Today we’re going to hear from a team of writers who co-wrote Brave New Century, releasing this month. Paula Mowery, Lisa Lickel, Kathleen Rouser and Teena Stewart share what it was like to write a book together.
Ladies, tell me how Brave New Century was born?
Can you believe this book came from a simple request from Lisa Lickel on an ACFW genre loop? Lisa posted to this loop asking if any other authors were interested in writing an anthology of romance stories set in a chosen city during the early 1900s. Now for me, Paula, I had just been toying with a story in the era she named because of some fascinating information my father had found about his father. Teena and Kathy joined in, and the writing began.
(Lisa) I had ulterior motives! To move along a short story I’d written in parts, originally for Heartsong’s subscriber magazine. The short story had to turn into a novella, though. I had so much fun!
(Kathy) I saw Lisa’s email on the ACFW Midwest loop. Since I had already done research on an urban area (Detroit) and that was the era I’d written about in a full-length historical romance manuscript, the anthology seemed like a good fit.
Did you know each other before writing together?
I (Paula) had done some correspondence with Lisa through email after meeting her on the ACFW Loop. Now, with Teena and Kathy, this was my first interaction with them. We each sent our ideas to Lisa, and she gave us the go ahead that we were on the right track with what she was envisioning.
(Lisa) I enjoyed meeting Paula, who was the most interactive. I’d known Teena through my agent, and was delighted to meet Kathy at a conference.
(Kathy) Lisa came all the way to our Great Lakes Conference in Michigan, so I had the wonderful chance to meet her. I hope some day I will get to meet Paula and Teena, as well. It’s been fun getting to know them by email.
(Paula) We have yet to meet face to face – all of us. A couple of the others may have met at a conference. But, we wore out the emailing back and forth, sending each other our stories to critique and proofread. I certainly hope to have the opportunity to meet my coauthors sometime.
What did your co-writing relationship look like?
Since we wrote separate stories, we were able to help one another to grow in our writing by suggestions through Track Changes and email. We each had the opportunity to have our story critiqued by the others and receive suggestions for improvement.
Did you start with guidelines from the publisher or did you ladies get together and plot out the stories and how they connected?
(Paula) As mentioned above, we each basically took the story premise Lisa suggested and sent her a basic outline of the story we had considered. She let each author know if it was a good fit. As far as I know, Lisa basically said that each story fit her original idea. We wrote toward a loose deadline set by Lisa to be able to share our first drafts.
(Lisa) We did have to do a little tweaking to the length of some of the pieces.
What were the pros and cons of writing this book together?
(Paula) Because we don’t live close together, we did have to rely on emailing back and forth. I’m sure some of the process could have been shortened had we been able to meet face to face.
(Kathy) I took the longest getting my story to them. I was working full time last year and my story turned out to be the longest. In fact, I’d been hoping to end it with a wedding, but had to end it at a prior point. I appreciated my co-authors’ patience.
Did you feel like your writing styles blended together nicely or did they clash?
(Paula) The amazing thing is that there are similar elements in our stories that popped out when we started reading each other’s, including orphans and shoot-outs.
(Lisa) I liked that part. I had set up the guidelines of romance at the turn of the twentieth century in a big city—that’s it!
(Kathy) Me too! I was amazed at the similarities and felt the Lord had to have orchestrated all that!
Was there a lot of research that went into the stories?
I, Paula, can’t speak for the others, but much of my research was packaged within the documents I had from my father about the real occurrences with my grandfather. I also looked up some sayings back in the 1900s to include in my dialogue, and I made a trip to a special historical center in Knoxville, Tennessee where I was able to find actual street numbers and names as well as actual establishment names.
(Lisa) I spent a lot of time poring through newspapers of the era and on the Milwaukee Historical Society’s website, as well as history.com and other sites to research names and the “feel” of the era.
(Kathy) I had already done some research on Detroit, but I still spent time studying books with older pictures to see what the city looked like at the time. I also found old maps on the Internet to research the locations of different streets and whether they existed in 1900.
Did you learn anything from writing a co-authored book and what was it?
Personally, I (Paula) enjoyed collaborating with these other three ladies. I’ve hinted at trying this again maybe with a new era or other cities. We worked closely with our editor to choose just the right cover art which turned out to be fun as the possible images flew through cyber-space into our emails. We worked to get just the right back cover copy. These were things that could have been difficult, but we seemed to have the same vision and often all voted yes to the same images and wordings. I believe that to be a God-thing.
(Lisa) I had done this before, in a different way, so a similar theme but unrelated stories worked really well.
(Kathy) All three of my co-authors have been a delight to work with and I’d be willing to try it again.
Do you have any advice for other writers who may write a book with another author?
Here I (Paula) will add that this is Christian fiction. Each of us authors is a Christian. We prayed about things like where to send the completed book for possible publication. We prayed for personal issues for one another. This meant so much to me. I believe I have gained more than just another book contract; I have gained three Christian friends.
(Lisa) I’ve co-written a couple of times in different ways; sometimes it’s even better not to be “best friends” because it’s easier to be professional. But I’ve come to know these ladies in a special way I’ll never have with “regular” folks.
(Kathy) I’ll say, “amen” to what both Paula and Lisa have said. I’d also like to add that though I was the only unpublished author in the bunch, they treated me as an equal, truly a co-author. Going into a co-writing project, it’s that kind of respect and kindness which will bring the most positive results.
Did any of you experience writer’s block during the writing process and did the other authors offer encouragement or help of any kind?
I, Paula, do remember that one of the authors was having trouble getting the word count she wanted. The others of us read through and gave suggestions on how she might add without fluffing.
Is there a message in this book that you want readers to grasp?
Each story is about finding love during a time of growth and change in our country. Each one proves that God can be trusted.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about this experience?
As I, Paula, said above, I would definitely consider writing an anthology again. I enjoyed writing my story, and the fellowship with my coauthors.
(Lisa) Thorough enjoyment, from the writing to the seeking a publisher process to the marketing—somehow it’s more fun when we’re sharing the experience.
(Kathy) As Brave New Century contains my debut novella, it’s been the encouraging and uplifting experience I needed. I am very grateful for the opportunity which God provided through Lisa, Paula and Teena and that they were willing to take a chance including me. I was in a state of disbelief when Lisa first gave us the news that Prism Book Group wanted to publish our anthology. It took me a little time to digest the wonderful news that I was finally going to get published in a book!
To learn about each story, click on the image below. To see a little book teaser, click here.