Imagine my surprise when I invited Evelyn David to be a guest blogger to have the response come from Rhonda and Marian. I had no idea I’d just purchased a book (I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries) by a two-woman team writing under a pseudonym. Surprise quickly turned to excitement as I realized we had an opportunity to learn a lot more about what it’s like to collaborate on a novel with another author, especially one who lives halfway across the country.
The author of Murder Off the Books, Murder Takes the Cake, Riley Come Home, Moonlighting at the Mall, Zoned for Murder and The Brianna Sullivan Mysteries e-book series, Evelyn David is the pseudonym for Marian Edelman Borden and Rhonda Dossett. Marian and Rhonda write their mystery series via the internet. While many fans who attend mystery conventions have now chatted with both halves of Evelyn David, Marian and Rhonda have yet to meet in person.
One Plus One Equals…One by Evelyn David
We’re the collective Evelyn David. We’re Rhonda Dossett from Muskogee, Oklahoma, and Marian Edelman Borden from New York. Rhonda is the Coal Program Director for the state of Oklahoma; Marian writes nonfiction books for her day job. Rhonda is Baptist; Marian is Jewish. The differences between us, at least at first glance, seem glaring. And yet, we write as one. We didn’t know when we started that it’s supposed to be difficult, nay, almost impossible to achieve that. Maybe if we had known we wouldn’t have even tried writing together, but ignorance is bliss, and in this case, has resulted in delightful success.
We’ve been asked, since the publication of our first mystery, Murder Off the Books, the secret to our writing partnership. We quickly figured out three reasons that seem to be critical for any collaboration (writing or any other enterprise).
~~ First, neither one of us has much of an ego. There are no diva moments.
~~ Second, and this is critical in the writing business, we both have a good sense of humor. Given the amount of rejection in publishing, if you can’t laugh about it, you’re better off finding another profession.
~~ And lastly we share a similar work ethic. No one stands on ceremony. We each just do whatever needs to be done and don’t worry about the credit.
What others find surprising, and we were perhaps just too naïve to realize that it is surprising, is that we’ve always seen our characters in the same way. We’ve never had a disagreement over how we’ve envisioned the action or dialogue of Mac Sullivan of the Sullivan Investigation Series or Maggie Brooks of The Sound Shore Mysteries. We even always agree on the antics of the four-legged stars of our books like Whiskey, the Irish Wolfhound, boon companion of Mac Sullivan, and Leon, digestively-challenged bulldog and faithful friend of psychic Brianna Sullivan. We may individually take different routes (or wrong turns) as we each write scenes to move the plot along, but the basics of who the characters really are and how they would react in a given situation has always been a shared vision. In fact, when we’ve played the “casting game,” that is, who would play our characters in a made-for-television movie or series – unbeknownst to each other, we both chose the exact same actors.
Our goal has always been that the reader never know that there is more than one person writing our books. The stories should be seamless. Even our families have guessed wrong when they declare, “Oh, you must have written this part, Rhonda” (or Marian). And the truth is, we pass the material back and forth so many times that by the time the final manuscript is submitted, we honestly can’t tell you who wrote what.
So how do we do it? We definitely talk about – heck even gossip about – our characters. They are real people and we often remark that we probably know them better than our families! We know what makes them tick. We begin a new project with a general discussion of the crime and who we think “dunnit.” Then, one of us will say, “I’ll start,” crafting a scene, then passing it to the other. Scene-by-scene, we build a book.
Our newest mystery, Zoned for Murder, is the first in The Sound Shore Mysteries. Former Newsweek reporter Maggie Brooks has two kids, a dead husband, a mortgage to pay, and a lot of competition when she tries to get back into the shrinking newspaper business. Landing a job with a local paper, she’s bored to tears covering bake sales and Little League games. But when a developer tries to build an outlet mall in a neighboring town, what starts out as potentially a great clip for her resume, suddenly turns dangerous and ugly. Someone will do anything to block the mall’s construction. Dirty money, nasty politics, and shady land deals abound as Maggie pursues the scoop that might jumpstart her career. When murder is added to the mix, she realizes that meeting her deadline might be the last thing she ever does. We loved writing this book. Frankly, we agreed that we’d each pick Maggie Brooks as a friend, which makes it easy to write her with one voice.
Writing is a journey. When we begin a new book or story, like the reader who will see our words months later, we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen to the characters and how the mystery will be solved. We just know we want to find out – together.
Rhonda and Marian, thanks so much for this delightful and informative post. I can see one added advantage of writing as a team: shared enthusiasm and a new chapter in the mail are powerful incentives to keep one’s nose to the grindstone.