Twice the magic: how two novelists write as one--from dreaming the creative vision to sitting shoulder to shoulder in front of the keyboard.

Author:DeBerry, Virginia
Position:The writing life

"How do you two write novels together?" It's the question we are asked most often and the most difficult one to answer.

We're tempted to say, "It's magic" because even after several books, the results are still magical to us. When we read our finished manuscripts we often feel as if someone else wrote them. That "someone" blends our tWo voices into the one that tells the story, which is why we refer to ourselves as "the author" of our books, not "the authors."

Then we remember how many hours we spent, shoulder to shoulder, in front of the computer; and how much hard work was involved in getting those words on the page.

We've also been a bit reluctant to examine the way we work together, fearing we might lose that indefinable "something"--the special chemistry shared by successful duos from Ashford and Simpson to bacon and eggs. So, while we can't explain the magic--the way we inspire, or incite each other--we have figured out some of the mechanics that make our writing teamship work.

We knew from tackling other projects that we were both willing to commit whatever time and effort was required to complete something as daunting as a novel. Assigning value to our work and time, before anyone else did, was an important step down a long road. On the days when one of us was (and still is) tempted to go AWOL, it's knowing the other will be waiting, ready to work, that gets you into the chair to tackle the next chapter.

Then we talk--a lot. About everything: life--ours and other people's--the news, our dreams. Nothing is off limits or too far out, because frequently our flee associations lead to a theme or a new slant on a situation. Well before we ever thought about writing together, books were one of our topics of conversation--those we liked, those we didn't. Some authors we cherish because of unpredictable plots and foreshadowing you can't see until the "aha" light comes on. Others have intrigued us because of characters that made us feel what they were going through. We don't always agree on our favorites, but we arrive at a common understanding of what makes a story work for us. We weren't looking to duplicate an other author's style. Our goal was to let our own voice emerge.

On our way to unearthing the plot, we can spend weeks exchanging ideas and story lines, and "what if?" is our most often uttered phrase. This is when we chart the rhythm of the book--how to move back and forth among the different story lines. It's fun creating our own world, but...

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