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: New books from your favorite BestSelling authors

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Fall always feels like the start of a new year, a good time for new initiatives and launching new books—as well as for pumpkin spiced everything.

Your favorite BestSelling authors have been hard at work, and have a tasty selection of new books for you. Take a look, follow the links and think about which titles belong on your gift list—because the holiday season is approaching faster than you want to think.

Barb Drozdowich

The Author’s On-Line Presence: How to Find Readers

Authors: Stop wasting valuable writing time and let Barb break down dry, complex subjects into easy to learn bites without the technobabble.

Get it on

Emily Kimelman

In Sheep’s Clothing: Sydney Rye #9

Sydney Rye is missing, and the Islamic State has a mysterious new enemy. Join the ruthless Robert Maxim and Sydney’s mother in the hunt!

Get it on

Toby Neal

Wired Dark : Paradise Crime #4

Tech security specialist Sophie Ang returns to Maui to solve a series of bizarre threats against a rock star, where she’s tested by a deadly enemy out to destroy everything she loves.

Get it on

Renée Pawlish

The Damned Don’t Die: A Reed Ferguson Mystery #16

A murdered woman’s shy granddaughter hires Reed to clear her name and find the real killer. To complicate matters, romantic sparks fly between her and Cal, Reed’s computer-geek best friend.

Get it on Amazon.

Caleb Pirtle III

Lovely Night to Die: A Special Forces Operation Alpha Kindle World novella.

A deadly assassin must carry out the assignment to assassinate the President of the United States—a mission sanctioned from inside the United States government. If he doesn’t do it, the woman he loves will die.

Get it on Caleb Pirtle III’s Amazon Author page.

 

Last Deadly Lie

The chilling, fearful tale of a small town that has smoldered in the fires of jealousy and selfish greed, then is finally blown apart by lies, gossip and violent death.

Get it on Caleb Pirtle III’s Amazon Author page.

 

Coming in 2018

Toby Neal

Wired Dawn — Paradise Crime Book 5

Security specialist Sophie Ang goes off the grid on Kaua’I to save a young boy, uncovering dark secrets of the jungle as she does so. FBI Special Agent Marcella Scott straps on her Manolos and wades into help, but will they be in time?

Read more about it on the author’s website.

Emily Kimelman

Flock of Wolves — Sydney Rye Book 10

Continue the adventure with Sydney Rye and Blue.

Read more about it on the author’s website.

 

Raine Thomas

Driving Tempo — House of Archer Book 3

A New Adult contemporary rockin’ romance that follows the pulse-pounding Imperfect Harmony and Unsteady Rhythm.

Read more about this on the author’s website.

 

Alan McDermott

A new thriller that will feature readers’ favorite characters from the Tom Gray series and Trojan.

Read more about it on the author’s website.

BestSelling Reads authors are all hard at work on more books that are sure to join your favorites list. Keep coming back to this blog for new announcements about titles, release dates and free previews.

Better yet, subscribe to get these updates in your email.

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Thursday teaser: In Sheep’s Clothing

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Sydney Rye #9

By Emily Kimelman

The ninth Sydney Rye adventure launched on September 27. And for those of you who have inexplicably resisted the urge to buy it, here is a taste.

Chapter One

Sydney Rye

Exquisite, slippery red pulsed, the color shifting with each wave of pain. Metal dug around in my side. I couldn’t move to stop it. Couldn’t even beg. And I would have.

My mind didn’t form sentences or thoughts, only witnessed the color and experienced the pain.

Then Blue, his whimper close, his tongue on my cheek.

A breeze, the scent of wet stone joining the colors of pain.

Lightning cracked through the color. Voices in the distance…no not voices, bells.

The rocking motion lulled me back to sleep.

I waited in a sea of blue, slipping up and down waves, the sky above me swirling with storm clouds.

Lightning struck, and everything went white.

About In Sheep’s Clothing

Sydney Rye is missing.

All that’s left of her is a depression in the dirt and a pool of blood.

Robert Maxim is ruthless, powerful, and determined to find her.

April Madden is a preacher’s wife, and Sydney’s mother. She’s willing to risk everything…her sobriety, her marriage, even her faith, to hunt for her daughter.

But they can’t find Sydney Rye if she doesn’t want to be found.

ISIS has a new enemy, a ghost haunting their territory, infecting their flock with radical ideals. They will do anything to capture her. Their reign depends on this new prophet’s destruction.

Graffiti of a woman’s silhouette, set in a snarling wolf’s profile, appears in ISIS-controlled territory convincing Robert Maxim that Sydney Rye is alive. When women in the area begin attacking their abusers, he suspects Sydney is responsible. But Robert can’t believe she is involved after rumors claim a prophet, a weapon of God, has risen to free women from oppression.

April Madden hears the devil whispering to her; just one little cocktail to dull the pain. Instead of picking up a glass, she throws herself into a quest; track down her missing daughter, her only surviving child, and make amends. Traveling into the Islamic State is fraught with danger and thick with obstacles. April doesn’t have her daughter’s combat training or Blue, Sydney’s loyal, giant dog. But she does have her instincts, tenacity and the voice that whispers; your daughter is alive, don’t give up.

Get In Sheep’s Clothing today because you love powerful women, gritty mysteries, and heroic dogs. Join the hunt for Sydney Rye!

Get it on

About the author

Emily Kimelman not only writes adventure, she lives it every day. Embodying the true meaning of wanderlust, she’s written her Sydney Rye mysteries from all over the world. From the jungles of Costa Rica to the mountains of Spain, she finds inspiration for her stories in her own life.

While living under communist rule in the former Soviet Union, the KGB sprinkled her with “spy dust,” a radioactive concoction that made her glow and left a trail they could follow. She was two. She was destined for amazing things after that, and she continues to find adventure to inspire characters like the badass Sydney Rye. 

Download the first Sydney Rye Thriller, Unleashed, for FREE on all major ebook platforms and join the adventure!

Emily can be found:

BestSelling Reads Author page   |   Website   |   Facebook    |   Twitter

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Book launch day: In Sheep’s Clothing

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Sydney Rye #9

By Emily Kimelman

Sydney Rye is missing. 

All that’s left of her is a depression in the dirt and a pool of blood.

Robert Maxim is ruthless, powerful, and determined to find her.

April Madden is a preacher’s wife, and Sydney’s mother. She’s willing to risk everything…her sobriety, her marriage, even her faith, to hunt for her daughter.

But they can’t find Sydney Rye if she doesn’t want to be found.

ISIS has a new enemy, a ghost haunting their territory, infecting their flock with radical ideals. They will do anything to capture her. Their reign depends on this new prophet’s destruction.

Graffiti of a woman’s silhouette, set in a snarling wolf’s profile, appears in ISIS-controlled territory convincing Robert Maxim that Sydney Rye is alive. When women in the area begin attacking their abusers, he suspects Sydney is responsible. But Robert can’t believe she is involved after rumors claim a prophet, a weapon of God, has risen to free women from oppression.

April Madden hears the devil whispering to her; just one little cocktail to dull the pain. Instead of picking up a glass, she throws herself into a quest; track down her missing daughter, her only surviving child, and make amends. Traveling into the Islamic State is fraught with danger and thick with obstacles. April doesn’t have her daughter’s combat training or Blue, Sydney’s loyal, giant dog. But she does have her instincts, tenacity and the voice that whispers; your daughter is alive, don’t give up. 

Join the hunt for Sydney Rye! Download In Sheep’s Clothing Today.

 
 

A killer sale on the box set of books 1-8 — for a limited time only.  To celebrate Sydney Rye #9, In Sheep’s Clothing, a box set of the first eight books is on sale for a limited tim. You can grab EIGHT books for the price of ONE! Already have them all? Share your love of Sydney Rye and gift a box set to a friend. But don’t wait, because this deal will disappear soon.

🔶 Amazon Kindleemilykimelman.com/18az
🔷 iBooksemilykimelman.com/18ib
🔶 Barnes & Nobleemilykimelman.com/18bn
🔷 Koboemilykimelman.com/18k

About the author

Emily Kimelman not only writes adventure, she lives it every day. Embodying the true meaning of wanderlust, she’s written her Sydney Rye mysteries from all over the world. From the jungles of Costa Rica to the mountains of Spain, she finds inspiration for her stories in her own life.

While living under communist rule in the former Soviet Union, the KGB sprinkled her with “spy dust,” a radioactive concoction that made her glow and left a trail they could follow. She was two. She was destined for amazing things after that, and she continues to find adventure to inspire characters like the badass Sydney Rye. 

Download the first Sydney Rye Thriller, Unleashed, for FREE on all major ebook platforms and join the adventure!

Emily can be found:

BestSelling Reads Author page   |   Website   |   Facebook    |   Twitter

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Monday musings: Writing style

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I think the first time I noticed a writing style, an author’s distinctive voice, was in Grade 5 when I read “Riddles in the Dark,” where Bilbo foils Gollum in The Hobbit. Since then, I’ve always valued an enjoyable writing style, sometimes more than the story.

I can still remember another story from my elementary school days: Ray Bradbury’s “The Fog Horn.” On foggy nights, a lighthouses’ foghorn draws a dinosaur like creature out of the depths of the ocean, whose voice sounded like a foghorn, too. I can remember the emotional impact on me of Bradbury’s beautiful prose describing the sound of the creature’s call, the loneliness and unrequited love it felt when it realized the tall, deep-voiced lighthouse was not another like itself.

Later, I discovered Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren, a novel that one of my teachers remarked no 15-year-old should read. Its frankly sexual content was a bit much for a teenager, but I savored the eloquent descriptions that set every sense on fire.

As a teenager, I got into science fiction and fantasy, but found the styles of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were not as appealing, anymore. I liked a lot of the work of Philip K. Dick, although I found the quality and the style uneven.

I found Larry Niven’s style in his Known Space series was an almost perfect combination of description, action and interesting characters. His Gil the ARM series was the first example I found to combine science-fiction and detective stories, and that led me to Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammet and Ross MacDonald.

What do I mean by style?

For me, style involves mechanics like sentence structure and length and the variation in that; pacing of action and speech; and word choice. But it also grows out of the author’s choice of point of view and how detailed and lengthy their description is.

As a teenager I reveled in rich descriptions. Since then my tastes have, I like to flatter myself, become more balanced. I value complex, interesting and believable characters, people who are vulnerable and flawed and not always admirable.

But most of all, I like a good story, something that takes me somewhere.

In terms of more modern writers, I like the way George RR Martin combines evocative description, dozens of captivating characters and, most of all, many interweaving stories, each of which is compelling on its own.

Toby Neal is another writer who excels by creating characters you can connect with, and putting them in a story you cannot put down. She’s also expert in describing the setting—although she has a huge advantage, living in Hawaii. I also have to mention something that I find Neal does better than any other contemporary writer in English that I have found: she writes a socially and ethnically diverse cast of characters that accurately reflects the world we live in today.

Gae-Lynn Woods’ Cass Elliot series brings a large range of subtly-drawn characters into a story so dark, I couldn’t stop reading it.

Samreen Ahsan has created a unique style by blending Islamic mythology with contemporary romance, wrapped up in lush descriptions.

Dawn Torrens’ characters, Amelia and her family, as well as her stories, are drawn from the author’s own experiences.

The late Kathleen Valentine was an original writer. One of the more unusual aspects of her style was to write romantic stories about people older than their midlives—most romance is about young people.

I’m now reading Caleb Pirtle III’s Place of Skulls, where magnificently compelling and flawed characters in a detailed, horrifying setting drive three interwoven stories. I can only put it down when forced to.

Elise Stokes, Alan McDermott, Renée Pawlish, Emily Kimelman, DelSheree Gladden, Claude Bouchard, Raine Thomas, Frederick Brooke, Seb Kirby—in fact, all the writers in this group share that ability to create unforgettable and believable characters and put them into situations where you just have to find out what happens next.

The evolution of taste

Like everything else, my taste in literature has evolved over the years. I don’t read as much science fiction or fantasy as I used to, although I still enjoy a good mystery.

But one thing hasn’t changed: I love a writer who can use original prose to bring me into the story along with, or inside, characters that fascinate me.

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How have your tastes in writing changed over time? What do you find most important in a writer’s style? Leave a comment below.

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Thursday teasers: New books from your favorite #BestsellingReads authors

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Your favorite bestselling authors are hard at work, bringing you exciting new reads for your summer. Here are some new titles coming out soon.

Make It Happen

Vigilante Book 13 

By Claude Bouchard

When a brutal terrorist attack leaves hundreds dead or injured  at an airshow, it is decided those responsible must pay with their lives and the Discreet Activities team is mandated to Make it Happen… 

Coming in July from Amazon.

In Sheep’s Clothing

Sydney Rye series book 9

Sydney Rye is missing. April Madden throws herself into a quest to track down her missing daughter—in ISIS-controlled territory.

Coming September 27.

Available for pre-order now from Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

The Girl in the Window

Psychological thriller

By Renée Pawlish

In the midst of a bitter divorce, Amber longs for the seemingly perfect life his handsome neighbor Caleb and his wife Erin have. “I’d kill for that kind of life,” Amber says. But would she?

Available NOW on Amazon.

Wired Dark

Paradise Crime series, book 4

By Toby Neal

Catching a crazed stalker on Maui becomes the least of tech security specialist Sophie Ang’s problems: a deadly enemy is hell-bent to take her down along with anyone she cares about. 

Available for pre-order on Amazon. Coming August 31 to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iBooks.

 

Smolder Road: Lucy

Scorched Series Romance Thriller book 6

By Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman

The enigmatic, stoic Roan Winters becomes a one-man army to rescue Lucy Luciano when a vicious gang attacks the Luciano family’s post-apocalyptic Haven.

Available July 21 from Amazon, other retailers soon!

 

 

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