Friday, March 4, 2011

Characters and Co-Authoring

What kind of couple do you prefer reading about? Do you want them both to be strong, to possibly clash a little with their ideas—which makes for some good sexual tension—or do you like the male strong and the woman less so?

When Tess MacKall and I began writing Black Cougar Curse, we knew Sam, our hero, had to be strong. Of course he did. After all, he’d been cursed and had carried the burden of that curse for too many years to count. He’d endured more years on this earth than anyone, roaming the mountains, waiting for his one true love to come along and break the curse. He longed for love, to be released, yet I have to wonder…wouldn’t that be scary? You’ve lived for a long time, mainly alone, and the prospect of your life changing drastically upon the appearance of your soul mate must be a daunting thing.

Sam copes with it beautifully, embracing the changes Lucia brings. He’s an adorable man who helps Lucia with her grief and also in telling her something about herself—something of which she had no clue before she arrived at his mountains.

So then we come to Lucia. Did we want a woman equally as strong as Sam, or did we want her to defer to him for the most part? No, we wanted a strong woman, someone to match Sam in every way—the perfect combination that was right for those characters.

I suppose each book demands different personalities. What works in one book with one h/h may not work in another when you take into account their lives, what they’re doing, and where they are headed. Toss in their personalities, and you’re left with deciding which one should be the stronger character, or whether they should be of equal strength.

That’s the beauty of writing, though, isn’t it? You get to choose, and sometimes your characters choose for you. For me, that’s always the best way. When characters appear already formed, their personalities and idiosyncrasies built in before I’ve even typed the first word…ah, the exquisite life of a writer!

We wrote the book last summer. I remember us flying through it, bouncing off one another, and feeling really lucky that we’d gelled so well as a pairing. I knew we would, but you always wonder if it will sour your friendship a little if you write with a pal. It didn’t. We told one another that falling out over words wasn’t an option, that if we found we didn’t get along inside a manuscript, we’d rather abandon it and return to just being buddies. Thankfully, it just worked, and I feel that together we created a really cool book, one with double the imagination and input.

Co-authoring is great. You only have to give half the word count LOL. You have nice breaks when your partner’s writing her chapter, and the discussions via email about where we were going next sometimes produced hilarity.

“So, what’s got to happen next?”

“Hell if I know!”

“Oh, I thought you might have something in mind.”

“Nope, I thought you did!”

And so it went on. Yes, we had a clear, pencilled-in outline of what the basic plot was about, but colouring in that picture was one of the most fun times I’ve had while writing. Together we made a setting, together we made two people fall in love, and together we combined our ideals, shaped them, and placed them on the page. I love the fact that I have shared this experience with Tess. It’s amazing that something we produced together is out there. I probably sound whacko, but it’s a privilege for another author to agree to let you into their writing space, into their mind and heart, and I will always feel blessed that Tess let me walk through that door.


Harlie Williams said...

I absolutely loved this book. I reviewed it for NOR and I meant every word in the review. I have read both of you separately and I was intrigued by a book that was co-authored by you both. Great job and AWESOME book.

Harlie Williams said...

Sam was dream........

Jen B. said...

I think co-authoring sounds kind of scary. I mean, what if the authors end up heading in different directions? What is one author just hits a groove and the other stalls? Too much pressure. I like both hero and heroine to be strong and equal. They can be strong in different aspects so that they balance each other but I can't stand a weak character. Even better if the characters grow strong through the story. I haven't read this book yet but maybe I need to add it to my list.

anny cook said...

I have to admit I would probably find co-authoring very difficult. I admire people who can do it, though. Very much.

Wendy A said...


Tess MacKall said...

You're an angel, Nat. An absolute angel. And so easy to work with.

I don't advise anyone to do a co-authored work unless you know the other author quite well, however. There IS always a danger of things just not working out.

Nat and I had NO issues whatsoever. And we ARE planning on more collaborative works for sure.