The Way We Work: Kim Kane and Marion Roberts
Writing is often said to be a lonely occupation, but what happens when you co-author a work of fiction? The authors of new YA novel Cry Blue Murder, Kim Kane and Marion Roberts, share their experience.
MR: With over seven published novels and picture books between us our usual approach has been to work on solo projects. Cry Blue Murder is our first collaboration as writers.
KK: Writing to each other (as Alice and Celia write to each other in the novel), our first draft zipped along. It was like a form of literary jousting, each dashing out emails in a competitive frenzy, trying to make each other laugh. There was a real vim to the writing and the freedom did help us develop distinct character voices.
MR: Neither of us had written a suspense novel before so strategic plotting became the prime focus of the second and third drafts. We also increased the ages of the characters, which ultimately required a complete re-write and a rigorous structural edit. The initial momentum of the first draft started to slow down a little feel a little more like … hard work.
KK: I can honestly say there is not one single line of Cry Blue Murder that hasn’t been well and truly raked over. That’s the thing about co-writing a novel. It’s like a marriage - you’re in it for the best of drafts, and the worst of drafts, hip to hip. In fact we went through two entire editing processes before the manuscript reached an editor.
We did, however, come up with ideas we could never have dreamed alone. A mystery written for younger children with Red Riding Hood at its core became a creepy thriller for young adults.
MR: Working together meant that there was usually one of us who had a flame burning for the novel in times of despondency or frustration. Kim and I are both highly imaginative so when either of us would come up with an idea to improve the novel it usually involved significant re-writing. The logistics of this was not always easy.
KK: Our restrictions were mainly physical. I had toddler twins and Marion had teenagers…
MR: Child bride.
KK: …and so the exact moment I was ready to log on in the evening and start revisions, was the very time Marion would be on duty.
One of the best parts about co-writing is that we each got to see another writer’s process at close hand. Marion is hilarious and it was great fun to see her new drafts. When it came to re-drafting, we differed. Marion claimed I was a word hoarder, hugging my darlings but I felt she was so keen to trim she’d throw out the bath water, the baby, the bathroom and half the kitchen. I continuously combed through the debris to stick bits back in.
MR: Usually without telling me. Working with Kim was a lot of fun. We share a similar subversive wit, which was a real saviour through the tough parts. Being land-locked to our own homes due to kids meant hours editing over the phone late at night, and by email. Kim gets very attached to her words…
KK: And yours
MR: …and while it was pretty tough convincing Kim that certain elements of the novel had to go she really did pull through at the eleventh hour. I was seriously proud!
KK: You sounded just like Alice then.
Our finest moment was the very last read-through and it was affirming to flick through the pages and see we both were concerned about the same bits. I think we were really very fortunate to share a vision for the work.