Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Art of Collaboration, A Look Into the Work of Two Authors and Their Creation of a Saga

  Hey readers--I just wanted to introduce you to a couple pretty awesome authors I have the privilege of knowing. Marie I met on Authonomy, and immediately fell in love with her writing. Truly epic and believable. Learning later that she and her sister are collaborating on a project called the Thiortha saga. I asked if I could interview them for more info on it, and they agreed. Needless to say, I was thrilled.

Beka and Sarah Marsh
Your current plans are to finish your Thiortha saga, right? How's the progress with that?

Suzanne: Well, we had kind of a breakthrough a week or two ago, and we decided to break the series into two separate story arcs, tentatively titled Bloodlines and Battlelines, though collectively they will be known as The Thiortha Chronicles.  Although Bloodlines occurs first in our timeline, we’re working on the five titles associated with Battlelines at the moment.  This includes Poisoned, Tuned, Cursed, Locked, and Rejected.

Marie: We have decided to go back and start working on our third draft of Poisoned right now. The third draft will fill plot holes and provide some much needed development for the characters in Poisoned. After the third draft, we hope to be sending it to some beta readers, which will begin the process of getting Poisoned published.

What inspired the story?

Suzanne: One day I was going through my iTunes playlist and I found a song that I hadn’t listened to before.  It was “If I Could Cry”, a song from a British production of Sleeping Beauty, and sung by Paul Byrom, one of my favorite soloists.  The song contained such a poignant quality and promised an interesting backstory. Naturally, my imagination kicked in and filled in the rest.  The original result my listening to that song was Cursed, which is now book 3 in our Battlelines series.

Marie: Not to be a copycat, but a song also brought me into this as well. The song was "Midnight Well," performed by Ryan Kelly from Celtic Thunder. Suzanne had been talking to me about her Sleeping Beauty story idea and wanted some advice on other possible fairy tales that could be connected to form a series. When I was listening to "Midnight Well" at work, an idea popped into my head. I listened to the song for the rest of my workday, and all the way home, letting the thought blossom. When I told Suzanne my idea for the story, it became Poisoned, Book 1 of Battlelines.

What stages has your process gone through?

Suzanne: While writing Cursed (then known as The Pearl of Aireland) during my sophomore year of college, I thought, Hey, why can’t I bring in some other fairy tales and make this a series? I remember talking to you about my idea, Elora, and you actually gave me a great idea that became the basis for the magic system in our books today.  My sister Marie became my sounding board and Resident Fairy Tale Expert during this whirlwind process.  Eventually I asked her to just help me write the books, since she was giving me so many good ideas anyway.

Marie: So I went from not wanting to be a writer to writing a book in a month. Quite a shock to one's system, I dare say.
Suzanne: Like she said, we wrote the first draft to Poisoned in approximately 28-29 days. It was a ton of fun, and working with a co-writer was a lot easier than I expected it would be.

Marie: Sometimes--it's nuts--we have the same thought at the same exact time. Then, when we do, we go absolutely berserk. Jump around the house and high fiving each other, exclaiming how brilliant we are...we are quite humble, as you can imagine.

Suzanne: Sometimes I think we scare our family, especially when we talk about killing characters.

Marie: It's funny. Occasionally, when we're walking in the store or something, one of us might say "NO! I don't want to kill [insert random character's name here]! But it has to be done!"...and then one of our parents will give us the weirdest look that says "Who are you wanting to kill?"

Suzanne: No, Mom, we’re not turning into serial killers. Promise.

Who would you say has inspired your writing the most?

Suzanne: I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but didn’t think I would be able to until I was older, you know? Especially since all of my favorite authors at the time (Beverly Cleary, C.S. Lewis, etc.) were all either old or dead.  But with the success of Christopher Paolini’s Eragon (which he published at age 19) came the realization that I could start writing whenever I wanted. So I started my first novel, Darkstar, at age fifteen and finished it at age 18.

Marie: I don't know exactly. There are a lot of fantastic authors out there. Tolkien, Lewis, Rowling, Riordan, Collins, Austen, Paolini, to name a few...I think Suzanne helped me find my desire to tell stories, but other than that, I can't necessarily pinpoint my inspiration to write.

Suzanne: It’s not just “who” that inspired our writing, but “what”. We’re big fans of the groups Celtic Thunder and Celtic Woman, which inspired a lot of the Celtic/Gaelic influence in our stories.  BBC’s Merlin and ABC’s Once Upon a Time have also been influential, as well as C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, and Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series.
Marie: The novels in the Thíortha Chronicles are all loosely based on fairy tales. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, the Pied Piper, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel, and several more. Suzanne describes it as putting the original fairy tale in a blender and using the product of that. Which is very true. We do have some of the key items or ideas that carry over, like the poisoned apple, or the rose from Beauty and the Beast, but we give it our own interpretation, which is good. Originality is best. And we completely do away with wicked stepmothers: they are rather over used.

A lot of people have a “set up” for when they're about to start writing. The proverbial coffee, a favorite artist, etc. Usually, for me the coffee helps. Preferably a latte. But Starbucks doesn't live on my doorstep unfortunately. What is your preferred set up?

Marie: Well, for me, I like to be secluded in my room and uninterrupted, but I think that is fairly common among writers. I also like to be plugged into my writing playlist while focusing on what I'm trying to get across for the scene I'm working on. Occasionally, though, a song starts to play that you just have to sing and dance to, if you know what I mean.

Suzanne: For me, it’s all about the music.  I listen to a mix of Celtic Thunder, Celtic Woman, Disney soundtracks, Broadway, John Williams (Star Wars, Jurassic Park, etc.), Hans Zimmer (Pirates of the Caribbean), and The Piano Guys.  Occasionally, there’ll be a song that’s simply PERFECT for the scene I’m writing, and it will go on repeat, sometimes for hours.

I do like to have a snack and a drink of some sort when I write, but it’s not necessary for creativity.  I have to have (at least) two hours of uninterrupted time; spending a half hour listening to music and playing a mindless game (like sudoku or solitaire) to “get in the zone” (basically clearing up my horribly cluttered mind).  Then I write like a madwoman for at least an hour. When I’ve finished that scene, I have to just listen to music for another half-hour to slowly zone back into reality.

You have several things in the working, whether or not they're in active work in progress. Do you have any ideas for those? Judging from their descriptions on your website, they sound interesting. The first really grabbed my attention.
When a prince tries to help a mysterious young woman, he unwittingly upsets the long-laid plans of her power-hungry fiancé.
Sounds like a story told from the point of view of the men, instead of the typical “girl in the center of things” fairy tale. Just from this, in my opinion it sounds humorously promising. Looking forward to seeing some of it.

Suzanne: Originally, yes, it started from the man’s point of view, but with that recent breakthrough I mentioned earlier we sort of switched the series around to feature the heroes, heroines, antagonists, and antiheros equally, almost so that you can’t tell which is which.  This new development was intended to make all the characters seem more realistic, instead of their simply playing the part of an assigned role (the villain is always maliciously evil, the hero is always irreproachably moral, etc.).

Marie: I like to think that we're giving the characters more depth…that we're giving the villain a reason to hate the protagonist not just being mindlessly and stupidly evil. We're trying to come up with a reason for everyone's actions, however rational or irrational. Nobody's perfect, and we want to portray that in our characters.
Suzanne: One thing I’m hoping to stray away from in our books is the horrid depiction of women in literature/entertainment today.  The feminists, in an attempt to stray away from meek and mild-mannered pushover female characters, have insisted that we have “strong” women, which creates the nauseating Strong Female Character.  Essentially, this SFC is a male personality in a female body.  We don’t just want our girls to be strong: we want them to be witty, fragile, vain, vengeful, scarred, manipulative, resourceful, vivacious, clever, spoiled, passionate…whatever their story demands. We want them to be real girls who aren’t afraid to pick up a sword or go have a good cry, who love to get in a pretty dress but are willing to get down and dirty if they have to.

Individually, do you two have plans for future writing?

Marie: For my part, probably not. I'm not making any promises though. Who knows what strange thought may pop into my head that is just begging to be written? I will say, we do have plenty of stories--other than the Thíortha Chronicles--that we have plans of writing together.
Suzanne: I would really like to go back and finish my Darkstar trilogy some day, but I might get Marie to help me with that.  Not sure yet.  Also, I have plans to do a set of serial short stories (almost like a TV series, but in book form) set within the Darkstar universe that revolves around a popular woman’s singing group and their orchestra that travels with them.  That’s way off in the future, though.

Where else can we find you?

Marie: You can find us online at the following places:
Our website/blog: (we post every Friday)

Any other news you'd like to share?

Suzanne: Our plan right now to get Poisoned published by October of this year.  We are looking for a cover artist, by the way.

  Thank you so much guys! It was fun, and we have a lot to look forward to. Thanks for taking the time. And expect for me to beg for another interview in the future. Can't wait to see how things progress!