Christine: It amazes me that we’ve been friends, for what is it now, 10 years and we’ve only met face to face on two occasions.
Rachel: True. In some ways it's been like the pen pal relationships of old with a touch of 84 Charing Cross Road. Because we're both writers, we find it easy to share our feelings via email and maybe share more than we might have if we'd only had those conversations together in an actual coffee shop. And there is no bonding experience like that of critiquing each other's novels, especially since we're not just throwing out a handful of suggestions. We really go in-depth in our critiques to the point where I love your characters and your stories almost as much as my own and vice versa.
Christine: 84 Charing Cross Road is one of my favorite stories too. Because of our critique partnership, we communicate on a level that is so integral to both our personalities. In our emails and critiques, we go deep on every line we type to each other, giving great thought to every nuance. It is one of the most precious friendships I’ve ever had, a deep bonding that has become like that of family. It all began when you were writing your historical novel set in what is now Malawi (Africa) and I was working on the first book in my Indian Raj trilogy. You were a very rare American to me at that time (and still are) in that you understood my British roots from your youth spent in Africa as the child of missionaries.
That’s another thing I love about you—your global view.
Rachel: Yes, our friendship has been so important to me, one of the most important relationships of my life honestly. We share so much – a common international outlook, writing and similar tastes. But we’ve also brought balance to each other as well – both in our writing and our lives. I tend to be the silent type, and so you’ve been a great help drawing me out, and in my writing have encouraged me to give more detail, and to really show the emotional lives of my characters. You have such a comfort in social situations that leaves me in awe, but by the same token, you’ve needed me to show you where your writing needs to be pared down. Our writing has benefited from having both of our heads in the mix.
But I would say, possibly the greatest benefit is how we’ve built each other up. We’ve been through so much together – family crises, financial upheavals, and the like. And in the midst of all of that, it’s so easy to downplay our passion for writing, even to think we should put it aside. We’ve been there for each other to say, “No, you are an artist. You’ve’ got talent and you’ve spent an enormous amount of time honing your craft. See it through.” Writing is a difficult road. It’s hard to believe in yourself consistently, to believe in your calling, and so it’s a wonderful thing to have someone cheering you on. Every writer needs that.
Christine: Absolutely—in order for a critique to be beneficial we need to be shown our weaknesses as well as our strengths. Once we discovered we were a good balance for each other we were able to trust each other.
Like you say, those times of lifting each other up also became such a prize to our partnership, and vital to our ability to continue as writers though the road has been more bumpy than smooth. So many times, you and I both wanted to give up, but here we are, all these years later. With some successes, we are still writing, and branching out to encourage other writers to the best of our ability.
Rachel: Yes, and that is such a tremendous feeling, getting to the point where we have something to give back. Writing the entries for this blog was so much fun for me. I could talk about writing all day long. So it’s very exciting to be putting together a book for writers where we get to share what we’ve learned, not just on the writing craft, but also on structuring a lifestyle and identity that will support writers through ups and downs, free time and chronic busyness and generally give them the best shot at sustaining a writing career.
Christine: Because the writing life is not an easy one. One of the biggest struggles is keeping yourself financially afloat while pursuing your writing life. This is such a huge issue for you and me. You’re still raising two daughters, Rachel, and I’m on the cusp of retirement. So this is definitely one issue we want to encourage other writers in.
We want to put our Novel Renaissance into a book—we’ve already covered a number of relevant writing topics on our blog—but what are some of the other topics we’d like to add to that book?
I know one theme that I passionately want to cover is “Properly Learning the Craft.” Yes, most of us writers are born with natural talent, but how much training should we take? I blush sometimes when I see some of the books out there, when, if the writer had studied the craft a little longer, and hired a good editor that book might have shone. Instead, the writer rushed his/her fences and released their work before it was ready.
Rachel: Yes, absolutely, not just the how-, some of which we’ve already covered (such as character development and voice), but how do you go about teaching yourself to write (in the beginning) and sharpening your writing skills as you go along? There are also the steps to learning the business of a writing career, which is essential for anyone who desires to publish or even self-publish.
Nearest to my heart is writing deeper stories, the kind of stories (even if they’re light romance or suspense) that enrich the readers’ lives in some way, that inspire them or make them feel more at home in their world. Key to that, I believe, is learning to portray emotion in a way that reaches the reader.
Christine: And that brings us to our exciting news !!!! Although you may have guessed it already from what we've said above.
Rachel and I are putting our Novel Renaissance into a book format, but with more added to it. This summer we’ll be taking the posts we have already written on the broad topic of writing and the writing life, and expanding on those topics, as well as adding a few brand new sections. I’m very excited about this shared project. In a way, I’m not surprised. I always suspected that Rachel and I would collaborate on more than one project in our lifetime. Who knows what else we’ll come up with????
Maybe one day Rachel and I will write a novel along the lines of one or two of our favorite authors, such as Kate Morton or Susanna . Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s why I lean on Rachel -- she holds me back when I should be held back, and keeps me from getting too purple in my passion for writing. LOL
Rachel: , a collaborated Gothic novel with sweeping history and colorful characters. That does sound fun. One day.
In the meantime, I’m very excited about putting this book together. Writing about the fiction craft is so fun for me, and it’s wonderful to share with other writers, no matter where they may find themselves on the journey. While the book will be substantially about the craft, we’re going quite heavy on the writing life sections as well. That’ s something else I would really love to encourage other writers on – setting up a life that sustains a writing career. And the cherry on top is that I get to do this book with one of my best friends. I think you’ll find that the book is richer for our collaboration and the friendship we share.
You'll see that we've taken down most of our material for the time being, but have left up a few of the most popular ones to give you a taste in case this is your first time here.
Christine: So we invite our followers, readers, and friends to continue to follow this blog, to stay tuned for the details of our upcoming book. We hope to have it available in the early fall. We'll have a more precise date later in the process. We plan on doing more of these conversations just to keep you informed as to release date, etc., and will throw in a sneak peak or two as well.
Have a great summer. Rachel and I will be busy expanding on our book Novel Renaissance in order to help you develop and hone your writing craft. Remember what the word Renaissance means, "A movement or period of vigorous artistic and intellectual activity."