Here’s the fourth and final installment of our guest post from Molly Blaisdell about her 4-author collaborative book project. Don’t miss the first segment, the second segment, or the third segment, either!
Q: How did you get your book off the ground?
The first step was world building and character creation. This was lots of fun and exciting. We built the backstory to our world first, settling on our alternative history of a pre-industrial time on Earth — an untamed Europe where the Empire of Rome has fallen and the continent is now wild with barbarians and gangs. Also a burgeoning Brython Empire, with trade colonies instead of settlement colonies in America and Australia as the norm. The Egyptian Empire flourishes, rising into its golden age. The power center of civilization is the pseudo-Byzantine Empire with Constantinople as the seat of power that it is ruled by a Christian and a Muslim emperor together. This reinforces its position as a bastion of stability, humanity, and tolerance.
In this city is an international school for some royalty, some diplomats, and at times, bright scholarship students. This school is a crossroads and the place where our characters first met. We each settled on a character who had attended the school and then returned to our respective homes. None of this backstory happens in the book except in a few brief flashbacks.
We shared lots of email to build this history, so our world would have an authentic feel. Several of us had worked on series for various publishers and knew that a bible of information that contained everything from maps to character synopses, plot synopses, history, science, and themes would help us as we moved forward. If we discussed it, it was archived. Whenever anyone got off track, we could go back and check what we agreed to do.
Next, in email and phone conversations, we began to throw out ideas about what would be the problem of our novel. Soon we knew an evil magician Amosis had made a power grab in Egypt, and he was seeking more power. We also knew a powerful weapon, the regalia, was kept in the Salt City, and that our characters were going to have to keep the weapon safe.
We outlined the first few letters and plunged forward. We never had any questions of character or setting after the initial phase of the work. Each of our characters had to accept the quest that was put before them. This only left work on the plot during the actual writing. We shared many emails to work out the plot on the journey phase. We outlined. Each character had his or her own task and internal problem to overcome before they came together to the international school to face Amosis (the really bad guy). When all of our characters reached the school, we, the authors, had to regroup one more time and outline the darkest moment and the big bad battle. After that, it was a quick wrap to the end. All of this got us to our first draft.
We then went into revision, following the basic pattern of any novel revision. The only difference was that if one of us made a change that affected someone else’s journey, it had to be discussed first. We didn’t have much of that because of careful work early on. There were a few ruffled feathers during our email discussions, but for most part it was just a dynamic, fun experience. I think what helped the most was our positive attitudes, our real friendship, and strong work ethics.
It took two solid years to complete the project, and it was odyssey full of unusual turns, but, in all, it was one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done as a writer. Currently, our book THE FOUR WINDS has just started to make the agent rounds. Wish us luck; we’ve done the hard part. That said, move forward with your own crazy ideas. I hope you’ve been inspired here, and I wish you luck, too.
Thanks x 4, Molly! (And to Chris C, Chris E, and Louise for allowing their story to be told, too.)