It is a great pleasure to welcome two exceptional authors on my website to talk about co-authoring their latest book in the Xan Marcelles Series, Carrie Clevenger and Nerine Dorman.
I’ve been following Clevenger for over a year now, and I am a big fan of her writing (one of my all time favorites is her #Fridayflash, Spoiler). Her work is clever, dark, and always takes the reader on a journey, whether it is one of action, or deeper reflections.
Though I have just recently met Nerine Dorman, reading an excerpt of her first of four books, Khepera Rising, it is easy to see why readers are captivated by her work, crafted with eloquent, dark language and a supernatural angle—a hit with most any fiction.
Together, Clevenger and Dorman started an adventure, perhaps in a cyber Pale Rider, a bar that is one of the backdrop scenes to their books, but it seems to be catching on. They make their own music (for real), have their own brand (Crooked Fang left), two books completed and several devoted fans.
Please welcome, Carrie Clevenger and Nerine Dorman!
Erin: What drive tipped the both of you to write a book together?
Nerine: Carrie and I spend a lot of time talking about the craft of writing, our own settings and characters. Consequently this results in a lot of “what ifs”. Our first collaboration was never meant to be more than 2 000 words long–a sort of gonzo mock-interview–only the idea grew legs and kind of went off on a tangent. Before we knew it, we were sitting with a rather long short story for real-real. [grins]
Naturally we had to push a little harder for Blood and Fire to see if we could pull together something longer.
Carrie: We often talk about new ideas we have, separately or together. Blood and Fire came about with the simple statement of “What if Xan and Ash were in a book together?”
Erin: Whose voice is Xan Marcelles and Ashton Kennedy?
Carrie: Xan Marcelles is my character. Ashton belongs to Nerine Dorman.
Nerine: We took turns writing, and there was no swapping of characters. Xan is very much Carrie’s creature as Ash is mine. Luckily we have more than a passing familiarity with each other’s milieus so it helped when it came to writing dialogue.
Erin: Because most writers have varying strengths and weaknesses, how do you approach feedback with each other?
Carrie: We are so lucky to click together creatively. Nerine’s expertise in all things editorial is undisputed, and I do well with direction, or without. That flexibility makes the revision process painless.
Nerine: In my work as a content editor, I’m already well used to virtual communication with authors and am also used to having an editor tell me when my work needs improvement. Carrie’s pretty much in the same boat, having had a lot of experience with critique. We nit-pick and go back and forth a lot on a manuscript and, between us, we cover everything from the mechanics of grammar to plot points.
Erin: How do you divide scenes, or are they all combined efforts?
Nerine: Before we write, we spend a long while working on the overview so that we essentially have the story down in summary. We’ve found it works to swap point of view per chapter and tell the whole story flipping between characters. Afterward we might tag stuff that needs expanding or shifting around. Carrie might ask me for a few details since description is my forte. She’s very good at keeping my wordiness in check, so it works well.
Carrie: We toss the ball back and forth between chapters. That way the chapter is written in either Xan’s for for me, or Ash’s voice for Nerine. It keeps it authentic.
Erin: Just My Blood Type, and Blood and Fire, have been described as “unpredictable,” “gritty,” and “a fast clip, crunchy pulp fun.” In what ways was writing the sequel different from the first? What, if anything, did you differently?
Carrie: Just My Blood Type was written in the flavor of ‘romantic’ style tease. Nothing major happens in it, but we turned up the heat to the almost boiling point. Blood and Fire is much more action-packed, with a definite plot intertwined throughout the tandem writing.
Nerine: We agreed from the start that we wanted to write something that was a departure from the romantic elements so that we could show a different side to Xan while introducing Ash in his element. So the pacing had to go a lot quicker and also we had to be damn sure of our story arcs. I like to describe the story to people as Indiana Jones meets the X-Files. Essentially if you’re looking at classification, it’s the difference between paranormal romance and urban fantasy.
Erin: Have you met in person? If not, do you plan to? If so, how often do you meet?
Carrie: We have not met in person, and until I earn enough to be able to justify a plane ticket to South Africa, I don’t see it happening any time soon, but there’s always hope.
Nerine: I’ve tentative plans to head out to the States next year if some of my finances resolve themselves but until then, we’ve only ever met virtually. Generally we keep each other company during the day with chirpy emails or banter on Twitter as our work hours pretty much match, even though I’m in South Africa and Carrie’s in the States.
Erin: What is your favorite part of co-authoring?
Nerine: While it’s lovely to look at the final product, my favourite part of co-authoring is when we hit the groove of putting out the first draft. The writing at that point is raw and full of energy. While we write, we’ll bombard each other with “what if” scenarios and often these communications help embroider the story. I love the alchemy that bursts out of a writing collaboration. It’s magic.
Carrie: I love partnered writing. The collaborative process constantly revives and invigorates me. It’s a special thing, and so hard to find a co-author that really jives with you.
Erin: Will there be a third book in the series or do you have any other plans for future work together?
Carrie: We’ve sketched up a new concept, but our personal writing schedules have filled until 2012 wintertime. Hopefully, we’ll get enough minutes scraped together to put out something new!
Nerine: I’ll go as far as saying we’ve got an idea. It has legs, but we’re concentrating on getting Carrie’s debut novel, Crooked Fang, out the way first. Plus I’ve got a bunch of other writing projects on my plate too. The nice thing about our stories is that they’re completely standalone and don’t have to be read in any particular order, so they’re not time-sensitive.
Erin: What advice do you have for other authors who are thinking about or are already co-authoring?
Nerine: Make sure that you know where you’re headed with the MS. Learn when to give; learn when to take. You’re two horses pulling the same chariot. It’s a partnership and a symbiosis. Neither author is more important than the other. You’ve got to learn to think as one person. And you’ll know when you hit that sweet spot, when you bounce ideas off each other and they just get wilder, and you start jumping out of your chair because every other thought is an “ah-ha” moment. By equal measure, co-authors also have the incredible potential to stress the living hell out of each other, so be aware of that too, especially when on deadline.
Carrie: Be picky. Try a sample story together. Make sure that one of you at least has an idea of where the story should go. Above all, finish the story.
Erin: Yes! Finish the story.
Thank you Carrie and Nerine for taking the time to share your craft with us. Please find more information on Carrie and Nerine’s Xan Marcelles Series below: Just My Blood Type and Blood and Fire, as well as links to their blogs, twitter, and facebook.
Born sometime during the previous century, Nerine Dorman, who also writes under the pen name of Therése von Willegen, has a penchant for Earl Grey tea, cats, cemeteries and crumbling Victorian-era buildings. At present, she resides in Cape Town, South Africa, where she spends most of her free time knocking the written word into shape while she concocts tales of darkness, despair, and love lost and found.
Some of her favourite authors include Storm Constantine, Jacqueline Carey, Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z Brite, Mary Gentle, Hunter S Thompson and William S Burroughs.
Her preferred genres include urban fantasy, steampunk and horror, with a dash of contemporary erotic fiction when she’s in the mood.
When she isn’t reading, editing or writing, her interests include music, magic, ancient Egypt, travelling, photography, art and gardening. Nominally involved with the South African indie filmmaking scene, she is also a founding member of the Adamastor Writers’ Guild and organises the annual SA HorrorFest Bloody Parchment literary event.
Apart from that, she is an experienced penguin wrangler, and, unlike her charges, doesn’t bite…much.
Carrie Clevenger landed in the urban fantasy genre when she couldn’t decide between horror and humor. When not writing she enjoys listening to music, hanging out with musicians, attending local venues, catching her favorite bands on tour, and obsessing over The Next Big Album release. Carrie resides in Austin, Texas with her family, two cats and one turtle.
“Just My Blood Type” downloadable at Goodreads
“Blood and Fire” at Amazon
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