Monday musings: The co-authoring experience, part 2

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This week, we continue and conclude last week’s conversation with Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman, co-authors of the bestselling Scorch Romance-Thriller series about what it’s like to be co-authors. This week focuses on characters and the development of the author.

Sometimes the behavior or reaction of a character surprises the author. Which characters in the Scorch series surprised you?

Emily Kimelman: All of the characters surprised me at one point or another, but Luca (the lead brother in Smoke Road) really surprised me. I was having trouble connecting with him, figuring out what made him tick, and then I found out he was a practicing Catholic and after that I understood him a lot better. His faith and its connection to his family history really affected Luca a lot.

The other character who surprised me the most was Avital, from Cinder Road. I wrote a scene that left her and Dolf in a position that, um, how do I put this… left them in a hot situation and I told Toby that they couldn’t get it on, but I had no idea how she was going to keep them apart. But she did. When I read her scene the next day I was like, “Oh crap, that’s good.” Avital is a badass with an iron will—I already knew that about Avital but I didn’t expect her to act the way that Toby wrote it, which was spot-on. 

That’s one of the great joys about co-authoring: your character in the other author’s hands, acting in ways that surprise and delight. 

Toby Neal: Yes, I agree. Our characters often surprise us in our work alone, too, and sometimes we have to sit with it and decide if that was really something that a character would do—and edit if necessary. Most of the time, once Emily and I were past the first fourth or so of a book, we really “knew” each other’s characters and were able to nail it, surprises and all.

But we sometimes had to cut things that didn’t ring true, and usually in they happened in that first third or so of the book when we didn’t yet really know our partner’s concept for their character.

For instance, in the scene with Dolf and Avital that kicks off the second book, we broke all the romance trope rules. We had a forbidden love thing going on with a widow and her husband’s twin (not an unfamiliar trope), but we broke the rules by having them sleep together in the first chapter.

We agreed that that would kick things off—contrary to most romances, which build to a climax (so to speak), but I took it further than our agreed upon love scene and … well. Let’s just say Dolf and Avital ended up all over the house in compromising positions. Damn, it was hot. I’m good at sex scenes! I patted myself on the back and went on with my day.

Emily disagreed, and cut my scene. 

To the bone, so to speak (everything becomes an innuendo as soon as we talk sex.)

I was upset and offended at first, but came to agree with Emily eventually that the ensuing sex around the house was out of character for Avital (though Dolf, being a guy who’d been in love with this woman for years, would have been happy to get whatever he could!) And through the challenge we experienced during that editing process (her having an instinctive NO and cutting, me recoiling in hurt and frustration, us having to hash it out) we added to our Process Document: if either of us has a hard no to something big, we have to highlight and discuss before just chucking in the Recycle bin.

Now, let me pause a moment to talk about sex.

Sex is a huge element in most stories because it’s a basic human drive, and in romance it’s a pillar of the genre. But what “floats your boat” in a love scene is hugely individual to the reader, hence the plethora of genres and heat levels within romance. As we proceeded, we discussed what we wanted our sexy times to be like. Emily told me she was eclectic; she liked a variety of writers and styles, and was not easily offended by certain words and whatnot. 

I however, was super specific. I wanted sex to be lyrically written with exceptional prose, no clichés, no jarring expletives or use of crude words. Those things pinged my brain to fall out of the story as a reader, and I wanted to write what I liked to read. Emily was amenable to this, so I gave her several books by authors whose work in this area I admired (and I have to say, there aren’t many of them. If you like Diana Gabaldon’s style with sex or Laura Florand’s, you will know how I like to read/write sex) and thus we proceeded. 

I wrote many of the first few books’ scenes as Emily was learning my particular bent with this, but by the second book she was going strong and we were able to massage the scenes into a unified style that effectively created romantic, emotional but hot mood we had agreed upon.

So that was probably TMI, but it was also a surprise to discover in setting out, that there are many many ways to “do it” and one or the other partner may be as fussy as I was.

Okay, last question: You have written and published the last of the Scorch Romance Thriller series – at least for now, as you’ve stated. But since Book 6, you’ve both released new titles in your own individual series, and say you’re working on new titles. Toby, you’ve also announced you’re working on your autobiography, and Emily, you’re working on Sydney Rye #10.

What do you think you are each taking from your co-authoring experience into your own series? In terms of process, style, understanding of characters, plotting? In other words, do you think your experience or the stories of the Scorch series themselves have affected your other writing in the future?

Emily Kimelman: I think writing with Toby has affected my writing style for sure. I can’t imagine how you could write six books with another person and walk away without having gleamed a lot of insights. One of the big difference between our styles was that I write a fast and sloppy first draft and enjoy what we started calling the “franken” edit (after Frankenstein). Toby and I had to outline for obvious reasons, but we did get a lot looser with it as we moved toward the end of the series.

 

I have returned to my no outline ways, except I keep “Take off Your Pants” by Libby Hawker close at hand and I make notes about future scenes rather than just running at the thing full bore until it’s over.

I think both of us got really good at delving into our characters motivations—we had to explain them to each other, which was totally surprising at first but came to be a key to the style we developed. I think I spend more time questioning myself than I used to … or more to the point, questioning my characters. Why did you do that? And their answers always open up new paths and interesting plot twists.

Also, mixing up our points of view and changing our tense throughout the series kept it super fresh and was really eye opening to me. I’d never thought to do that in one series and loved it. So, now I use multiple POVs in my other work. And I have plans to change up my tense in future series.

I also think that spending a year kicking skinhead butt and exploring romance has made it possible for me to return to my own work with more excitement. Although, after Charlottesville I did think I want to kill some Nazis in my next book. And then I laughed at myself because I’d spent a year taking down white supremacists. So, I’ll continue destroying ISIS in my Sydney Rye series for now … but fictional Nazis better watch out because I’m not done with them yet!

Toby Neal: Great answer Emily!

I was already doing a lot of the things Emily mentions as far as POV and tense shifts, but now I’ve begun to dictate the majority of my first draft as a result of working with Emily.

Reading our prose to each other was something we came up with about two-thirds of the way into the books to circumvent the tendency to waste our writing energy editing each other’s work. Doing so has opened a whole new area for me. I not only compose verbally now, but plan to read my own books for audiobook distribution.

I have literally discovered my voice as a result of working with Emily!

I also have begun using Scrivener, which Emily uses but I hadn’t liked. Now I dictate and put my rough prose into my nice clean Scrivener outline and I can manipulate scenes in new ways. My newest book has five points of view, and very short chapters of a page or two. I think it’s added to the intensity of the book and will appeal to the modern reader. Experimenting is what keeps us growing!

Many of the ways Emily and I benefited from co-authoring are intangible and still being revealed, but Emily’s innovation with tech also inspired me to try a lot of new things with marketing.
I miss the excitement we generated together and the fun and immediacy of sharing good work. Now, by the time my book gets to readers, I’m “over it” and never got to share the joy of a great scene with a peer. Though I like the freedom of my solo writing, I miss the fun of co-authoring. I highly recommend it as a way to learn, grow, and break out of ruts!

Thanks very much to you both.

Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman are the co-authors of the Scorch Romance Thriller series, six post-apocalyptic stories revolving around six Luciano brothers, a sister and their mother, and the others who come into and change their lives.

About the series

From award-winning, bestselling authors whose writing Kirkus Reviews calls “persistently riveting,” comes the Scorch Series, romantic action adventure for fans of romance thrillers, apocalyptic and family romance sagas.

About the authors

Born in Philadelphia and having lived in many places around the world, Emily Kimelman is the author of nine books in her bestselling Sydney Rye series (with a tenth coming soon) and two Kindle World novellas in addition to the Scorch series.

Find out all about Emily on her BestSelling Reads author page.

Toby Neal grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. Her career as a mental health therapist has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her books.

She is the author of 27 books in addition to the Scorch series: 12 Lei Crime series books, two companion books to the series, two Kindle World novellas, four “Somewhere in” romances, a young adult fantasy novel and five in her new Wired series, with a six soon to come.

Learn more about her on her BestSelling Reads author page.

 

 

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Thursday teaser: See You in Saigon

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This week’s excerpt is from Vigilante, book 10

By Claude Bouchard

Claude Bouchard

Hoang was down the ladder and into the boat before it had fully reached the dock and was calling his superior before his two men had boarded.

“General, Hoang here.” he said once connected. “It is as we suspected. The man I met introduced himself as Scorpion of the Devil’s Delight. I have no doubt he is responsible for Cao’s death. I am certain Cao’s organization has been well infiltrated over several months and is now fully in their control. Their plan is to substantially increase poppy farming and opiate production for export…

“No, we don’t know his identity yet but my men took several photos of him while we were talking and they will follow him back to wherever he goes. He is likely American or Canadian rather than European, based on his accent. With the photos, his street name and his association with the Devil’s Delight, we should know exactly who he is soon enough… Yes, I will forward them to you immediately, General.”

He cut the connection and scrolled through the dozen photos his men had taken during their two passes on the motorbike and subsequently emailed to him. Though Scorpion wore sunglasses, several photos showed his facial features well enough to make him identifiable.

Satisfied, he sent the photos on to the General then settled back for the remainder of the short boat ride. They were now in the channel between Dragon Island and Unicorn Island, already halfway to My Tho. As he gazed about, he noticed the boat’s skipper answering his mobile and almost immediately terminating the call. Then, to the surprise of Hoang and his two men, the skipper climbed onto the edge of the boat and dived, fully clothed, into the Mekong River.

“What is going on?” Hoang managed to shout before their craft exploded into a fiery ball, sending bits of wood, plastic, metal, bone and flesh flying high into the air.

About See You in Saigon

Doesn’t everyone fantasize a bit about vigilante justice? Haven’t you ever read or heard of some despicable act of violence and secretly wished you could have the opportunity to make the predator pay? Welcome to the VIGILANTE Series, a growing collection of suspense best sellers best described as thrillers and mysteries which will have you cheering for the assassin as justice is delivered in a clandestine fashion… But remember, this is fiction so it’s not a crime…

Available in Kindle books and print.

An excerpt from Book 10 of the VIGILANTE Series

We hop you liked this excerpt from the book that rose to #2 KINDLE BEST SELLER in VIGILANTE JUSTICE!

Seventeen years earlier, Dennis ‘Scorpion’ Roy of the Devil’s Delight was assassinated by the infamous serial killer known as the Vigilante. Shortly after, the notorious biker gang allegedly went defunct though rumours among law enforcement officials suggested the organization continued to operate and thrive in stealth mode. When the Devil’s Delight’s sustained existence is confirmed, the Discreet Activities team is shocked to learn the gang’s leader is none other than Scorpion, alive and well and currently in Vietnam on business. Asked to assist in the dismantling of the Devil’s Delight, the DA team heads Vietnam to hunt down Scorpion, the only criminal who managed to survive the Vigilante

About the author

USA Today bestselling author Claude Bouchard was born in Montreal, Canada, at a very young age, where he still resides with his spouse, Joanne, under the watchful eyes of two black females of the feline persuasion.

He completed his studies at McGill University and worked in various management capacities for a handful of firms over countless years. From there, considering his extensive background in human resources and finance, it was a logical leap in his career path to stay home and write crime thrillers.

His first novel, Vigilante, was published in 2009.  Since then, besides writing Asylum, a stand-alone, the Vigilante Series has grown to thirteen thrilling installments with his latest release, Make It Happen.

Claude has also penned Something’s Cooking, a faux-erotica parody and cookbook under the pseudonyms Réal E. Hotte and Dasha Sugah, as well as Nasty in Nice, his contribution to Russell Blake’s JET Kindle World. His books have topped the chart in the Vigilante Justice category on Amazon and some 600,000 copies have been distributed to date.

Claude’s other interests include reading, playing guitar, painting, cooking, traveling and trying to stay in reasonable shape.

Visit his:

And follow him on Twitter @ceebee308.

 

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Thursday teaser: Trojan

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By Alan McDermott

At 3 a.m. precisely, Wahid gave the signal for his men to make their move.

The chemical-weapons storage facility, a huge, one-storey building surrounded by a ten-foot wall made of reinforced concrete, was situated near a village on the outskirts of Homs.

Wahid’s men had been making their way towards the compound for the last four hours, crawling slowly on their bellies while covered with sand-coloured sheets. He had traced their painstaking progress, moving inches at a time to preserve the advantage of a surprise attack. A Syrian military unit was based less than three miles away, giving them minutes to carry out their mission before reinforcements arrived.

Wahid had been sweeping the walls of the compound for hours with his night-vision glasses, but there were no signs of CCTV cameras and no-one had stuck their heads up.

Still, he wasn’t taking any chances.

Seven of his soldiers were now ten feet from the wall, and he watched from 600 yards away as they prepared rappelling ropes with rubber-coated hooks on the end. The first man swung his towards the top of the wall and Wahid saw it come tumbling back down. The man tried again, and this time the hook caught. Three of his people were already halfway up the wall, and he’d heard nothing from inside the facility to suggest they’d been compromised.

He watched as the men disappeared over the wall, then ordered his reserve to move up. His own driver was the first to crank his engine and gun the truck towards the gates. In the darkness, Wahid could see flashes of light dancing off the top of the wall.

By the time he reached the gate, it was already open, with two of his men standing guard. The bodies of four Syrian soldiers lay on the ground. Wahid walked over to one of the dead and removed a plastic card from a chain on the corpse’s waist, then jogged to the glass double doors and swiped it. A click signified that they had entry, and he stepped aside as his men poured into the building.

Gunfire erupted as Wahid’s soldiers pushed forward, then subsided as he entered the building. Three more guards lay dead, leaving another three to contend with. He jogged down the hallway to the junction and looked both ways. The right was clear, and he ordered two men to cover it. To the left, his people were already working to open the door he’d ordered them to look for. He ran to join them just as it burst inwards.

Wahid let the soldiers check the room for guards, then walked inside and looked at the bank of large refrigerated cabinets. Third from the left on the top shelf, he’d been told, and when he looked at the labels, he confirmed that the intelligence his master had paid for was accurate. The cabinet door was locked, so he used the grip of his pistol to shatter the glass and carefully lifted the tray of phials off the shelf. He placed it on a workbench and extracted a leather case from inside his combat jacket.

He’d been instructed to take five phials, no fewer. He stole a look at his watch and saw that it had been two minutes since the first gunshots. The army would have been alerted by now: he had to get his men out of here.

With the small bag now full of glass tubes, Wahid told his men to follow him, and he ran back out into the night.

‘They’re coming,’ his driver told him as he jumped into the passenger seat of the truck. Wahid snatched up the NVGs and saw the army convoy in the distance. He stuck his head out of the window and shouted to his lieutenant. ‘I must get this safely to Karim. You know what to do.’

Without waiting for a response, Wahid told the driver to floor it, and he left the scene trailing a cloud of dust in his wake.

His men would fight until he was well clear of the area, and many of them would die before sunrise. Whatever he was carrying in his small bag, he hoped it was worth the price they would pay tonight.

About Trojan

When MI5 learns that a horrifying new weapon is in enemy hands, agent Andrew Harvey is called in to track it down before it reaches British soil.

The clock is ticking. Andrew and his girlfriend, Sarah, also a secret service operative, have only one lead: a beautiful refugee, desperate not to lose her son. But is she desperate enough to betray everything she believes in? And will she do it in time to help them prevent a terrifying attack?

As Andrew and Sarah race to unravel a convoluted web of subterfuge and exploitation, they discover there is more at stake than even they knew. And somewhere, at the heart of it, lurks a faceless enemy, who is prepared to use everything—and everyone—at his disposal.

About the author

Alan McDermott lives in the south of England,  and is married with beautiful twin daughters. He recently gave up his job of creating critical applications for the NHS to write action thrillers full time.

His debut novel, Gray Justice, was very well received and earned him bestseller status. The next two books in the series — Gray Resurrection and Gray Redemption — were enough to attract the attention of a major publisher, and he has since added Gray RetributionGray Vengeance and Gray Salvation to the list.  Alan’s seventh title, Trojan, released in 2017, is a spinoff featuring MI5 agent Andrew Harvey.

Alan can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page     |     Amazon Author Page     |    Facebook     |    Twitter

|  Website and blog  |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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Meet the author Monday: Claude Bouchard

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A couple of months ago, Bestselling Reads’ fearless leader, Scott Bury, asked the group’s members to answer a few questions. Some did, may didn’t and Scott has recently moved into “veiled threat” mode with the procrastinators. Such a tactic usually would not impress me but Scott does live a mere two hour drive from my home so, here we go!

How many books have you written?

I’ve written fifteen books to date with my sixteenth currently in the works.

Please explain the various series and standalone books.

Twelve, plus my current WIP, make up my Vigilante Series, all crime thrillers. Nasty in Nice, which I wrote in 2015 as part of Russell Blake’s JET Kindle World, could be also be considered an instalment of my series since my Vigilante characters appear side by side with Blake’s JET characters. Asylum, a psychological thriller, is a standalone and Something’s Cooking is a collection of comedic faux-erotica short stories, each accompanied by a corresponding recipe.

Please explain the various series and standalone books.

Twelve, plus my current WIP, make up my Vigilante Series, all crime thrillers. Nasty in Nice, which I wrote in 2015 as part of Russell Blake’s JET Kindle World, could be also be considered part of my series since my Vigilante characters appear side by side with Blake’s JET characters. Asylum, a psychological thriller, is a standalone and Something’s Cooking is a collection of comedic faux-erotica short stories, each accompanied by a corresponding recipe.

How have the main characters developed or changed over the course of the series?

For one, they’ve gotten older. For whatever reason, I’ve always dated my books and kept up with the years over time so my characters have aged along with all of us. Their thinking has also changed along the way as they’ve adapted to various situations. Without going into detail, Vigilante, the series opener, dealt with a serial killer involved in pure vigilantism. However, as of book 2, The Consultant, a clandestine government group was introduced, thus formalizing (or legalizing) unconventional methods of dealing with crime. It’s been interesting and fun to have these government assassins intermingling and developing professional relationships and friendships with homicide cops.

How has your style changed over that same period?

My basic voice and style have remained relatively intact. I’ve always been fairly concise with little use for fluffy fillers to increase word count and that hasn’t changed. My writing flows more nicely and is less choppy today than it was in my first books several years back.

Has the way you write, or your process, evolved? 

I’ve rarely used outlines, at least not in the sense of mapping out an entire storyline before getting into actually writing it. I will sometimes quickly outline the next handful of scenes as ideas come to mind, in order to respect the timeline of events and, more so, to avoid forgetting those ideas. What has certainly helped over time is the Internet, making required research much easier and efficient than when I wrote Vigilante in 1995. As for character creation, if something needs to be done and I have nobody to do it, I create someone. Travel has allowed meeting people from all over and has certainly facilitated building realistic worlds. In fact, some of my books were set in places I’ve visited, including Paris, Vietnam and the Caribbean.

Is there a particular time or place you like for writing?

Afternoons are when I do most of my writing, though that can vary on occasion. Unless I’m traveling, I write in our study with my trusty desktop and dual monitors. The one exception was The First Sixteen, a prequel novella and the ninth in my series, which I initially wrote in Pages on my iPad.

Where do your ideas for plots originate?

The weird place inside my head which is fed by daily events stemming from all over the world.

Connect with Claude Bouchard

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Focus Friday: Inviting Fire

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By Emily Kimelman

This week’s Friday Focus in on one of BestSelling Reads’ newest members, Emily Kimelman, and her newest release, the sixth in the Sydney Rye series, Inviting Fire.

Inviting-Fire-digital-cover-260x400When the firing stopped my gun was in my hand. I couldn’t see what was happening so I inched higher, peering over the rock and between the grasses. The man with the big gun was staring out at the hillside, his eyes scanning. Looking for me, for Frederica. He wasn’t expecting Blue who came suddenly from the grasses to his left as the man looked right. Blue streaked across the space separating him from the gunman. Blue’s body was low, ears pinned to his head, legs moving so fast I could barely see them.
I waited, my heart in my throat seeing the man’s head turn as Blue closed the space. Ten feet away and the man saw him, his eyes widened. He tried to bring the gun around in time but Blue launched himself at the man. Hitting him on the side, his teeth sinking into the man’s neck as they fell to the ground. The gun went off. Gold casings fountained up into the air. The prisoners struggled to their feet and tried to run away, the cement pad exploded in chunks as bullets ripped into it. I ducked behind the rock, keeping my head low, eyes closed.

About Inviting Fire

Recovering from a near fatal attack that has left her with residual trauma, including haunting dreams and flashbacks, Sydney Rye is regaining her strength at the jungle training camp of Joyful Justice, the vigilante network inspired by her now legendary acts of vengeance. However, when a routine reconnaissance mission goes horribly wrong Sydney Rye looses the trust of the leadership of Joyful Justice.

Her good friend and trainer, Merl, warns that if she wants to be in the action she’ll have to follow orders like everyone else. Never good with authority, Sydney struggles to suppress her independent streak for the greater good.When she runs up against an old adversary he blows apart everything she has gained. With her own and Blue’s lives at stake, as well as the future of Joyful Justice, Sydney must push aside her fears and take a leadership role before it’s to late.

Vigilante crime mystery with a dash of romance, early readers call INVITING FIRE “Excellent.”The Sydney Rye backlist is discounted for a limited time to celebrate the release of INVITING FIRE (Sydney Rye #6)Emily Kimelman’s best selling Sydney Rye series feature a strong female protagonist and her canine best friend, Blue. It is recommended for the 18+ who enjoy some violence, don’t mind dirty language, and are up for a dash of sex. Not to mention an awesome mystery with tons of action that will keep you reading late into the night!

New to Sydney Rye? The first book in the series, UNLEASHED, is FREE.The Sydney Rye Series

  • UNLEASHED (A Sydney Rye Novel, #1)
  • DEATH IN THE DARK (A Sydney Rye Novella, #2)
  • INSATIABLE (A Sydney Rye Novel, #3)
  • STRINGS OF GLASS (A Sydney Rye Novel, #4)
  • THE DEVIL’S BREATH (A Sydney Rye Novel, #5)
  • INVITING FIRE (A Sydney Rye Novel, #6)

About Emily Kimelman

Emily (author photo)Emily splits her time between the Hudson Valley and traveling the world with her husband and dog, Kinsey (named after Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone), researching exciting locations for the Sydney Rye Series. You can follow along on their adventures through Instagram,Facebook, and on Emily’s blog.

You can also visit Emily’s

And follow her on Twitter  @ejkimelman.

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