A Word from the Authors ... Patricia Dixon and Anita Waller on writing a book together
If Trish had stuck to her normal routine of always being in a bad mood on Fridays, this book may never have been written. Instead, she chose to have a change and be in a bad mood on a Sunday. Sunday the first of September, twenty-nineteen, to be precise.
We message a lot, and that Sunday she had been noticeably quiet. This is not normal for Trish and I guessed something was out of kilter with her, so me being me, I asked what was wrong.
The following conversation was the result of me being me.
Trish: I’m in a right bad mood. Can’t shift it either. No idea what’s wrong with me. X
Anita: Write the mood out of your system and have a huge gin. We should write a book together, that would keep us laughing and do away with our bad moods. I’m snapping at everybody today, and I know it’s because I’m not writing. I’m reading which stops me going on the computer and then I get umpty. Umpty Anita is not good to know, so Dave says. Xxx
Trish: Well Brian’s retreated into the garage. He’s not even been in for a brew. I’m going to have a glass of red wine. And cheese and crackers for tea. We had KFC for dinner and I didn’t enjoy it. I treated Harry as its last day at grandmas before back to school. I’ve got an idea for a book we could write together. I’ll tell you when I see you. I thought of it years ago.
Anita: Think we could do it? I wouldn’t mind having a go. Think we’re having cheese and crackers for tea. Xxx
Trish: I’ll write down a brief summary of my idea. You will probably think it’s poo. Have you got any ideas? I’ve always wondered how people write a book together. If they fall out about what they want to say. My idea sort of cuts out that issue. I’ll do it now to get me out of my bad mood. And I’ll make Brian a brew. Just to show willing.
Anita: See! Mood lifting already! No ideas beyond two main characters, we take one each,
one good one bad that maybe switch over by the end of the book. I am very open
to other ideas lol. X
Trish: Great minds! Got your email. You’re on Waller!!! Let’s do this. Take some time to think about it and we can have a brainstorming session. I bet you come up with some fab ideas. I agree with everything you’ve said. And also the best thing is we can tweak the plot as we go along. I’m rather excited now after my bad mood. x
And that was where it began. I wrote a very quick prologue and sent it off over the Pennines just to get us thinking and reacting, and we were on fire. The prologue was later abandoned in favour of a different one, but it was a starting point that led on to the Nell and Wendy saga.
We didn’t disagree about anything; to me that seemed a little surprising. Trish is a very gentle writer, sees the best in every character and Nell was a superb example of that, whereas I am a total psychopath, happy to kill anybody off and in quite gruesome ways.
Yet it worked. We sort of had a plot, and Trish produced reams of notes about the projected story line, and then I would kill somebody which altered everything somewhat, but we simply took it in a different direction.
The way we write isn’t our only difference – Trish knows exactly where her books are going, I start with a sentence and see what happens. A further difference is that I try to keep my chapters around two thousand words in length; one ‘chapter’ flew back over the Pennines from Manchester with seven thousand words in it. I thought about Morgen, our very patient editor, and split it into three chapters.
We laughed our way through it, chatted our way through it (writing a book involves speaking on a telephone at times) and eventually came to the end on the sixth of December, twenty-nineteen. Ninety-seven days, and I took a week’s holiday in the middle of that!
Bloodhound knew we were writing the book, but when it came to the time for us to send it off, there was a bit of you send it, no you send it, between us. This had been a massive undertaking, a lot of fun but a lot of hard work, and now we needed to send it out into the universe with no guarantee of a good outcome.
Not only did we love our two ladies, Nell and Wendy, but so did Bloodhound. And subsequently, as our Advance Reader Copies have gone out to our ARC groups the feedback has been inspirational and heart-warming.
Would we write another book together? You bet your sweet life we would. Watch this space.
While my psychological thrillers are mostly centred in my home city of Manchester, I also write Women’s Fiction which is set in France. As soon as Anita and I embarked on our book, I knew that I wanted to take my character out of Sheffield and send her on a journey across Europe and beyond.
In the days when Nell’s voyage of discovery began, she would have been seen as something of a rebel or a free-spirit, either way she was the foil to Wendy’s darker character and I loved writing her.
I sent Nell to an apple farm, simply because many of my French, English and Polish friends have worked the harvest there and the orchards are close to my French home. When I write, I draw on my own experiences and those of others, and I like to include names, places and addresses that mean something to me, hidden within the text, altered here and there but still of importance, like a nod to the past or people I love.
The Kibbutz where Nell escapes to is the exact one where my sister worked. She spent four years in Israel and it was a place my parents visited many times, they all loved it there. The life of an au pair or chalet maid isn’t easy and thanks to the adventures and experiences of one of my close friends, I was able to tap into her memories and have some fun, dancing on the beach, skiing in the Alps, swimming in the Mediterranean. The lavender fields of Provence are also a sight to behold and I hope that during our journey together, on the pages of the book, I have evoked the scents and sights that Nell loved so much, without you having to leave your armchair.
This book was a joy to write, an experience I will never forget and one I hope to repeat in the future. My wish now is that you enjoy it too and that between us, we have stamped our imaginary worlds firmly on your brain and hearts.
Anita’s story of her inspirations that led her to creating Wendy
Wendy is a Yorkshire lass, a keeper of secrets just like any other Yorkshire lass. I based Wendy in Sheffield because I know the place, and it’s one less piece of research I had to do, but she displays the basic instincts of wanting to help, wanting justice, and wanting love. She just has an odd way of getting the things she wants.
Opposites attract is the one guiding phrase I used. Wendy couldn’t have been more different. Nell is a lovely girl, wouldn’t harm a fly, spends her time wandering around Europe and beyond; Wendy is the Cruella de Ville to Nell’s Anita Radcliffe. She solves her problems in an entirely different fashion, and she has many problems that need solving.
This book was truly amazing to work on; not to know what is going to happen next is liberating in the extreme, and our words flew backwards and forwards over the Pennines with increasing regularity.
When we started to write Liars it was purely a working title. By the time we reached the end it was the perfect title. We both made statements like ‘this is our secondary book’, ‘we have works in progress to finish first’, ‘we really must write a chapter in the other book…’ eventually our WIPs became wholly ‘the other book’ and we dipped deeper and deeper into the twisted world of Wendy and Nell.
Trish and I have a plot line for our next joint venture; we discussed it in depth, I recruited civilian consultants, and when we’ve finished our new ‘other books’ I am sure the Pennines will become a little flatter as the emails fly back and forth over the top of the Woodhead Pass.