fun that I would have thought possible.

Susan -- Here I am! I'm so pleased you're looking forward to Arsenic & Old Paint; we had a blast writing it!

Jamie -- Lovely to meet you! Julie and I have always been close (our family long ago ruled we are never to be on the same side in Charades) and creating imaginative worlds on paper has strengthened that bond immeasurably. Julie's the smartest and funniest person I've ever known, and I am so grateful to be able to work together as we do!

Michael -- I've been toying with some ideas for a story on my own, though I've been sidetracked by my academic writing recently. When I do have time to focus on fiction, the first person I'll send it to will be Julie, for her feedback. Though whatever I come up with on my own won't be collaborative per se, I can't imagine the writing process without her input.

Janet -- Our pleasure! Thank you so much for your interest in our work!