Can you tell us a little about the background to your writing partnership?
Good question to start with – it’s a little unusual. We couldn’t have done anything, in the days before the internet, because we live thousands of miles away from each other! Lillian is from the northern USA, and Constance is from the UK. We were introduced through a mutual friend over ten years ago, and discovered that we both had a passion for writing. We started writing together - both sending each other what we’d written alone, and crafting stories as a pair.
That is, of course, the beauty of writing. Words on a page do not actually need the physical presence of the other person. Writing together was a little strange at first, but over the years it has become second nature. These days we are both very strongly of the opinion that our writing is at its best when we collaborate.
What challenges has the fact that you live in two different countries posed?
It’s difficult at times! There are days that we would love nothing better than to be able to decamp to the local coffee shop and brainstorm. That, clearly, is never an option. Instead, long hours on skype is an necessary part of the entire process. We also have a great set up with online collaborative software. Of course, one of the biggest challenges is the time difference! With Constance being in a time zone ahead of Lillian, often we have to work to very odd schedules!
It helps that both our families have come to the conclusion that we share a brain. Whilst we both come at matters from different angles - which actually is an asset in keeping our writing dynamic and interesting - we find it easy to understand where the other is coming from, and to pick up an idea and run with it. Very often, the ideas will come from one of us, we’ll draft together, and the other will provide the polish.
At times, the fact that we come from very different backgrounds has been a real benefit to us and to our books. Between us, we have a wealth of experience which we put to good use in bringing our characters and stories to life. Our partnership gives us a unique perspective, allowing us to bring our readers a whole new way of looking at a genre which has been around for quite a while now.
Is writing together sounds difficult - how do you deal with conflicting ideas?
We get asked this all the time! The answer is, we just talk it out. Neither of us has a big ego to get around, and our main focus is always getting the best story out of our ideas. We both are happy to go with whatever works best, and if ideas don’t get used, that’s fine. If we’re ever stuck on something, we ask our editor for a third opinion.
It’s a truly collaborative effort. Most people ask about settling arguments, but we don’t get into those. It isn’t about doing things ‘my’ way, it’s about doing them ‘our’ way.
You’ve just published your debut novel together - can you tell us a bit about it?
We’ve just published our first novel - The Dreamwalker, a contemporary fantasy which will be enjoyed by teenagers and adults alike. The book is the first instalment of The Witch Lake Chronicles, and follows the story of Sam Gardener, a boy who returns to high school to take his senior year, having been pulled out of middle school by his mother when he was twelve.
Nobody knows what to make of Sam, and in the small town high school, rumours are flying about him. All wrong, of course! He’s not about to come out and say that he can do things that most people can’t. Sam would like to just settle down and get through the year unscathed. Then he meets Rhionnan - a girl around his own age, though she’s been dead for nearly a century. A strange bond develops between the two. The Dreamwalker is their story - of Sam’s reintegration into life, and of Rhi’s fight to save her family, even in death.
What made you decide to publish The Dreamwalker yourselves?
We did consider approaching traditional publishing houses, but the more we looked into the area, the more we realised that self-publishing was right for us. There is a certain bias against self-published authors, but the simple fact is that more and more authors - even those extremely successful, household names - are publishing themselves. Especially in electronic format.
Self-publishing allows the author to retain so much more control over the finished book. Of course, with that control comes a whole host of added responsibilities, which can seem very daunting at times! We both still work full time, so coming home from work and realising that you still have several hours to put in in not only writing, but marketing and designing - not to mention working on the latest batch of comments received by our editor! - can be exhausting. Anyone who thinks that self-publishing is the ‘easy’ route needs to take a closer look!
Yet, for all the hard work, it is remarkably rewarding. We now have a novel which is ours in every respect. Nothing comes close to that. It’s the best feeling in the world, and worth every moment of the work we have put in.
Would you recommend self-publishing to others?
It’s not right for everyone, that’s for sure. In order to succeed with self-publishing, you have to not only be able to write a great book that people actually want to read - you have to source all of the support and assistance you need to be able to bring that book to market.
Sure, with the right mindset, you can do much of the work yourself - for example, both of us have graphic design skills and we created the Witch Lake Chronicles logo and the cover of The Dreamwalker ourselves rather than hiring someone to design it for us. There are, however, some elements that you need third party assistance for. Our book simply wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for our editor, for example! We needed a professional to build our website for us. The information about what is needed to self-publish is all out there on the internet - there are some great resources geared towards helping people get themselves published - but you have to be the driving force at every turn.
With self-publishing, the risk and the work are all grounded in you. There is no safety net. That has never fazed us - in fact, we find it exhilarating and inspiring! But we can both appreciate that a lot of other people may not think so. Those who are looking to get published need to decide for themselves what route is for them. We just think it is wonderful that there are now choices available, so that people can pick the right path.
Some self-published authors have been picked up by publishing houses. Would you be looking for something like that?
That’s actually not something that either of us have thought about in any detail. Our focus is on where we are now. We are loving writing and publishing our books. If other opportunities come up in the future, then we will consider them, of course, but that isn’t our aim or intention right now.
So, can we expect to see more from you both?
Oh yes, definitely! We’re hoping to publish the second instalment of The Witch Lake Chronicles in the coming months, and the third is already plotted out. We’ve also got a second series planned, which will focus on a different story entirely. We intend on being around for a while!