Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Guest Blog with Candice Speare & Nancy Toback

My question for our bloggers was how did the two of them work together and achieve success as a writing duo? Below is their response:

Writing a book with someone else is a crash course in learning the other person’s work habits. You don’t really know someone until you’ve worked with them under pressure. And when two writers have very strong, individual voices, not to mention firm ideas about the way things should be, the challenge is doubled. . .okay, quadrupled. . .all right—really magnified. But we’ve managed to work together so far and remain friends, despite the fact that Candice is a stoic German and Nancy is a fiery Italian. That’s probably because we’re both too old to stay annoyed for any length of time.
We’ve worked out a system now for books two and three in this series that is working for us. After hashing out a chapter by chapter together, our books are constructed as if we were building a human body. Candice writes short paragraphs for each scene, like a skeleton. Nancy builds on those, adding the sinew and muscle of the basic story. Candice adds organs—depth of setting and description. And the editing starts here, as well. Then we both do finish work—the skin. Nancy is a true romance writer. She can write an awesome first kiss scene. Candice is good at mystery and setting.
Despite our differences, the things we share are what really make this work. We’ve experienced many similar circumstances in our personal lives, some quite painful, so we pull on those experiences to give depth to our plots and characters.

Candice is a country girl:

I live in Maryland farm country where the D.C. sprawl is beginning to spread its fingers into the forests and fields where I grew up. When I was little, my recreation was swimming in a deep part of the creek, building forts in the woods, and collecting tadpoles and salamanders. While I wasn’t raised on a farm, I was raised country. That’s still what I prefer. Now my folks have cattle—Herefords to be precise, and I occasionally help with them. One of my most vivid memories is from three years ago. I tell my mother it left me scarred for life. I was left in charge of a dead cow while my folks headed off for a cruise. (Yes, a dead cow. I ask you. . .what mother leaves her daughter in charge of a dead cow? Mine.) Anyway, my job was to ensure the man from 1-800-dead-cow came on time to pick up the carcass and was paid. (Yes, that’s the real phone number.) When I was told to put the check in a jar next to the, er, body, I about lost it. Cows are big, but they seem bigger when they’re dead. And there were other. . .unpleasant things. Anyway, I won’t go into graphic description here, although I could since I’m a writer.
I’ve shot ground hogs, driven a tractor, and watched bulls being neutered. I’m not afraid of bugs or spiders or mice. I’m country through and through. And that’s a good example of one difference between me and Nancy. She’ll call an exterminator to get rid of mice. I’ll go to Southern States, get whatever I need, and catch them myself.

Nancy is a city girl:

I now live in South Florida but was born and raised in Manhattan; specifically, Germantown. I know nothing about cows except what I learned from the steakhouse menu. And let’s not even discuss the scenes with Allie atop a horse in A Hero for Her Heart. I’ve been on horseback twice—the second time only because a friend convinced me that horses “really don’t bite.” When Candice told me the heroine was a farrier, I thought she meant furrier. Then she taught me that horses wear shoes? I loved growing up in the concrete jungle, sitting on the “stoop” with the neighborhood kids, and cooling off in the “Johnny pump” on really hot days, but my life experience wasn’t much help in our Walla Walla, Washington setting. I’m grateful for the experience of co-writing with a country girl who’s not afraid of rodents and bugs, though I suspect Candice owns a BB gun and she’s not afraid to use it. Me, I just scream bloody murder if I find anything with more than two legs in my house.
Candice and I had as many laughs as we did virtual knock-down, drag-out fights writing this series, but with all our differences we’re forever friends.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Have you ever tried to do a solo activity with a partner and how did it go?


  1. Aaron McCarverFebruary 03, 2010

    I love writing with a partner. Diane is fantastic to work with. I think we complement each other's abilities very well. I like that you get to share the whole process. This means you have someone to experience the joys with and also someone to share the budens with. Loved the body metaphor, by the way!

  2. Aaron, you always have great answers with a lot of thought behind them. Thanks for that. I did a hen lit once with a good friend and we had a ball. We each wrote a different point of view. And I agree that you have somone to share the whole experience.