Posted On October 10, 2014 by Print This Post

The Basics of Collaboration with Loved Ones by Suzanne Brockmann

New York Times Best Selling Author SUZANNE BROCKMANN, best known for her Troubleshooters series, has expanded into new territory with her books BORN TO DARKNESS, SHANE’S LAST STAND and DO OR DIE. In October 2014, once again Suzanne Brockmann introduces us to a new world. This time, her daughter Melanie helped create it.


NIGHT SKY, my first Young Adult paranormal romance, co-written with my daughter Melanie, has just been released in hardcover and e-book from Sourcebooks Fire and in all audio formats from Blackstone Audio.


And yes, you read that right.  I wrote a novel with my daughter.  My formerly teenaged daughter.  🙂  (The key word in that sentence is formerly.)


Back when Mel was a teen, we often clashed rather noisily — and the idea of sitting down together to write a book would have been absurd.  But now that we’re both older and wiser, we can look back on those years and recognize that one of the reasons we crashed into each other so frequently was because we were similar in so many ways.  And it’s those similarities that now work in our favor when we write together.  We use our former weakness as a strength as we now quite literally finish each others’ sentences!


Collaboration is not for everyone.  But it can be a really great way to shake things up and get the creative juices flowing.  Also, as writers we so often shut our families out when we go into our offices and close our doors.  Collaboration can be a great way to bring our spouses and kids (and/or sisters and cousins and aunts) into our sometimes crazy and extremely colorful creative world.


Here are some of my personal “how to” basics for a successful collaboration:


  1. Identify who has the final say


Knowing in advance who has the power to made crucial decisions is important.  Who is the primary author of the project?  Identify that going in — and let that author’s opinion carry slightly (or significantly!) more weight — with the understanding that an important part of collaboration is listening to your co-author’s ideas and suggestions!  (Think of Lennon and McCartney.  Even though both Beatles are listed as writers of many classic Beatles songs, it’s obvious when Paul was the primary writer!)


  1. Clearly know (and discuss) each other’s strengths and weaknesses — and focus on the strengths


As writers and as humans, we tend to focus on our weaknesses.  But when collaborating, it can be helpful to sit down with your writing partner to talk about your perception of their (and your) strengths.


One of Melanie’s biggest strengths, in my opinion, is her delightful writing voice.  She’s got a youthful and lively voice — perfectly suited, also IMO, to YA.  I would never have attempted to write a YA book without her.


And with that information in Mel’s pocket, when she re-reads a scene that I either wrote or revised, one of the things she knows to look for is any discrepancy in that clean, clear YA voice.


  1.   Communicate effectively


This one’s a no-brainer.  Be clear about what you are saying and how you feel!


And lumped in here is also logistics.  How are you going to write this book?  Who’s in charge of taking the brainstorming notes and creating an outline (if you use an outline to write)?  Who’s in charge of keeping track of all of the final drafts of scenes/chapters/the entire book?  How will you write?  Are you going to email scenes back and forth, and make revisions using markup or track-changes?


Melanie and I have discovered that while I love mark-up, she prefers working with hard copies, so we try to do both.


We’ve also both got email in-boxes that are overflowing, so we’ve learned to text to alert each other whenever we send an important email!


  1. Expect good surprises


NIGHT SKY is my third collaboration.  I’ve also co-written a stage play with my husband Ed, and a screenplay with both Ed and our son Jason.  And in each instance, I found myself saying, “Wow, I would never have thought of that!”  Bringing other creative people in the mix can be exhilarating and exciting.  Bringing creative family members into the mix is downright awesome.


  1. Use collaboration to dare to venture into brand new territory


As I mentioned above, I never would’ve dared to write a YA novel on my own, because I wasn’t convinced that I could get the voice right.  But after years and years of reading bits and pieces of Melanie’s various projects, I knew that her voice — and her creative brain — was a perfect fit for a collaboration on a novel with a teenage protagonist.


Collaboration comes in all shapes and sizes.  There are many other ways to open up your office door to family members — you don’t have to co-write a book with them.  Sometimes asking for feedback is plenty.  But asking your spouse and children (particularly adult children) to read and give you their opinion on a scene or an entire book can go far more smoothly if you follow steps one through five above:  communicate effectively, make it clear that you’re the primary author, and start out with an understanding of their strengths (and/or likes) as a reader.


Would you consider collaborating with a loved one? Why or why not?

Madeline Iva joins us on Monday, October 13




Suzanne Brockmann and her daughter, Melanie Brockmann have been creative partners, on and off, for many years. Their first project was an impromptu musical duet, when then-six-month-old Melanie surprised and delighted Suz by matching her pitch and singing back to her. (Babies aren’t supposed to be able to do that.) Since then, Mel has gone on to play clarinet and saxophone, to sing in a wedding band, and to run seven-minute miles. She has become one of Sarasota, Florida’s most sought-after personal trainers. Suz has driven an ice-cream truck, directed an a cappella singing group, and can jog a twelve-minute mile when pushed. She is the multi-award-winning, New York Timesbestselling author of over fifty books. Night Sky is Melanie’s first novel and the mother-daughter team’s first literary collaboration. Each strongly suspects that the other is a Greater-Than.

Suzanne Brockmann is currently collaborating with Melanie on WILD SKY, the second book in the YA Night Sky series.  Her latest Troubleshooters book, DO OR DIE, is now available in paperback.  A TS short, FREE FALL, will be available in e-formats in December, 2014.  Another TS short, HOME FIRE INFERNO (Burn, Baby, Burn) will be published in THE WAY OF THE WARRIOR, an anthology of military romance short stories along with Julie Ann Walker and Catherine Mann, in paperback and e-book in April, 2015, with all proceeds going to The Wounded Warrior Project.

Also, there’s more info about Melanie and Suzanne (a fun video interview, too) on the website page for NIGHT SKY:




In Night Sky, sixteen-year-old Skylar Reid is thrown into a strange world when she discovers that she has unique telekinetic and telepathic powers.  After Sasha, the child she babysits, is kidnapped and believed to be murdered, Sky and her best friend Calvin are approached by Dana, a mysterious girl who has super-abilities similar to Sky’s.  With the help of Dana and her sidekick Milo, the four teens — two from the rich part of town, and two living hand-to-mouth on the streets — embark on a quest to discover who killed Sasha, and to bring the killers to justice.

With Dana as Skylar’s surly and life-toughened mentor, Sky attempts to harness her powers to aid them in their quest. Complicating an already complex relationship with the older girl, Sky starts to fall for the dangerously handsome and enigmatic Milo – and begins to suspect that the attraction is mutual. But then Sky realizes that Sasha might still be alive, and the unlikely foursome’s mission becomes one of search and rescue, pitting the heroic teens against a very deadly enemy.

Night Sky is the first book in a YA trilogy set in the same dark future as Suzanne Brockmann’s Born to Darkness, a New York Times bestselling hardcover, published last year as the first installment in her Fighting Destiny series. Night Sky has the same mix of suspense, romance, humor, and the paranormal, and deals with many of the same themes, including society’s relentless exploitation and devaluation of females, and the empowerment that comes when women and girls recognize their strength and intellect, and stand up, fight back, and save the day.


In this pulse-pounding prequel to the Night Sky series by New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Suzanne Brockmann and her daughter Melanie Brockmann, Skylar has her first brush with Destiny. She’s about to meet a boy who will change her life—and a girl who wants to end it.

I know her.
Know her from inside the dreams. Inside those terrible, murderous, bloody dreams. I’ve heard her-screaming, her voice mixing in an awful chorus with all those other girls. Little girls.

Please, God.
That’s what one of the little girls keeps saying, in the dream that is not just a dream. Please, God.
But I know better. There’s no escaping this fate. This is destiny.
I must kill Skylar.

Skylar Reid is the new girl at school. Her mom just moved them to Florida—aka The Land of the Living Dead where the average age of her new neighbors was seventy-five—to start over. Skylar is not a fan of the change or her total lack of friends. Until she meets Calvin, a funny, sarcastic boy who doesn’t let being in a wheelchair stop him from verbally shredding their preppy classmates. Skylar’s just about to decide her new school’s not a total loss when an odd girl wearing an oversized trench coat in the murderous Southern heat declares, “You’re one of us.” And then tries to kill her.


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23 Responses to “The Basics of Collaboration with Loved Ones by Suzanne Brockmann”

  1. Congratulations on the release of NIGHT SKY! I absolutely LOVE this book and I’m eagerly awaiting more in this series! Since I’ve read pretty much everything Suz has written, I could distinguish Melanie’s voice in this book. This whole family is awesomely talented! I’m close with my daughter but I don’t think we could write together. Well, I wouldn’t rule it out but I don’t think it would be smooth sailing. You make it look easy!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | October 10, 2014, 2:37 am
  2. Thanks, Becke! And thanks for hosting me here at Romance University!

    Posted by Suz Brockmann | October 10, 2014, 9:55 am
  3. Suz – I know you’ve been writing up a storm, but I have to ask. Is there another book in the DO OR DIE series coming up in 2015? I’m hooked on that one, too.

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | October 10, 2014, 10:03 am
  4. Also, a question for Melanie, if she is able to join us. I love your voice, Mel! Do you have any plans to expand your writing beyond the NIGHT SKY series? If you ever write a book on your own, what genre would it be? YA, romantic suspense, New Adult (I’m still not exactly sure what that means) or something else?

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | October 10, 2014, 10:07 am
    • Hi there!!
      Thank you so much for the compliment! I loved writing Night Sky, and I love continuing the collaborative process as mom and I finish the sequel!
      That being said, I plan to continue writing, even after Wild Sky (the sequel novel) is published. I’m not married to any specific genre, but if I had to choose, I would probably stay connected to YA. I just celebrated my 30th birthday (!!!) and yet I continue to feel compelled to write for younger readers! Writing (in my opinion) is not just an opportunity to tell a great story — It’s also an amazing way to set an example for others. I love that Night Sky has a strong female protagonist, and my hope is that I can continue to create three-dimensional characters who are both strong and relatable for a female teenage audience.

      Posted by Melanie Gaffney Brockmann | October 10, 2014, 11:35 am
  5. Hi!

    (great interview, by the way.)

    Posted by Joshua Roots | October 10, 2014, 10:21 am
  6. Loved Dangerous Destiny! Melanie has the same gift for witty, sharp dialog that Suz does, but a unique writing voice all her own. I can only imagine what dwelling in a household with two such sharp witted women could have meant for Ed and Jason during conflict. Did they just grab flak jackets and duck?
    I won’t get to read my signed copy of Night Sky until I return home from my trip. I understand that it arrived safely and is waiting for me.
    Suz, please tell there will eventually be a sequel to Born to Darkness. I’ve become emotionally invested in those characters and, sigh, they need their story too. 🙂

    Posted by Linda Ellingson | October 10, 2014, 11:34 am
    • Hi, Linda!

      I’ve been enjoying your vacation with you via facebook! 🙂

      Another of Mel’s big strengths is writing comedy. She sure can deliver the funny. I laugh out loud when I read the scenes she writes and sends me. It’s so much fun!

      And yes, I’m planning to write a sequel to BtoD. There’s tons more story to tell…


      Posted by Suz Brockmann | October 10, 2014, 11:37 am
  7. Suz – Now that you know your way around the world of film-making, do you have any plans to turn any of your books into films?

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | October 10, 2014, 11:46 am
  8. I just spent the morning with my currently teenaged daughter. Writing a book with her would be a challenge for both of us. I’ll wait a few years before I mention it.

    Fun interview!

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | October 10, 2014, 2:15 pm
  9. Congrats on your collaboration! How exciting to share the joy of writing with your daughter.

    Suz, I absolutely loved BORN TO DARKNESS. Can’t wait to dive into your YA series. Love your covers! I might be a wee bit biased though, since i’m a fellow Sourcebooks author (Casablanca imprint). 🙂

    Wish you both much success!

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | October 10, 2014, 8:11 pm
  10. Thank you so much for joining us today, and thanks SO much for giving me (and all of us) so many enjoyable hours of reading!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | October 10, 2014, 11:11 pm

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