I’ve been fascinated about the process of collaborating with another author to produce a novel. It’s hard enough to make sense out of what is in MY head much less if I had to do that in concert with another author. LOL. Today my guests have managed to make collaboration work brilliantly. So I had to ask them a couple of pointed questions to figure out their secrets.
Welcome! E.L. Blaisdell and Nica Curt
Eden: What led each of you to choose to write a work in collaboration with another author?
Nica: There isn’t a nice way to word this, so I’ll just say it: I forced Eliza to do this.
EL: Blackmail is a great motivator.
Nica: But on a serious note, the idea of Drained and us writing together was always something we joked about––something we both said we’d do one day, but I don’t think we ever thought that it would actually happen. It was years ago when I approached Eliza with a screenplay I’d titled Drained. It was the same concept as our finished novel, but originally it was presented as scripts that I’d sent to a select few people. It was she who suggested that it be turned into a book.
EL: I never planned on writing a novel with someone else; writers and historians usually work alone. But when I read the pilot episode to Nica’s screenplay, I was really excited about the characters and the world and the rules she had created. She kept writing more episodes and I kept reading, and we decided that once I had a break in my own writing, we should collaborate and turn those scripts into a novel. Ironically, a lot of material from the original scripts ended up on the cutting-room floor, but the heart of the story remained the same.
Eden: What was the hardest thing about that process?
EL: For me, the hardest thing about collaborating is to be the co-captain of a ship. When I started working on Drained, I already had a number of novels under my belt. This meant I also had a pretty good idea of my writing process and how I work most efficiently and effectively. A lot of that goes out the window, however, when you’ve got another author (wo)manning the ship. It requires a lot of patience and a lot of compromise, neither of which I feel are my strengths.
Nica: The hardest part was keeping up with my co-captain. Unlike her, I’m not a writing machine nor am I an established author. Collaborating with someone who I consider a speedy pantser forced me to let go of plotting so that I could kick my writing into gear. Because of the partnership and my responsibility to do a fair share of the work, I had the goal of keeping up. Ultimately, the hardest thing about the process helped me grow as a writer.
Eden: What was the process working together…kinda who did what and how did you decide on that?
Nica: First, we brainstormed until there was an outline of this story and the series in place. We also recognized each other’s strengths and weaknesses and used that to decide who would take care of what in the project.
EL: Nica’s strength is in world building and plotting, and my strength is churning out mountains of words. Apparently this is called a “pantser,” although I don’t know how I feel about that name.
Nica: I made sure we had important things like character development and plot twists, and Eliza made sure we wrote down words and strung sentences together to form paragraphs. Together, our different writing processes played the perfect complement.
Eden: What was the easiest part of doing a collaborative work?
EL: We have a very similar writing style and author voice, so making the novel read like one cohesive voice rather than two people trying to tell the same story was much easier than if we had vastly different styles.
Nica: Finding our process to write together. We wrote most of the book in real-time on Google Docs, which meant live corrections, comments, and suggestions. We created a color coding system that distinguished who wrote what and that allowed us to comment and provide feedback. This made it easy for the other person to understand what was going on in every scene, which was helpful when we couldn’t write at the same time.
Eden: What advice would you give to someone considering working with another author?
EL: Know that there’s going to be conflict in doing a collaboration. You’re not going to agree with each other one hundred percent of the time. But always remember that your friendship is infinitely more important than the end product.
Nica: Get to know your writing partner before you commit to anything. Learn their style, know their personality, and have a friendship. This might sound like dating advice, but you are going to be sharing the responsibilities of writing, marketing, and finances with this person.
Eden: Anything you’d like to add?
EL: Even though collaborating has its challenges, I’ve discovered a real value to it. Every weekday morning, I hand my partner a travel mug of coffee and wave goodbye as she pulls down the driveway and heads off to her proper office in cubicle land with her proper co-workers. Then, I pour myself a cup of coffee and pad into my home office where my co-workers are a cat and a turtle.
Let’s be honest: writing can be lonely. The #amwriting hashtag on Twitter is just one example of authors’ attempts to create community and make human connections throughout the workday. It says you are not alone. When you have a collaborator—like I have with Nica—it provides you with a co-worker that you can bounce ideas off of, but probably more important to my sanity, you have a friend who shares the unique challenges and rewards that come from being a writer.
Nica: The writing process is isolating and we, as writers, do it to ourselves so we can focus. We each go through our own routines in hopes of getting our muse going so that we’re not staring at a blank page all day long. Usually, our daily routine involves a cup of tea or coffee, a quiet room, a laptop, and a playlist we’ve spent a couple hours too many being distracted on. Social human interactions come in the form of the occasional telemarketing call, emails, tweets, and comments.
Collaborating with someone who you trust and is a friend gives you an outlet to discuss ideas, and you know that the other person is as invested in the story as you. Your co-writer isn’t an unwilling party being forced to listen to your ramblings; no, they are there because they want to be.
Eden: Ladies thank you for sharing with me today. I’m quite thrilled with your team work approach to writing. I wish you continued success!
Now join me for a sneak peek into….
Drained: The Lucid
On the surface, Riley Carter had it all: amazing friends, a job she loved, a promising new girlfriend, and immortality. As an ambitious succubus working for Trusics, Inc., her life should have been simple. Nightly visits to the dream realm as the guest star in human fantasies afforded her the sexual energy required for survival. Provided she met her employer’s monthly quotas, she would continue to enjoy the extravagant spoils of eternal youth. Life was pleasure for pleasure—until it wasn’t.
Now in her seventh decade, Riley finds her life lacking, especially when she encounters a lucid dreamer. Armed with an analytic pragmatism as dangerous as any weapon, this new dreamer has Riley questioning the purpose of her existence.
Humor, romance, and intrigue meet in Drained, the search for the perfect life in an imperfect system.
Riley’s eyes narrowed as she observed the woman before her. She shook her head as if to ward off some of the more outlandish remarks she had for that question. Nothing had ever prepared her for the situation. A lucid dreamer with the ability to resist charm and cause physical harm was not a scenario most entertained.
She considered the question. “Well, I couldn’t visit you if you hadn’t given me permission.”
“I don’t recall ever agreeing to this,” Morgan countered.
Riley bit her tongue. She couldn’t tell her any more details without revealing the true nature of her job or Trusics. A million questions plagued her mind, but she settled on one. “How are you capable of asking these questions?” she inquired. “This is your dream, your fantasy. We’re supposed to be gettin’ it on, doin’ the deed … you’re supposed to be getting lucky.” Her words were almost rhetorical. “Something mindless, fun, and sex related.”
“Don’t your other victims talk?”
“Mostly groans, the names of deities, and many unintelligible words, but they don’t ask real questions.” Riley frowned as a particular word sunk in. “And they’re not victims.”
“With romantic charm like that,” Morgan shot back, “how could anyone resist?”
Riley fiddled with the watch clasped around her wrist. “I can’t believe I’m doing this, but give me a chance. I’m not that bad in bed. In fact, I’ve been told I’m rather good at it.”
Morgan rolled her eyes. “Everyone thinks they’re a good lover.”
The succubus hummed. “At least I can rule out a fantasy where you’d like for someone to beg to sleep with you.”
“I would have thought my greeting last time would have been enough to keep you away.” Morgan’s eyes narrowed. “Your kind never stops do they?”
Riley flashed a dimpled grin. “You mean the sexy, sensitive, playful, be-whatever-you-want-me-to-be kind?”
“Horndogs,” Morgan said under her breath. “All of you. Guys. Girls. All the same.”
“What do you mean ‘all of you?’”
“Don’t play dumb,” Morgan said, shaking her head. “I mean demons.”
“There you go again, casually throwing the word ‘demon’ around.” Riley blinked, offended and a bit dumbfounded. “That’s where you’re wrong.”
“So you’re not a demon trying to drain my sexual energy until I become a lifeless corpse?”
“Well …” Riley hesitated. “I am, but not the corpse part, and not the demon bit either. I’m a hundred percent human … ish.” As the words continued to escape her mouth, Riley inwardly cringed at how she must have sounded to the other woman. “It’s not like I have horns and a tail.”
“Well, invading people’s dreams and stealing their energy seems pretty demon-ish to me,” Morgan countered stubbornly.
“When you put it that way, it doesn’t sound great,” Riley admitted, her voice tapering.
Morgan spread her hands. “So put it in a good light then.”
“Um.” Riley’s brain spun and churned. “That’s not the point.”
“Jesus Christ.” Riley shook her head in frustration. “Who are you, and how do you know what I am?”
“I’m Morgan. But you probably already knew that about me, demon,” she drawled the last word on purpose.
“You know, Morgan,” Riley mimicked the same tone, “for someone who went to an Ivy League school, you could sure use some more research before you start spouting nonsense.”
Morgan pursed her lips. “Hey, insulting me won’t get you any closer to this,” she noted, gesturing to her body.
At the suggestion, Riley took in the slender curves of Morgan’s silhouette. She’d been unable to appreciate her figure the first time she’d visited her in the realm, getting physically beaten and all. Riley swallowed down a primal impulse. A lithe waist and subtle flare of hips hid beneath an oversized grey cardigan that nearly touched the tops of her thighs. In spite of Morgan’s attractive physique, the clothes were all wrong: grey cardigan, pale lilac camisole, and black yoga tights. Most of Riley’s clients dressed in high-end labels or nothing at all. In comparison, the woman seemed dressed for a day in with a book, not a passionate tryst with an ideal lover.
Morgan snapped her fingers, pulling Riley out of her admiring stare.
“This is the most twisted fantasy I’ve ever been in,” Riley muttered to herself.
“You’re hardly my fantasy.”
Riley lifted a perfectly manicured eyebrow. “Oh really? How do you want me then?”
Her clothing morphed before the other woman’s eyes. Instead of her sheer babydoll, she now wore a short pleated skirt, white knee-high socks, and a tight blouse tied just beneath her pert breasts. “Maybe you’d prefer me sweet, innocent, and a little naïve? Perhaps I’m a student in need of help on an assignment.”
Riley took a cautionary step closer to her mark as her clothing shifted again. She knew she was wasting her energy, but the frustration had begun to cloud her mind. The more control a succubus had over a dream, the more energy it depleted. For more energy efficient sessions, a mark’s imagination had to do all the work. But without a little give, there wasn’t a take. And that take was more than worth the trouble if the experience exceeded expectations. Morgan had Riley’s interest, and it would be a lie to say that the challenge didn’t turn her on. Her schoolgirl outfit melted away and re-formed as a skintight, crimson, leather body suit. Loosened hair turned ten shades lighter as it pulled back into a high ponytail. A harsh zipper split the tight material between her breasts, revealing a startling amount of cleavage. The pants tapered down her long legs, and she stood confidently on four-inch black platforms.
“Or maybe you need me to whip some sense into you,” Riley purred. Her eyes narrowed, and she tapped a thin riding crop against the palm of her hand. “Maybe you’ve been pining for someone to tell you what to do. I think you need a break from always being in charge, always being the head of everything you do. Must be tiring.”
“Still not your type?” The red leather outfit shifted and fell away to reveal a black string bikini whose material barely contained her firm flesh. She wore leather straps around her ankles. Her taut hair fell out of its ponytail and blonde roots sprouted from her scalp until her entire thick mane was platinum in color. “Maybe all this hesitation is an act,” Riley continued as the distance between them closed. She shook her wrists and the metal bondage rings jangled. A small, black collar materialized around her neck, dangling from a shiny d-ring was the leash. “Maybe you’re always the take-charge type and you’d rather I not call the shots.” She batted her thick lashes. Her demeanor didn’t miss a beat; she could change her tempo as fast as the outfits.
Morgan looked visibly flustered. Riley wondered if she had unknowingly tapped into a secret fantasy, but assumed that woman’s academic, left-sided brain was working overtime from watching her transformations.
“How did you do that?” Morgan’s fingers grazed over the material of the leash. “It—it feels so real. I can practically smell the leather,” she thought out loud.
“It feels real, because it is real,” Riley replied. She watched Morgan’s hesitant touch, a mixture of fear and curiosity, continue down the lead.
“Can you change into another person?” Morgan asked. “Or can you just change your clothing and hair color?”
“Don’t you know?” Riley said smugly. She could only hope that her poker face would hold. But under the wandering eyes and examining touches, she felt insecure. She was a specimen under a microscope. “You seem to be the expert on what I am.”
Behind them on the stovetop, the teapot shrieked to life. Morgan blinked and shook her head. She turned her back on Riley and pulled the kettle from the gas burner. The shrill cry faded as the silver kettle cooled.
Morgan pulled a ceramic jar from a ceiling cabinet. “Would you like some tea?” she offered.
Riley stood stunned for a moment, and her outfit defaulted to her original babydoll. It wasn’t that she’d never been offered food or drink on an assignment before—although generally she was licking said food and drink off of someone’s body. She was stunned by the young woman’s ability to turn and control the situation. One minute she was hitting Riley with a baseball bat, the next she was offering the succubus hospitality.
“Not that I’m complaining about the offer, but you’re puzzling,” Riley voiced her thoughts. “I mean, you were holding batting practice with my head minutes ago.”
Morgan poured hot water into two cups, each with their own tea bag floating to the top. “I guess I don’t care for baseball all that much,” she said with a slight shrug. “Anyway, I didn’t think you’d complain over my lack of aggression.” She brought the two steaming cups over to a small kitchen table that sat three as it was situated against a wall. “We can go back to that if you’d like. I’m accommodating.”
“No thanks.” Riley lifted a hand.
Morgan smirked at the simple gesture. “People can have a change of heart.”
“Not that quickly they don’t,” Riley pointed out. “You could be schizophrenic.”
“For a seductress, you’re doing a bang-up job,” Morgan retorted, sitting down in one chair. “Between the insults and tea, I don’t know how we’ll have time to have sex.”
About the Authors
E.L. Blaisdell and Nica Curt met in 2009 through a fanfiction archive that has since become defunct, yet their friendship endured. Although they’ve collaborated before, Drained: The Lucid is their first original novel together. Follow them on Twitter (@ElizaLentzski and @NicaCurt) for updates and exclusive previews of future original releases.