Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Rhys and the Secret Scribe.

 RHYS BOWEN:  If you ask me what I'm writing at the moment the answer might well be "Aaagghhh!"

I am in the final stages of the first draft of my new Molly Murphy book, ALL THAT IS HIDDEN.

I'm working my way through the editor's notes for my next stand-alone, now called WHERE THE SKY BEGINS. And trust me, it's true that the Brits don't show that much emotion, even in a bombing situation!

And I'm supposed to get started on the next Royal Spyness book, which I know will be set in Paris at a fashion show at Chanel, but like Hank I've planted the seeds and have little idea where the story will be going. And I'm playing with titles: Rendevous on the Runway? A fan came up with a good one: Paris is never out of fashion.  I like it but it does sound too rom-com, doesn't it?

So you might understand that my head is full of buzzing and very different ideas, all of which have to be kept straight.

So I thought I'd share an exciting little snippet from the new Molly book, and then share a secret twist to it: It takes place on a ferry boat in New York harbor, taking some schoolgirls on a tour of historical monuments.



 We were startled as some kind of siren sounded.
                “Excuse me, may I have your attention.” A muscular uniformed man that I assumed was the captain was standing in the front of the boat looking rather serious. “I’m afraid that we have a small emergency--a little fire on board. Now, please don’t panic,” He raised his hands palm down to calm us as girls rose from their seats as if looking for a place to run to, “Panic is the only thing that could do us any harm at this moment. Please believe we have it under control but I need you to sit here on deck and be ready to disembark as soon as we dock.”

    “I’ll keep them calm.” Miss Jones stood and came up to the captain. “Julia, stop your screaming immediately. Ruth, sit calmly and quietly. The captain has this under control.” Under her now stern gaze the girls obeyed and sat quietly. I realized then that I could smell smoke and had been smelling it for some time, taking it for a fire coming from the bank somewhere. I could see no sign of flames but I did see a thin trail of smoke escaping from the back of the ship. My heart began to race.
    
    “Trust me ladies, I’ll get you home safely.” The captain said and then left at a run to the back of the ship and disappeared below deck. I hadn’t paid any attention to how many crew members were on board but now I saw four- or five-men lowering buckets for water and disappearing down the stairs in the back of the ship. I supposed the engine room was below deck. Bridie and I were the closest to the engine room and I heard the men swearing unreservedly as they pulled up buckets of water.

    “Jesus Christ,  I told you this was going to happen.” I heard an older man say to a younger as they rushed past. “You can’t keep pushing a boat like this without maintenance and improvements.”

    I felt the boat swing around. We were still in the middle of the harbor but I we were now headed straight for the nearest pier on the New York side of the river. The men continued with the buckets for about 10 minutes and then seemed to give up on their attempt to put out the fire. They came up on deck and stood, two by the gangplank and three on either side of the boat by the life boats. There was a small row boat on either side that could be lowered down. Perhaps eight people could fit in either row boat, not nearly enough for all of us onboard. I hoped the crew weren’t planning on using them to desert us and save themselves. I have to confess my heart was thumping, although I tried to look calm and unworried for Bridie’s sake.
    
    All eyes were on the pier as it came closer and closer. Everyone was standing now and pushing toward the gang plank wanting to be the first off once it was lowered. We could hear the crackling of the flames behind us and started to feel the heat. I began to plan my escape. “Take your cape off,” I ordered Bridie. “And be ready to go overboard if we need to.”

    She looked terrified. “Why?”

    “In case we have to swim to shore. Your cape will only drag you down.” I took mine off and contemplated my skirts. I was in my sturdy two piece wool suit and I was sure the wool would be impossible to swim in. I looked up and saw how white Bridie’s face was.

    “Now don’t tell me you didn’t join your cousins in the East River growing up. I know you can swim.”

    She took off the cape obediently and I moved us closer to the rails, out of the crowd of pushing and shoving girls. One part of my mind thought this was crazy. It didn’t seem possible that these well dressed and well- behaved people who had been sitting calmly on a deck moments ago were facing a life and death situation, but I wasn’t going to let myself be trapped into dying to appear well behaved. I would swim if I had to.

RHYS:  The scene gets even more dramatic after this. Really a matter of life or death. Did you enjoy it? Because here's the little secret:  I didn't write it.  It's one of the scenes that my daughter Clare has written. She is now my co-writer and she's taken on at least half the book, coming up with great ideas and clever twists that make it quite refreshing. And Molly's voice? She seems to have captured that perfectly.

It's only a rough first draft at the moment but it's going to be an excellent addition to the series: set in the world of New York politics with a corrupt Tammany man running for mayor against William Randolph Hearst, a reporter who has disappeared and a murder. 
So dear fellow writers: how hard do you think it would be to co-write with someone else? Who has actually tried it?

38 comments:

  1. If you hadn’t told us, I don’t believe I’d have known that you hadn’t written that scene, Rhys. And I think that perhaps that might be the secret to successful co-writing: each person seeing the characters and the story in the same way.

    It’s an exciting scene and now I’m looking forward to reading the book and discovering what other adventures are in store for Molly . . . .

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  2. Fabulous, Rhys! Yes, Clare has the voice down. I'm so happy Molly is continuing.

    I've neither contemplated nor done co-writing and am glad it's working for you. I am planning to write a mash-up blog post in November with Amy Pershing featuring our two Cape Cod protagonists - but that's not very long.

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    1. Edith, that November blog post will be one to look forward to I'm sure!

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    2. Oh, yes, Edith! That sounds great!

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  3. To answer your question Rhys, I would think it would be very hard to co-write with someone. While I've never tried it, given the fact that I like to work alone for the most part, giving up the autonomy that comes with writing my own stuff would be rather unappealing.

    I can't say that I would rule it out completely because having been a coach, I've obviously had to work together with assistant coaches and players. Making that work shows I could do it if I was in a situation where I had to. It just wouldn't be my preference.

    Oh, and I can't wait for the new Molly Murphy adventure.

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  4. Your clever daughter, my goodness. I know it is beyond 1904, and the General Slocum has already sunk on the East River. Her words are bringing it all back. As far as collaborating, my oldest daughter and I kick ideas around but to date have let the seeds lie fallow. I appreciate you sharing about co authoring; I have long pondered how this works. Good on you both.

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    1. It was the General Slocum that inspired this scene and the sinking plays a part in this story!

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  5. Wonderful, Rhys. I never would have guessed it wasn't you.

    I haven't cowritten or thought of it. I think who the co-writer was would be key in how difficult the task was.

    Oh, I finished The Venice Sketchbook recently - I loved it.

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  6. That's an exciting excerpt, Rhys. Keep writing both of you!

    I've written with someone, but only as distinct voices. Writing as partners in one voice, never. I imagine there might be the need for some rules? Or some protocols to ensure a smooth process? I'd love to know yours, Rhys.

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    1. We talk through the story going ahead together. She says "I'd like to write the party scene because I've got a good vision of it" I go ahead with another scene. We read each others and edit if needed. I have to say I've only had to do such minor edits on Clare's scenes--using an anachronistic word, maybe? Clare keeps coming up with lovely twists as we go ahead!

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    2. Sounds like a wonderfully rich writing partnership. Congrats to you both!

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  7. Wonderful Rhys and Clare - seamless, I never would have known. What a great collaboration!

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  8. As every time with your snippets, I only want to read more and more. Very happy to look forward to a new Molly stories.

    If you hadn’t mentioned it, I would not have guessed. Well done, good collaboration.

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  9. Love the glimpse into the newest Molly Murphy--it's beautifully done--never would have suspected Clare's 'voice' here--she has captured Molly!

    I've co-authored academic and professional works, but those involved distinctive tasks/written sections/chapters that are clearly delineated by author. Creative writing? That would be a challenge for me!

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  10. This is wonderful! So exciting. Clare is a dream collaborator.
    I wrote 5 series novels with a co-author, but he didn't actually write. We collaborated on the stories which were about a character based very much on my co-author who is a forensic neuropsychologist. Lots of experiences to fuel a mystery series!

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  11. Yay, Clare! Exciting snippet and that voice is absolutely the voice of the Molly we know and love. I am thrilled for both of you. ( When does that book come out? No pressure!) And, waiting for October 12;-))

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  12. Absolutely fascinating! I love hearing about this process, and I love the joy in your voice.
    And I was completely baffled when you called it “secret scribe “– – you clever woman!

    Have I ever thought about Cole riding with someone? Yes, absolutely. I think it would be wonderful, but no firm plans as of yet. I think… Now that I am pondering this… After all these years of working with a producer in television, writing collaboratively is something I have done quite often.
    So I am comfortable with it.

    Hooray, Clare and Rhys! This is a wonderful team !

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    1. I think anyone who has worked in radio and TV has to be a good collaborator because it's always writing by committee. My BBC days probably made me easy to work with. But actually Clare and I haven't yet had a difference of opinion on where the story should go

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    2. Okay, that was supposed to be co-writing. Not Cole riding. Yeesh. xx

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    3. So funny, Hank. I was thinking, hmm, now have I missed her character named Cole?

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  13. My heart was in my mouth reading that scene! She's doing a great job, not only of capturing Molly, but in writing dramatically, too.

    I've tried to write with Steve several times, and it does not go well. She said, darkly. Our styles are so different. And he's so bossy. We learned a long time ago that his projects are his, and mine are mine, and ne'er the twain shall meet. Nice work if you can get it, though!

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    1. "She" meaning Clare. Sorry, her name got lost in the edit.

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    2. Husbands are different! I could never work with John.

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  14. What a great scene, Rhys - reminiscent of the terrors of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and the sinking of the Titanic, both of which are several years in the future for Molly and her family and friends.

    (I'm putting in dibs RIGHT NOW that Molly is on the Titanic, returning to New York after visiting her family in Ireland!)

    I've just started the ARC of WILD IRISH ROSE (don't hate me because I'm lucky, readers) and I'm so impressed with the seamless nature of your collaboration and how perfectly Clare has captured the Molly voice. Which, interestingly enough, is a little different from your Georgie voice, which is different again from the historical stand-alones.

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    1. Oh, we hate you, Julia, rest assured!

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    2. Julia, I had thought of putting Molly on the Titanic (if I get tired of her and want to end the series LOL)

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    3. Julia, the incident is based on the fire on the General Slocum that killed so many people on a church outing. It plays a part in this story

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  15. This is a great snippet. Can't wait.

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  16. I love this, Rhys! You and Clare are a dream team!

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  17. Fabulous snippet! Clare really has mastered Molly's voice! Dang, I wish I could get one of the Hooligans to co-write with me...hmmm..... :)

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    1. Start training him now! Sign him up for creative writing classes in college and make him work in a cupcake shop and library. Oh, but the sex scenes… you wouldn’t want him doing research would you?

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    2. LOL, Rhys. We've been asking Jenn about how she does research on those but she won't tell.

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  18. This is really wonderful Rhys and Clare! I'm so impressed--it's pitch perfect. Now I want a co-writer too:)

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  19. So good! I can't wait for more!

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  20. Thank you for all the nice comments! I think Rhys and I have a special mother/ daughter connection. Because I grew up reading everything she wrote I can hear the cadence of her writing in my head. I’m not sure it would be easy to collaborate with anyone else!

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