HOW DID YOU AND CHERYL KLAM MEET?
I was Cheryl’s editor at Random House and worked with her on two teen novels, LEARNING TO SWIM and THE PRETTY ONE.
DID YOU ALWAYS PLAN ON WRITING A BOOK TOGETHER?
Actually, not at first. We became really good friends through our editor-writer partnership, and found that we had a lot in common, including a similar twisted sense of humor! We started talking about other interests, and writing for the big and small screen came up a lot. So we began our formal writing partnership by developing projects for Hollywood, writing a TV script and some movie proposals. We traveled back and forth to each other’s homes in Manhattan and Maryland for weekend writing retreats, and it was so much fun.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR ELUSION?
Once Cheryl and I decided to write a book together, we wanted to challenge ourselves and do something very different than the projects we’ve written alone. We brainstormed a couple of different ideas. One day we were talking about how much time we all spend on our personal devices, and we wondered what it would be like if there was an app that could take us to a virtual world where we could feel like we were on vacation. (Obviously, we were both in desperate need of some R&R!) The concept developed over time—we wrote several outlines that fleshed out the characters and the trajectory of story—and once the big picture details were sorted out, we started sketching everything out on the page.
ARE THE CHARACTERS IN ELUSION BASED ON ANYONE REAL?
Not really—oftentimes the characters transform quite a bit from one draft to the next. However, when we were creating the main characters for the book, we wanted to make sure Regan, Josh, and Patrick had a lot to lose in the story. We thought if the emotional stakes for all of them were high, then the book would be a very satisfying read. We hope readers agree!
IS IT BETTER WRITING A BOOK WITH SOMEONE AS APPOSED TO DOING IT YOURSELF?
There are quite a few advantages to writing a novel with someone else. If you ever get stuck on a scene or have problems figuring out the plot, you have someone to brainstorm with at all times, which is great. It’s also wonderful to have a partner who you can lean on when real life gets messy and begins to filter into your writing life—this happens more often than you think! However, there are challenges, too—sometimes co-writers don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, and there are miscommunications that can send you both off in different directions. But you learn so much about teamwork from working with another person—I really recommend that writers link up with someone on at least one project.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE ELUSION?
About two years.
WHAT’S THE MOST DIFFICULT THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER AND AN EDITOR?
I think it all boils down to control. A big part of being an editor involves problem solving, and you’re constantly looking for ways to improve on the story, the plot, the characters, the prose, etc. But when you’re writing, you do need to let go more and get the words out, even if they’re far from perfect. So Editor Me can stand in the way of Writer Me on occasion, but when it’s time for revisions, Writer Me calls on Editor Me a lot, and I’m really grateful to have those skills at my disposal. There’s this great book out there that help writers hone their editorial know-how: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown.
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS LIKE?
Since I have a full-time job, I write when I get home from the office and on the weekends. I schedule out blocks of time to write months in advance, along with what scenes I should be working on. I often work in chronological order, based on an outline, but if I get stuck on something, I’ll move on and come back to that scene later. It sounds a bit boring and pragmatic, but it works for me.
My process had to shift a bit when I started writing with Cheryl, and we tried a few methods of working together. First, we alternated writing larger sections of the book, and then we broke it down into chapters, next into scenes. We also discovered that there were certain characters that we liked writing more than others, which was interesting. But now we’ve hit a good stride and pick chapters that we want to write, and then we edit each other’s work until we think it’s solid. (Not perfect, mind you, because then we’d never finish a manuscript!)
IF YOU COULD GIVE ANY ADVICE TO WANT-TO-BE-WRITERS, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I think it would be to read other people’s books—not while you’re writing because that can affect your perception of your own work, but before you start a project and after you’ve finished a draft. This will help you to learn from your peers, discover what’s trending in the marketplace, and fine-tune your own unique voice.
DO YOU HAVE ANY WRITING TIPS?
Cheryl and I both agree that it’s important to outline the entire book before you begin to write a full draft. It can really help you to see plot holes and story structure problems early on. However, outlines aren’t a cure all—sometimes things don’t work out once its in manuscript form—but it gets you thinking about your vision of the story and asking yourself important questions like, What is the protagonist’s journey, and how does he/she change/grow over the course of the book?
I REALLY WANT TO CONTACT CHERYL KLAM! HOW DO I DO THAT?