It takes two to tango

We’ve been asked several times now what it’s like to write with another person. And not just to write, but to write steamy sex scenes. How do we do it? What’s it like to share such intimate prose with another? Do we always agree?

As both halves of Vina Jackson come from a racey romance or erotic writing background, we’re accustomed to exploring what our characters do behind closed doors in more detail than the average writer, so we took the saucy content of the EIGHTY DAYS series in our collaborative stride with barely a blush.

However, we did find it necessary to keep our voices down in the cafes and restaurants where we plotted the novels, to avoid offending neighbouring patrons who might not have been aware that our discussions of lascivious love affairs and tawdry love triangles were fictional!

The method was simple. We each chose a character to write, one of us as Summer and the other as Dominik, and then wrote chapter over chapter in alternating voices.

Initially when we were just experimenting with the idea and hadn’t yet been signed by a literary agent or won a publishing deal with Orion, we had a little more time up our sleeves so this was simple enough. One of us would work while the other would play, waiting to begin the next chapter, fully informed of the previous plot points and character development.

Once we were under deadline though, and with other work commitments to complete as well, we realised that we’d have to double our pace, bite the bullet, and write our chapters consecutively.

This meant that we needed to work more closely together in terms of plotting each section, to make sure that we were moving (creatively) in the same direction, and we were soon exchanging anywhere between twenty to fifty emails per day (making going back to check a past conversation close to impossible!)

However, our muses being as they are – stubborn, fickle creatures, predisposed to encouraging Character A to do X when the outline says she should do Y – meant that nine times out of ten we were collaboratively dancing in the dark, one of us working on a character or a plot point in Chapter 8, the other doing the same in Chapter 9, and hoping that the two would entwine perfectly.

Remarkably, that was the case in almost every exchange of chapters, bar the odd minor adjustment.

We would then edit each other’s work, checking that our writing partner had moved ‘our character’ along the way that we imagined they should, and correcting each other’s repetitions or making changes to improve the flow, and occasionally writing a paragraph for the other when one of us was stuck or more of an expert on the local geography of our setting, or the best way to tie up a lover.

We also swapped a chapter in two out of three volumes to keep our writing fresh and our reader’s guessing, so at some point during both EIGHTY DAYS YELLOW and BLUE, Summer has written as Dominik, and Dominik as Summer.

Whether we started in sync or we became that way is difficult to say, but by the time that we came back to our finished work to complete final edits and proof reading, neither of us was entirely certain which sections the other had written.

We hope that our audience enjoys reading Summer and Dominik’s adventures as much as we enjoyed writing them.

The first volume EIGHTY DAYS YELLOW was published in early August, and its sequels EIGHTY DAYS BLUE and EIGHTY DAYS RED are out in September and October. At the time of writing, EIGHTY DAYS YELLOW is no 6 on the Sunday Times bestseller list and has sold translation in ten countries as well as the US.

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