Today is my stop of the blog tour for Vampires of Moscow by Caedis Knight and I’m very excited! This morning I’m sharing a guest post about co-writing and my review will follow this evening.
HOW DO YOU CO-WRITE A BOOK SERIES?
Author Caedis Knight isn’t real. She’s a pen name that fantasy writer Jacqueline Silvester and I (N J Simmonds) created in order to write our new paranormal romance series Blood Web Chronicles. We wanted a unique name, one that fit the genre, and when we saw that Caedes means ‘a murder, assassination, killing, slaughter, massacre, carnage’ in Latin we ran with it – and added Knight at the end (because everyone loves a hero).
With our first challenge out of the way, the next step was figuring out how we would write an entire series together. Both of us are experienced authors, we’ve been writing for years – novels, scripts and comics – but always alone. How were we going to tackle this?
Well, we did it. And not only did we pull it off, we created books that we are immensely proud of. Here’s how we did it…
Our writing relationship started in mid-2019 when Jacky called me to say she’d had an idea. We’d been good friends for a couple of years already having both been at YALC in the past with our books, we’d even met up in Germany that year. When she told me she was eager to write a paranormal romance series but was looking for a writing partner, I jumped at the chance. Jacky is hugely talented, we were already good friends, and we love the same books and TV series – so I knew that as long as we communicated well and were 100% honest with one another throughout the process something amazing could come out of this. And it did!
The first thing we did (after putting a contract together) was brainstorm. She lives in Berlin and I live in the Netherlands (I’m British/Spanish and she’s Russian descent, and we’ve lived in nine countries and speak five languages between us) so most of our meetings take place on the phone or video chat. To begin with we discussed the outline for the series. Jacky already had the idea of a minor witch, whose only talent is detecting lies from truth, being a journalist for the Blood Web. She created the concept of paranormals having their own secret corner of the dark web, which I loved, and the rest we expanded on together.
We spent weeks creating a massive world lore ‘bible’ of all our paranormals, the rules of their world and the backstory of all main characters, then we planned the 6 book/2 novella series as a whole (the main storyline of Saskia looking for her missing sister that runs throughout the series, as well as each individual story). And because of how well travelled we are, we decided to set each book in a different city in which we’ve lived, with a different paranormal investigation for each book. One thing we are passionate about is diverse and honest representation of places and people – so we’re lucky to be able to combine both our experiences and backgrounds for this series.
The next step was to create mood boards, because we had to ensure the pictures we both had in our heads matched. We have a private Pinterest board for each book and every day we add to our world lore doc and boards to ensure we are both on the same page.
Once the plots were decided, we broke each book down by beats. Every story has to hit the right beats depending on chosen word length, and when you have two people writing one story you can’t afford to be a pantser and make it up as you go along. So we add each book to our beat spreadsheet and break it down chapter by chapter. On a Word doc we then write a paragraph or two for each chapter so we are in agreement with what is going to happen when, then we finally get writing.
This is the most fun part of each book!
Whoever starts the book ends up writing all odd number chapters, the other the even numbers, and we go back and forth – one chapter per day. Like any writer we both have our strengths and weaknesses, so Jacky may leave me gaps where she wants me to add more description, adjust the pacing or add suspense, and I may leave gaps for her to add destination facts, tighten the plot or add some humour.
We re-write as we go along, changing one another’s language and style so we end up with our unique Caedis Knight style. We are passionate about our work, but we aren’t precious, so we have no issue with the other changing words or structure. And if it’s a plot issue we talk it through before adjusting. We’re both pretty easy going though.
At the end of the first draft we go through it together and write structural edit notes, plot holes or parts that need expanding. That part is tough and tedious. We allocate sections to one another and keep refining until the story is glued back together seamlessly – we hope! For the last book we spent ten days living together rewriting and making sure it all made sense, not just for that book but the whole series to come. We worked 8am until midnight and it was really hard but vital, because structural edits are impossible to do from two different countries.
Finally, when we are both happy, we proofread the book a million times, use beta readers and proof-readers and editors, and the last part is both of us signing off the pass pages.
The Blood Web Chronicles series is a fast-release series. We aim to bring out three books a year, so this process is fast and tight. If you are looking to co-write a book with someone it’s vital that you are already on good terms, that you have trust and honesty, and that your communication channels are always open. Jacky and I talk every single day, and not always about the books but about life and how we are feeling. We support one another in every aspect of this journey, and when one of us is ill or busy with an unexpected life event (2020 hasn’t been easy for anyone) the other one is there to take the slack.
Being a writer is an emotional profession, it has many highs and many lows, so having someone to share them with, plus your make-believe world, is an absolute joy. Like anything in life, choose your partner well – because, if you’re lucky like us, it may well be the start of a fantastic collaboration you can’t imagine living without! We are so excited to get this series out there. The first book VAMPIRES OF MOSCOW is out now, with the paperback out Fri 13th Nov. The book is also supported by a prequel novella SIRENS OF LOS ANGELES that gives you the backstory about Saskia, her missing sister, and how our favourite Verity Witch became an undercover reporter for The Blood Web Chronicle. Visit caedisknight.com or follow us on social media for more details.
About the authors:
Caedis Knight is the pen name of two established fantasy authors Jacqueline Silvester and N J Simmonds.
Jacqueline and Natali met at London’s Young Adult Literary convention in 2017. Jacky had just launched the first book of her Wunderkids series, and Natali was there with The Path Keeper, the first book in her
trilogy, so they were both new in the publishing world and became close friends. In 2019 Jacqueline called Natali and said ‘I have a strange request. You can say no if you want to but I’ve always wanted to write a fun but smart paranormal romance series set all over Europe full of sexy characters with a sassy female lead.’ Natali took two seconds to think about it and said ‘count me in.’ One year later they launched their first series together – BLOOD WEB CHRONICLES.