HarperCollins and authors Louise Voss and Mark Edwards are holding an online treasure hunt across a series of blogs and websites – the main prize is a brand new Kindle Fire. There are also signed books for the runners up. It’s all being done to promote their book All Fall Down. Crime Fiction Lover is happy to be a part of the event. The idea is to visit 10 sites, find 10 clues, and then enter to win. Further details can be found here.
The previous post on the trail, was on 50ayear.com. You’ll find the question you need to answer, which forms the clue for the Crime Fiction Lover leg of the treasure hunt, beneath this article written by Louise Voss.
How we started writing together…
“I always think of how we started writing together as an evolution, I suppose, the natural progression of two book-junky nerd pen pals obsessed with writing and getting published…
We’ve both blogged before about how we met, but the short version is that I saw Mark on a TV documentary in 1999 about three wannabe writers, and identified so much with him and his thirst for publication that I wrote him a brief email via his agent wishing him luck and telling him that I was in exactly the same situation. He wrote back, and pretty soon we had a correspondence going. It’s funny – Mark recently found printouts of some of our early emails, and they were very similar then as to how they still are – we talk about other writers’ work we admire, discuss what we’ve read in The Bookseller, moan about our daily lives… I guess the only main difference is that we don’t really talk about music anymore – we’re too busy now to discuss the merits of the new Belle & Sebastian album!
Anyway, back then, we fairly soon began to send each other extracts of our respective works-in-progress. I don’t remember how or when we then started to edit said works-in-progress, but we did, and found each other to be tactful and helpful editors. So it wasn’t too much of a leap to decide to actually write something original together (inspired, as I recall, by the first co-written novel by Emlyn Rees and Jo Lloyd).
We wrote Killing Cupid entirely by email in 2001, while Mark was spending a year in Japan. Our writing styles then were considerably different to each other, so the easiest way to work around this was to have two separate narrators, one male and one female.
It was more of an issue a couple of years later when we came to write Catch Your Death, which is narrated in the third person, so we had to work hard to unify our prose. The way we did it was to edit each other’s chapters quite heavily, and insert bits and pieces in our own respective ‘voice’, to try and create a seamlessly uniform style. The funny thing is that nowadays we don’t have to try at all to make our writing voice the same – we seem to have gradually evolved a style that is neither Voss nor Edwards, but distinctly Voss/Edwards (or as one wag put it, Vedwards).
Back in the early days, though, we each had ‘tics’ that the other ruthlessly – but discreetly! – edited. Mark used tons of sentence fragments, so I was forever linking them up with commas, and I used to delete about 70 per cent of his swearwords too. I had a very bad habit of using tabs (only, in my defence, because I hadn’t yet discovered the ‘special’ paragraph indentation option in Word! I didn’t know it existed, and for years assumed that Mark was also using tabs, until he finally put me right) which unsurprisingly used to drive him crazy. My sentences were also far longer than Mark’s, broken up with far too many brackets (see above!), semi-colons and colons, most of which Mark would edit out.
Apart from when Mark lived in Japan, we used to meet up about once every couple of months to brainstorm ideas, or figure out in person where our plots were going. My ex-boss had nominated me for a membership at The Groucho Club, so we usually met there and usually drank far too much house wine. This isn’t strictly relevant, but for some reason we’ve only ever talked about ‘personal’ stuff when we are face to face – it never comes into our emails, which are always business-related. Make of that what you will!
We’ve never fallen out, or even had a major disagreement about anything, which in itself is fairly remarkable considering we’ve been working together, on and off, for 13 years. I think we both make an effort never to be offended by anything the other one suggests about our work, and similarly we both try to be diplomatic. We still always praise each other’s chapters when we send them back with comments – not that it’s ever hard to do, as I think we both still have that sense of ‘oh wow, the writing elves have been in the night and written the next chapter of my book for me!’ That’s one of the best things about co-authoring – the other person always takes it in an unexpected direction, even within the parameters of a previously-agreed story structure.
Another benefit of having a co-writer is that we can each blame the other one for the occasional sex and violence in our novels! We quite often get asks who writes the sex scenes and obviously the answer, if it’s my friends or family asking, is ‘Mark’, and if it’s his granny, he can say ‘Louise, of course,’ with an angelic smile… It’s become a bit of a running gag between us. Although it’s true to say that Mark does write most of the particularly violent scenes!
I think we’re fairly unique amongst thriller-writing partnerships, most of which tend to be husband and wife teams such as the couples behind Nicci French, Tania Carver, Scott Mariani. I don’t know of any others like Mark and myself who are just pals who started writing together. Personally, I can’t think why more people don’t do it. Although of course longevity in any creative partnership has to be attributed to a good match of personalities and different strengths and weaknesses, which Mark and I definitely have. Although who has which strengths and which weaknesses will remain a closely guarded secret…”
And here’s the big question: Which country was Mark living in whilst he and Louise were writing Killing Cupid in 2001?