As promised in my last blog, authors Ann Evans and Robert D. Tysall answer questions today about their recent collaboration on writing the supernatural / thriller The Bitter End.
Why did you decide to collaborate?
Rob: I had no choice. Ann said ‘you’re doing it’ so I did! It’s my fault for having the idea in the first place.
Ann: Rob always comes up with great story ideas, but when he told me about this idea, I said I couldn’t write it. It was too deep and too dark. But he wouldn’t let the idea drop, so I made a start on the story and showed him. It wasn’t how he envisaged the story to go, so I said, right, we’re going to have to work on this one as a team.
How did you decide the genre and plot line?
Rob: With the plot line, it was both of us pushing one way, then the other. There was a lot of discussion about what might happen in the story. But often things would take us both by surprise.
With the genre, the way I first described it to Ann made the decision for us – it was always going to be a supernatural thriller. Although some reviewers have suggested that it’s bordering on horror and would make a great horror film.
Ann: We started with a basic story line, which revolved very much around the character Lamia. Then we had to create the more ‘normal’ world that she’d decided to inhabit. I think the personalities and lifestyle of the characters then dictated the plot and where it was going.
Who does what?
Rob: As Ann is a magnificent typist she puts it down. I lounge on the settee, with a G&T, waffling away until I drop off! She never stops adding life to the bones.
Ann: Most definitely I do all the typing. I’m a far better speller and a quicker typist. He does sit there dictating. At times, it feels a bit like Barbara Cartland dictating to her secretary – minus the feather boa! Actually though, prior to writing any new scene, we’ll have discussed it at length, so we know where we’re going with it.
How do you ensure it all joins up?
Rob: The joining up can be a problem if we’ve discussed scenes out of context. But by going over and over each section, we make it work smoothly.
Ann: That’s the reason just one of us does the typing. If we were both typing bits into the manuscript it would be a disaster. We work together moving the story forward. When I’m alone, I’ll go over what we’ve done, dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s and so on. That’s except for Lamia’s demonic speeches, Rob often writes those when he’s alone, then emails them through to me. I imagine he closes the curtains, drinks blood and plays Black Sabbath music to get in the mood!
How do you critique each other’s work?
Rob: We critique by again continually going over areas – and getting help on any medical scenes by people with very big brains (the wife!).
Ann: I have to admit, the very first time Rob said that something I’d written needed changing, I almost cried! However, a took a deep breath, and listened to what he had in mind. And that’s how it’s gone throughout the whole book. Anything that jars or doesn’t sound exactly right, we work on, rephrasing, finding a different way of saying it, until we’re both happy.
Any arguments and if so, how do you resolve them?
Rob: No arguments. If Ann feels something is really needed or important, it generally goes in. The same for myself. We both respect each other in that way and we seem to be on the same wavelength with our books.
Ann: I agree, we don’t argue. What would be the point? If someone wins the argument, that piece of text might stay, but the other person would begrudge it being there. It has to be compromise all the way. However, there’s been a few times when his ideas have shocked me, and I’ve actually screamed, “No!! You can’t kill ….” “Oh yes you can,” says Rob. And when I’ve got over the shock and horror at his plans for a certain character or two, I realise that if it shocked/surprised me, it will shock/surprise the reader too.
When do you decide it’s finally finished?
Rob: When we reach a definitive section that ties it all up.
Ann: We knew where we wanted to end the story – and how we wanted it to end. So reaching that point, we got to write…after four years….The End.
How / who published it?
Rob: Bloodhound Books published it, I’m happy to say!
Ann: Bloodhound Books published my first thriller last year, Kill or Die. Later, I met the publisher at the Theakston Crime Writing festival, and she asked me what I was working on next. I told her about our collaboration and the story idea, and she asked to see it when it was finished. Happily, she liked it!
Any plans for another collaboration?
Rob: Yes, we have plans for further collaborations. The Bitter End was four years in the making, so when another completed book appears is hard to say. The sooner the better.
Ann: We’re currently writing a sequel to The Bitter End, which will also be a stand-alone book. And we’re determined this won’t take four years.
Thank you, Ann and Rob. You make it sound (almost) easy. I’m (almost) tempted to have a go myself – except you can’t collaborate on your own, so I’ll have to find a writing buddy. Any one out there?
About Robert D. Tysall. Rob was born in Rugby and has always been very much part of the music scene, and still is. He’s a singer, songwriter and percussionist. Plus, he’s a professional photographer (www.tysallsphotography.org.uk). It was through photography that he and Ann first got together to work on magazine articles – Ann writes, Rob takes the photos. Together they are Words & Images UK ( https://www.facebook.com/wordsandimagesuk/) He added: “Ideas, ideas, ideas – that’s what I do, plus poems, lyrics – and now books!”
About Ann Evans. Ann has been writing since her children were toddlers – and they’re now all grown up with children of their own. She writes for a variety of genres: children’s, YA, reluctant readers, romance and crime; plus non-fiction magazine articles. She’s also a former feature writer for The Coventry Telegraph.
THE BITTER END – BLURB
Paul finally has his life back on track. After losing his wife, Helena in a horrific car crash, he has found love with Sally and moves into her country cottage.
As a former high-ranking Naval Officer, Paul now works as Head of Security at MI5.
Paul has no memories from before he was ten years old. An accident left him in a coma for 9 months. But was it really an accident?
Soon Paul starts to have flashes of childhood memories, all involving his childhood friend, Owen.
Sally introduces him to her friend, Juliet, the owner of a craft shop. Paul is shocked when he meets Juliet’s partner, his old friend Owen.
Flashes of memories continue to haunt Paul, particularly the memory of his first wife Helena burning in the car crash.
As dark things start to happen, and local people begin dying in horrific accidents, Paul must face his past and will end up fighting for his life.
EXTRACT FROM ‘THE BITTER END’
He sipped the brandy, it warmed his throat and made him drowsy. He drifted, eyes half closed, listening to the crackling of burning logs. Tomorrow he would get a bucket of soapy water and wash down the windows in the barn, inside and out. Maybe get a broom and give the place a good old spring clean. His mind wandered to that penknife, recalling now that he’d got it for his ninth birthday. It had been a gift from Owen.
The charred logs shifted in the grate and Paul half opened his eyes. He stared into the fire. Vivid red and blue tongues of flame licked upwards, the heart of the fire glowed now like some magical palace. He could see gateways and portcullises. He could see images in the flames.
He awoke suddenly and tried not to look. He wanted to tear his gaze away, but it was too late. His brain conjured up a face amongst the burning embers. A shrieking face, wide-eyed with terror. A face lying sideways at a painfully twisted angle as Helena burned to death. And the screaming was back.
Links to The Bitter End and to the authors’ websites.
Checkout our website for The Bitter End: http://www.thebitterend.org.uk
Links to my books