Today, I present Canadian authors Melodie Campbell and Cynthia St-Pierre. Their new mystery, A Purse to Die For, was released by Imajin Books this summer. I asked them how two writers go about writing an entire book together. That’s something I cannot imagine doing! Here’s what they say:
C: Melodie, we get asked that a lot don’t we?
M: Yes, and it’s really so simple: we set out to have some fun writing. I think the trick to co-writing is to make it enjoyable for each other. In the end, of course, you have to compromise on some things. But, if the writing has been fun, it’s worth it.
So….we set out to surprise each other. I’d write a scene and then Cindy would take over and write the next scene. I wouldn’t necessarily know where she was going with it, so it was always a delight to get the next chapter.
C: I tell people it was like reading and writing at the same time. Very pleasurable. Many authors claim they wouldn’t be able to write a mystery with another writer. Real murder might ensue. I admit I wasn’t a fan of group projects in school. Back then, it always seemed hard to reach a meeting of the minds, let alone divide the task evenly between an arbitrary group of students. But Melodie and I became friends before attempting a collaboration. Plus we’re much older and wiser now. Ahem.
We met at Canada’s national mystery conference, Bloody Words, which took place in Toronto that year. How many years ago was that now?
M: I think it was 2006. Six years ago? But we didn’t start this project until 2009. I think we had both tried writing mystery novels on our own and had stalled.
Novel writing is a huge project. Many full-time writers take six months to a year to complete a book. If you are doing it part-time, it can take years. So having a writing partner to push you and applaud you is great motivation.
What would you suggest other writers look for in a novel-writing partner?
M: We had read each other’s short stories and liked each other’s writing styles before we tried to work together. We’re both minimalists with words, and we look for humour. I think our styles blend well.
This is something I would advise anyone before trying a collaboration: look for someone whose fiction you love to read yourself.
C: Mel and I lucked out to the point that readers insist they can’t tell where one of us left off writing and the other began. Even my sister, who’s an author herself, says she can’t tell.
For example, Mel and I wrote this guest post using the very same back-and-forth style we enjoyed when writing A Purse to Die For. Then we handled any required editing. If we hadn’t specified a change of voice in this blog posting, would you have been able to say for sure who wrote what?
Besides, we’re mystery writers. Maybe “C” doesn’t stand for “Cynthia” but for “Co-author”. And maybe “M” doesn’t stand for “Melodie” but for “Me.”
Melodie Campbell’s first novel, Rowena Through the Wall (Imajin Books) went to No.2 on the Amazon.ca bestseller list (fantasy, futuristic) in August 2011. A Purse to Die For, co-written with Cynthia St-Pierre, is her second novel. Her third novel, The Goddaughter, has been released by Orca Books. Melodie is the general manager of Crime Writers of Canada.
Cynthia St-Pierre has a York Regional Police Citizens’ Awareness Program certificate, presented and signed by Julian Fantino, former Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police. In her career as a marketing professional, she’s written promotional, packaging and communications material, and articles for business periodicals.
Find out more about Melodie and Cynthia, and their joint writing adventures at Fashionationwithmystery.com.