Veteran authors Jennifer AlLee and Lisa Karon Richardson have combined their considerable skills to create the action-packed historical romance series, Charm & Deceit, for Whitaker House.
Jennifer AlLee’s publishing credits include the novel, The Love of His Brother (2007) for Five Star Publishers, and several books with Abington Press: The Pastor's Wife (2010), The Mother Road (April 2012), and A Wild Goose Chase Christmas (November 2012). She’s also published a number of short stories, devotions and plays. She lives with her family in Las Vegas, Nevada. To learn more: www.jenniferallee.com.
Lisa Karon Richardson has led a life of adventure— from serving as a missionary in the Seychelles and Gabon to returning to the United States to raise a family—and she imparts her stories with similarly action-packed plot lines. She’s published Impressed by Love (2012), for Barbour Publishing’s Colonial Courtships anthology, and The Magistrate’s Folly-(Jan. 2013) and the upcoming Midnight Clear, part of the Mistletoe Memories anthology releasing in the fall of 2013 from Barbour. Lisa lives with her husband and their two precocious children in Ohio. To learn more: www.lisakaronrichardson.com.
How two very different authors combined forces
How did the two of you decide to write a book together?
Lisa: It all happened very organically. Before we were writing partners, Jen and I were critique partners and best friends. She wrote women's fiction, sometimes with a supernatural twist. I wrote historicals. Then she had an awesome idea for a historical romance. As she was telling me about it, I was thinking how great the premise was and how I wished I had thought of it. She put together a blurb and a hook and pitched it.
But, I believe she got a bit daunted by the research needed to write a historical. (Jen correct me if I get any of this wrong!) That's when she asked me if I'd like to collaborate. I already loved the idea, and I loved her, so I was all over it. We started brainstorming to flesh out the plot and Jen pitched it to Whitaker House at the next ACFW conference. They were interested, but preferred series. So we went back to the drawing board and put together a couple more ideas drawing from both of us.
Jen pipes up: Yes, I must correct Lisa on one point. I wasn’t a bit daunted by the research, I was extremely daunted! After about the fifth or sixth time I went to Lisa for help, I thought, “This is silly. We should be writing this together.” Thank heaven she agreed!
What's the best thing about co-writing?
Jen: It’s hard to pick one best thing. First off, I love working with Lisa. It’s so great to be able to brainstorm together and throw ideas around. She’s strong in areas that I’m not, so when I miss something, she’s right there to build up the story. Of course, that works both ways. But, if I had to pick just one best thing about co-writing, I’d have to say it’s the accountability that’s necessary. I have a tendency to procrastinate (an admission which shocks no one who knows me). Left to my own devices, I can find all kinds of ways to fritter away time. But with this series, I know that Lisa is depending on me to do my part in a timely fashion. And since I don’t want her to throttle me the next time we see each other, I hop right to it. Frittering is not an option!
What's the hardest thing about co-writing?
Lisa: First I have to say that Jen is fabulous to work with. None of this has been very hard and we've been able to give and take really well I think. The answer to the question is probably going to be as individual as the author. For me, the hardest thing is letting go of some preconceived notions. We essentially take turns writing the next chapter from a loose outline that's about three pages long. That means there is tons of room for deviation over a 300 page book.
When I finish my chapter I've generally got an idea of where I would take the story next. But when I get the next chapter back it's somewhere else entirely--like a different county, not even the next town over! It's wonderful for the reader and the book overall in terms of keeping the story from being too predictable, but, true confessions, it's jarring to me at first. It takes a bit of thought to pick up the story thread from there and keep moving forward.
Tell us about the process. How do you share the work?
Jen: That’s exactly what we asked each other when we first started this project. One approach we discussed was that we each write all the scenes in a specific character’s point of view. But it was clunky and impractical, so we discarded that idea. In the end, we decided the best way to do it was to alternate chapters. First, we brainstorm the idea and work up a synopsis with the general idea of where the story will go. Then Lisa starts us out with chapter one, because she’s a historical genius and she grounds us in the right time and place. Her first chapter sets the tone for the rest of the book, really.
When she’s done, she sends it to me. I read over her chapter, make notes, and then write chapter two. Then I send it to her, she reads over my notes on her chapter, makes notes on my chapter, then writes chapter three. And so on and so forth until one of us gets to write THE END on the last page.
What advice would you give writers thinking about co-authoring?
Jen: As in any relationship, be it personal or business, communication is crucial! Because Lisa and I were best friends before we became co-authors, the most important thing to me was that we could work together and not kill our friendship. We’d already been critiquing each other’s work, so I knew we could give and receive constructive criticism without a problem. But when you co-write a book, there are times when you each see things a different way. At those times, you have to be able to discuss how it best serves the story without digging in your heels and taking it personally. Thankfully, we’ve had no problem with that—probably because we’re both so bright and levelheaded. (Ha ha!)
What's next for you?
Lisa: Jen and I just turned in the manuscript for Book #2 of the Charm and Deceit series, Vanishing Act. I have to say I was thrilled with the way the story turned out. A Pinkerton Agent and a fake medium join forces to find President Lincoln's kidnapped son. There's adventure and romance and skullduggery galore! That story is scheduled to come out in November of 2013. And we both have novellas in the Mistletoe Memories anthology from Barbour, which will come out 9/1/13. In the meantime, we're getting ready to tackle book three in our series. So we have lots of work ahead.
Diamond in the Rough (Charm & Deceit, book 1)
Grant Diamond is a professional gambler on the run from his past. When he comes across a wagon wreck, the chance to escape his pursuers is too good a gamble to pass up, and he assumes the identity of the dead wagon driver. His plan takes an unexpected turn when local heiress Lily Rose mistakes him for the missionary she had asked to come work with the Wiyot Indians. Seeing Eureka as a promising place to lay low, Grant plays along. Before he knows it, he's bluffing his way through sermons and building an Indian school. But with a Pinkerton on his trail and a rancher rousing fresh hatred against the Indians, Grant fears the new life he's built may soon crumple like a house of cards.