I’ve been a fan of the musical BRIGADOON! for as long as I can remember, so I was thrilled when my friends CAREY CORP, a 2010 Golden Heart finalist for best young adult fiction, and LORIE LANGDON wrote their own take on the story in the DOON series, and sold it to the new YA imprint BLINK , a division of HarperCollins.
The mystery to me was how they managed to write and sell a book and still remain friends–co-writing has always struck me as tricky, verging on dangerous, but Lorie and Carey make it seem easy.
It comes up at every signing, writing conference, and even at the softball field. It’s always some form of the same question (with expressions varying from horror to awe): You co-wrote DOON? How on earth does that work?
Well lucky RU readers, you’re about to find out!
I’m Lorie Langdon, half of the writing team for the YA series DOON—inspired by the magical musical Brigadoon!—and I’d like to give you a behind the scenes peek at how our journey began and a glimpse into our co-authoring process…warts and all!
As newbie authors, Carey and I started out as friends and critique partners. We’d just finished editing our respective solo projects and were discussing what we each wanted to write next.
I’d been kicking around the idea of doing a retelling of Brigadoon and it seemed appropriate that I should write it through the lens of my teenage self, since I’d seen the musical for the first time as a starry eyed, hormone crazed sixteen-year-old. Coincidentally, Carey had just completed her second young adult novel, so I was picking her brain on voice and technique when somewhere along the way our conversation took a detour. Our ideas for the mythical kingdom of Doon sparked an explosion of evil witches, magic spells, daring adventures, two unique best friends, and heroic princes in kilts … soon it became clear that this story was bigger than the both of us, but that together we could make it amazing!
So we jumped in with both feet and DOON was born.
Our process is pretty straight forward. We each write a main character and their respective heroes. Carey writes Mackenna Reid: the fun, drama-geek with an irreverent sense of humor, and Duncan MacCrae: the charming, boy-next-door prince.
I write Veronica Welling: the perfect-on-the-outside cheerleader who hides a life of adversity behind her wide smile, and Jamie MacCrae: the intense crown prince who’s tortured about choosing what he wants versus what’s best for his kingdom.
Our plotting process is a little less meticulous. We’d both love to be “pantsers” who let our characters dictate the plot as we go along, but we’ve learned over the extensive revision process of the first Doon novel that this is not practical. So we start with a basic outline that morphs into a more detailed synopsis and we try to stick to that plan…with a few interesting detours along the way.
For the first draft, Carey writes chapters from Kenna’s point of view and I write Vee’s chapters. We each tweak our characters’ dialogue (girls and princes) in the other writer’s chapters.
Once we’ve written the first draft, we both edit and revise the entire manuscript. Each of us touch and polish every sentence, giving the overall story a more cohesive feel. Our goal is that the two main characters have distinctive voices in a way that’s not disjointed.
When disagreements arise—as they often do with two independent and artistic people—we work to find a compromise. Friends, this is not easy. In fact, letting go of creative control is the hardest part of the process of co-authoring. But when we disagree on a plot direction or editorial point we’ve found the best thing to do is throw out both our ideas and brainstorm until we come up with something new and different that we’re both happy with. Usually after a bit of virtual hair-pulling, what we come up with together is always stronger than our original independent ideas.
Sometimes in revision, we have to restructure. This can mean scenes or entire chapters switch character points of view. For example, the tavern chapter in Alloway and the dungeon scenes in Doon have been written from both Kenna and Vee’s POVs.
In the revision process for the first DOON book, we actually switched from alternating chapters to a more Vee-centric story that was a 65/35 split (approx.). This meant that several of the chapters told from Kenna’s perspective had to be rewritten for Vee. While this might seem like a loss for Kenna, it actually made for a more focused, dynamic story that will allow us to segue into a more Kenna-centric sequel. (Look for several of Kenna’s “lost” chapters to surface as bonus material as we gear up for the release of book 2.) DOON book 2, DESTINED FOR DOON releases September 2nd, 2014!
Carey and I, much like our characters, are opposite in a way that makes for a perfect balance. As writers, we each bring different technical strengths to the table. As people, we push each other to see life through a broader more vivid scope. And as friends, we help one another through the ups and downs of the publishing industry and life in general.
The process of writing with a co-author is fun and dynamic. Splitting responsibilities such as blogging, promotions, and social networking is a great blessing. We travel to all of our author events together and have had some fantastic adventures. But the biggest advantage is that you have someone who is equally invested. Someone you can call at midnight with a brilliant plot idea, who won’t curse you out and block your phone number. In a solitary industry, having someone beside you through the victories and defeats is beyond measure.
*Incidentally, after Lorie wrote this post she sent it to me, Carey, to enhance and tweak. I sent it back to Lorie for a final pass before forwarding it to Romance U. It’s just what we do.
Want to know more about the Dooniverse?
DOON, nominated for an Inspy award for Best 2014 Young Adult Literature, is the first of 4 books in a new young adult series loosely based on the concept of the musical Brigadoon, used with permission from the Alan Jay Lerner Estate & the Frederick Loewe Foundation.
Veronica doesn’t think she’s going crazy. But why can’t anyone else see the mysterious blond boy who keeps popping up wherever she goes? When her best friend, Mackenna, invites her to spend the summer in Scotland, Veronica jumps at the opportunity to leave her complicated life behind for a few months. But the Scottish countryside holds other plans.
Not only has the imaginary kilted boy followed her to Alloway, she and Mackenna uncover a strange set of rings and a very unnerving letter from Mackenna’s great aunt—and when the girls test the instructions Aunt Gracie left behind, they find themselves transported to a land that defies explanation.
Doon seems like a real-life fairy tale, complete with one prince who has eyes for Mackenna and another who looks suspiciously like the boy from Veronica’s daydreams. But Doon has a dark underbelly as well. The two girls could have everything they’ve longed for… or they could end up breaking an enchantment and find themselves trapped in a world that has become a nightmare.
DESTINED FOR DOON is scheduled for release in September 2014
In this sequel to Doon, Mackenna Reid realizes she made a horrible mistake–choosing to follow her dreams of Broadway instead of staying in the enchanted land of Doon. To make everything worse, she’s received her Calling–proof she and Duncan are each other’s one true love–and it’s pure torment, especially when visions of the very alluring Scottish prince appear right before she goes on stage.
So when Duncan tells her an ancient curse threatens to overtake Doon and the new queen needs her to return, Kenna doesn’t have to think twice. With darkness closing in on all sides, Kenna and Vee must battle a world of nightmares in order to protect the kingdom. But it will take the ultimate test of courage for Kenna to salvage her happily ever after.
Have you ever attempted to co-author a novel? Please add your thoughts on this topic to the comment field below.
On Wednesday, May 21, Harlequin author KANDY SHEPHERD joins us from Sydney, Australia.
Carey Corp wrote her first book, a brilliant retelling of Star Wars, at the prodigious age of seven. Since then, her love affair of reinvention has continued to run amuck. Writing both stories for young adults and literary fiction, she begins each morning consuming copious amounts of coffee while weaving stories that capture her exhaustive imagination. She harbors a voracious passion (in no consistent order) for mohawks, Italy, musical theater, chocolate, and Jane Austen. You can find her on Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter.
Lorie Langdon is a co-writer for the DOON series, a YA reimagining of the classic musical Brigadoon! She has a Bachelor’s Degree from Wright State University, and a few years ago left her thriving corporate career to satisfy the voices in her head. Now as a full-time author and stay-at-home mom, she spends her summers editing poolside while dodging automatic water-gun fire, and the rest of the year tucked into her cozy office, Havanese puppy by her side, working to translate her effusive imagination into the written word.
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