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Behind the Book: Why Write with a Friend?

Celeste Bradley and Susan Donovan locked themselves in a hotel room to write  Courtesan’s Guide to Getting Your Man on sale May 24, 2011.   They wrote this post to tell you why.


Courtesan's Guide to Getting Your ManWriting is a lonely job. You spend your days inside your own head. Your workplace is a room in your house, or sometimes a coffee shop if you can’t stand the isolation any longer. Your workmates are imaginary. You type endlessly into a machine and it just seems to soak up the words without giving anything back. Even after an idea is fully developed, which takes many weeks, a book can take 200 to 300 hours to write, 100 more to rewrite and edit—hours a writer most likely spends alone.

That’s not to say it’s a bad job. It’s wonderful. We get paid to make things up. We don’t have to put on adult clothes very often—in fact, I think most of us live in sweatpants or pajamas. We don’t have a daily commute and if we have children, we see them a lot. Our lunch breaks contain marshmallow fluff sandwiches and cartoons. No one cares if we take a sick day or two—or ten.

But it is a very solitary way of life.

So if a friend—one who writes wonderful books that are smart and funny—calls you up to suggest writing a book together, and she has a really good idea, and together you make it a great idea, and your agent loves it and your publisher loves it—well, you can see why we had to give it a try!

Mornings that used to be spent staring out of the window while the coffee turned cold—or sometimes spinning in the chair while staring at the ceiling—were then spent brainstorming on the phone, laughing and gasping (“Oh my gosh! That’s genius!”) our way through a story that set our imaginations on fire.

We traveled to Denver for RomCon and stayed on, developing the story, drinking wine and laughing until we had every scene in the book mapped out. We met in New Mexico and we holed up in Santa Fe, drinking coffee and writing and reading and discussing—and shopping (Duh!)—until we had a first draft ready to turn in.

Susan is an early bird. Celeste is a night owl. Together we managed to work nearly 16 hour days. If you’ve ever wondered how much you could accomplish if there were two of you, we can testify that it’s amazing.

Then for the revision stage.  We met in Maryland where we sat in Susan’s beautiful dining room (with original hardwood floors!) and sometimes on her porch (due to doggie flatulence!) and drank tea and wrote and rewrote and asked each other random questions like, “What kind of marital aid would you take to a Regency orgy?” until we had a finished book that we eyed with wonder.

How could this fun-filled holiday with a girlfriend have created such a great book? When had we forgotten how hard writing is and remembered to simply play?

The book is finished and is nearly on the shelves. The friendship not only survived the process but grew and deepened. New books are being written by us as individuals, although we hope to repeat the co-writing experience very soon.

We learned a lot from each other. Susan is a consummate professional who works steadily and great discipline. Celeste is wildly creative but  practices neurotic avoidance until the last possible moment. We stretched each other boundaries in both directions and still ended up friends!

Celeste discovered that what she was avoiding was the isolation itself. It was a revelation to realize that we don’t have to be alone to write good books.

Writing has become fun again. The childish joy in “playing pretend” has been returned to us. More than that, we are better writers,  happier people, and a better friends from this experience. Having such an amazing partner in imagination makes the creative act more than a duty, even more than a simple pleasure. It makes it a celebration.


Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. coribo25
    May 16, 2011 @ 06:20:05

    I understand how the brainstorming can be beneficial, but how do you go about actually writing the drafts of the book as in the physical words on the page? A chapter each? One writes, the other dictates? I always wonder how that part of co-authorship works?

  2. Christine M.
    May 16, 2011 @ 08:07:28

    What coribo25 asked! :)

  3. Bonnie Dee
    May 16, 2011 @ 08:31:43

    Writing has become fun again. The childish joy in “playing pretend” has been returned to us.

    Yep. I’ll testify to that. I’ve co-written with several different authors and it’s always such a joy to have someone to talk to about what should happen next. Summer Devon and I tend toward my chapter-your chapter, but I know one writing duo who do kind of a role-playing thing by taking on certain characters.

  4. Gabriella Hewitt
    May 16, 2011 @ 08:40:49

    “Susan is an early bird. Celeste is a night owl. Together we managed to work nearly 16 hour days. If you’ve ever wondered how much you could accomplish if there were two of you, we can testify that it’s amazing.”

    It is amazing! Kudos to your two:) I am part of writing team too. Patrizia live in Japan and I live in NC, USA. I work the morning shift, she works the night shift. It is more fun with a friend. The scariest part is that we do think alike.

  5. Lori
    May 16, 2011 @ 10:40:11

    When I write with my BFF we love to bounce ideas off each other, try to stump the other one and it is just a lot more fun.

    We’ll be reading this.

  6. Janine
    May 16, 2011 @ 13:02:43

    What an interesting post about the effects of collaboration. I would love to hear more of the nitty gritty details, such as how you decided who would write what or what your editing process was like.

  7. Shanna
    May 16, 2011 @ 20:36:11

    I loved this book. The combination of contemporary and historical was really fantastic and their writing styles really complement each other.

  8. Fae Sutherland
    May 18, 2011 @ 21:02:26

    @Bonnie Dee:

    That’s how my co-author and I write. We each take a character, write the entire thing in back and forth role-play form and then, when it’s done, revise it into proper POV based on which character has the most at stake in a scene. It works very well for us.

    We tried the alternating chapters and it just wasn’t as much fun. It’s more fun for us to go running to the inbox to see what the other character has to say this time! :)

    Wonderful article, ladies, so glad you joined forces and discovered the joy of joint writing! Good luck with your new release.

  9. Celeste Bradley
    May 19, 2011 @ 02:01:56

    Celeste here. Susan and I just returned from a research trip to Spain (yes, you can do research while lying on a Mediterranean beach and guzzling cava! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!)

    First of all, how fun to write a post for DearAuthor! We LOVE Jane. It was kind of like writing to a friend.

    Second, your comments…

    coribo25 and Christine M, since Susan and I each wrote “half a book” (it wasn’t really like that but I’ll explain) first we plotted out our own stories, while constantly conferring on how the other’s story went. Then we mingled the stories, adding and deleting to make them blend better. Then we lost all discipline and began pawing through each other’s work, suggesting and compromising and rewriting. No fighting, no biting. Really. It was all very grown-up. So it is very difficult to point to any specific portion of the book and say “That was just Celeste” or “That was only Susan.”

    Bonnie D–we never thought of that! Role playing sounds FUN. I’m going to make Susan be the dude.

    Gabriella–tell me about it! Susan and I not only finish each other’s sentences, sometimes I swear we start them! I feel like I finally found the other half of my brain. I knew I left it somewhere…

    Lori and Fae–I don’t think there’s any sort of handbook for this sort of thing. As you’ve discovered, you just have to fling yourselves off the cliff and figure it out on the way down. Susan gets all the McGuyver points for assembling the story in record time–using nothing more than caffeine, panic and a paperclip!

    Janine–Susan and I did a fun little Q&A with each other for our author spotlight on May’s RTonline. It concludes in the June spotlight and we cover some more of that kind of thing. So many people are curious about it that I think we’re going to put together an FAQ for our respective sites.

    Shanna–bless you! We are so thrilled with the positive response we’ve had so far–we are so proud of our baby!

    Now that we’re back in the country, we’ll continue to check for comments.

    Thanks for sharing, all!

  10. Saltitar (Seman
    May 23, 2011 @ 12:05:16

    […] exterior: – Behind the book: Why write with a friend?, no Dear Author; – Character Motivation, no Murder she writes; – 100,000 Reasons Why You Probably […]

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