Today I’m interrupting the series of interviews spotlighting novels with LGBTQ+ characters to introduce a co-writing pair who have done something I think is equally brave: co-written a novel while being married. I’ve worked with my fiance on some creative things but the idea of co-writing a novel with anyone freaks me out. Anyway, enough about me, here’s the blurb for their debut novel, Playing with Fire:
The rules are simple: Get in. Get out. Get paid.
Loner Renee Devereaux is a thief with a lot to hide, and trust is a risk she rarely takes. Stone Anders is a mercenary and hitman, but being a hired killer isn’t fitting like it used to. But while they are criminals, they are anything but common. Renee and Stone are Talents, and their supernatural powers give them an edge in a high stakes business where one wrong move could be their last.
It’s always just one job, and everyone scatters—sometimes in less than favorable circumstances. For Renee and Stone, that’s business as usual. But things change.
A chance at revenge draws Renee and Stone into a job they know they shouldn’t take. The job: Steal a dangerous magical artifact before it can be used. Along with the deadline, they’ll have to deal with a loudmouth hacker with problematic connections, a rookie who still believes in ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ and a professional liar with a cat’s curiosity.
Worse, something just doesn’t feel right.
But this is their job. They have a reputation to maintain, a paycheck to earn, and a score to settle….
And now to learn about how Playing with Fire came to be:
1. Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Playing with Fire?
Playing with Fire is an urban fantasy novel that features a set of supernatural thieves. This book follows two of them, Renee and Stone, through four different criminal jobs in four different locales and spans over a decade. Playing with Fire also introduces the three other planned point of view characters of the series during the fourth job: Rook, Carlos, and Grace.
2. What part of the story came to you first & whose idea did it start as?
The characters, Renee specifically. At dinner one night, Clare started musing about a magical thief that could turn invisible, and what that might mean in the criminal underworld. It ballooned from there. Stone followed pretty soon after that, and the story started taking shape as the relationship between the two got fleshed out. We had a ‘who’ and a ‘why;’ the rest was just figuring out a lot of ‘whats’ and ‘hows.’
3. How much planning did you do before Playing with Fire?
Before? Next to none. Just a concept and an idea, really. We hit the ground running, but we started planning as we went along—especially once it beecame clear we really had something worth pursuing here. The first fifteen pages (which covers the first of the four jobs in the book) was almost completely drafted (the first draft of it at least) before we started planning much out. But then we started nailing down details. As with most authors, we have a bunch of notes for stuff that doesn’t actually appear in the text. For now.
4. As co-writers, how do you split up the work?
We tend to alternate. First Clare will write a section (usually a few pages) before handing it off to Cris. He’ll then read through and edit/change/add to Clare’s work before writing a section himself. Then Clare will get it back and the cycle continues. Works great for when one of us gets writer’s block because we can see if the other will have ideas. We don’t disagree often, but when we do find ourselves with different ideas, we’ll stop and figure out which one fits better. Sometimes Cris is right. Sometimes Clare is. But there is a definite bonus in having more than one idea to play with.
5. Have either of you written novels on your own before/would you?
We’ve both written some stuff individually, but none of it is published or even to a point where we’re truly happy with it all. Clare has an unfinished historical, and Cris has a completed draft that was an attempt at horror and another epic fantasy that largely started as a joke between friends. But this is the project that’s gotten the farthest and also reached a level where we’re looking forward to sharing it publicly and publishing it.
6. Why did you decide to self publish Playing with Fire?
We did submit the draft to a more traditional publisher at first, but we never heard anything back. We considered submitting to others, but ultimately decided to put it out there ourselves. We didn’t want to let our work sit there—just waiting for the right moment—when we could share it ourselves. Who knows? Maybe we’ll try again for traditional publishing again; maybe not.
7. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned so far during the publishing process?
That Rise Against’s Give It All is remarkably inspiring when combatting a final 25-page stretch writer’s block, and Dr. Pepper and whiskey isn’t as bad a mix as one would think. More seriously, it’s that we work really well together so long as we keep from stepping on each other’s toes. We can think of several reasons why this project shouldn’t have worked. But here we are, and it’s a good feeling. But that’s writing the book, not publishing it. On the publishing side, the most unexpected thing has actually been how hard it is to sum up the 80k+ word book into a good blurb. Who knew that 200 words would be so challenging?
8. Who are some of your favourite self published authors?
Right now, there are more indie authors on our To Be Read list than on our Read one. So naming favourites at this point doesn’t quite feel right. Clare has done a lot of beta reading lately, so there are definitely some WIPs that she’s looking forward to seeing the final result. And Cris has read and reviewed an Advance Reader Copy for indie-turned-traditionally published author, Michael Munz. The ARC was for Munz’s first traditionally published book, Zeus is Dead.
9. If you could give an aspiring writer only one piece of advice what would it be?
Don’t stop. We don’t care how bad that reads on paper, how stupid that sounds in your head, or how cliché that looks. Don’t. Stop. It can be fixed. You can do it better. You can revise. You can edit. You can update. But only if you get the words on the page, and Don’t Stop.
10. What are you looking at that readers can look forward to?
Well, Playing with Fire is actually the first in a series of books that feature these characters. We’re editing the second one, Fly by Night, now. And we’ve started working on the story for the third, Shifting Identities. The point of view shifts with each new book, so each one has its own voice and flavor and gives the reader a chance to get to know the characters in a way that can only come from getting inside their head.
Cris and Clare Meyers met in college, but didn’t start writing together until several years later. When they’re not writing, they can often be found reading (little surprise there, writers that also read). They also play a wide variety of games—some tabletop miniature games like Malifaux and Warhammer 40K (though the 40K is all Cris), an eclectic mix of board games, and of course, some video games. They live outside Chicago, but love to travel (though they don’t get to do that as often as they like).