Category Archives: books

Collaborator and Writer, First Steps in Doing it Together

Collaborator…

Collaborator with colleagueBy temperament, I’m one of nature’s collaborators. Show me a team and I’m spitting on my hands and doing my bit. With enthusiasm.

In my various day jobs, I’ve loved the sense of shared enterprise. OK, I could get a bit testy when we had meetings about meetings. But mostly interaction with other people buoyed me up when I was tired, focused me when I was floundering and made laugh a lot.

And I work a whole lot better than I do on my own.

…or Loner?

No collaborator? Cold, lonely and possibly lostBut long before I had any sort of day job — heck, before I went to school — I was a writer.

Writing came straight out of my head onto the page. Nobody else had any input. How could they?

No planning sessions, no critical path analysis or team update meetings, nor any project evaluation group, either.

It never occurred to me that there was any other way to do it. I was all on my own.

Sometimes it felt cold, foggy and very lonely.

First Time Collaborator

Elizabeth Hawksley, my collaborator

Elizabeth Hawksley
(photo: Sally Greenhill)

Then my very good friend, author Elizabeth Hawksley, who teaches creative writing, said that her classes badly needed a plain book on punctuation. Two generations had missed out on grammar and style at school. They needed a guide book that took that into account. We could write one.

Together.

I admit, I didn’t see how it could work. But Elizabeth, who had worked in (AND written plays for) small scale theatre, was made of sterner stuff. We’d just sit together, discuss and then write it down and see what it looked like, she said.

What, both of us?

One would type, she conceded. But the point is there would be two voices behind the words.

Madness

Collaborators Haddon & Hawksley, Designer Harriet BuckleyIt sounded completely loopy to me. But I respected Elizabeth, trusted her judgement, and if she said it could work…
I closed my eyes and jumped.

For several months Elizabeth and I met a couple of times a week. The thing evolved. We consulted  authorities. All the time, we talked to people who might use the book — there were more than either of us had imagined! We argued a lot.

Novelists both, we knew where we wanted to end up. In this case, it was a book that would help people write clear and effective prose, be that letters, articles, essays, or even three volume novels. And we didn’t have a proper plan until we had a first draft.

Collaborator Issues

coffee to fuel collaboratorI’m not going to say it was all plain sailing. For one thing, we talked, tweaked, talked again and read it aloud. Wrote it down and came back to it next time. It was slow.

For another, our body clocks are very different. I’m at peak performance before the streets are aired. Elizabeth is much more civilised. She hits her stride after the first coffee.

When stuff got really difficult, we took it away and worked on our own versions alone and brought them back for discussion. A couple of things were highly individual. Elizabeth’s inspired Train To Edinburgh, on how to organise a piece of factual writing, was like that. In those cases, one of us would write the whole and the other was effectively beta reader/editor.

Collaborator Benefits

collaborator team workWe kept each other going.

From time to time, we each lost belief that we could complete the project (not to mention concentration). That’s when the other would just carry on climbing and then hold out a helping hand, if necessary.

We laughed a lot.

I learned more than I would have believed possible, particularly:

  • it’s a serious high when two people share a successful chapter
  • re-read on Day 2 and you can always tighten the ‘final’ version
  • how to organise a piece of factual writing
  • stop before you’re exhausted
  • muddle is creative; you just have to treat it right and not be ashamed of it.

Result

Getting the Point has been useful to lots of people, not just creative writers, and they laughed along the way, as we hoped they would. That’s been a real buzz. It’s out of print now (second hand prices are sometimes eye-watering!) and Elizabeth and I are looking at a revised edition.

happy for collaborator to see the messI became much more relaxed about letting other people see what a horlicks I made of my stories in the throes of composition.

I really enjoyed myself. Indeed, so much, that, now I’d done it once, I was, very cautiously, willing to look at doing it again…

 

to be continued  

 

This Book is Dedicated

I’ve always been fascinated by dedications in books. There’s the intriguing possibility that they are clues to something hidden. Probably private. Possibly intense. Potentially the whole reason for the book. Thrilling or what?

stuffed bookcase

This is the second time I’ve returned to the subject in this blog. First time round I wrote about a range of books, only some of which I knew really well. No, let’s be honest. One of which I detested.

This time I’m writing about one of my great loves. Twice, under pressure of space, I’ve cleared out copies from my bookshelf, believing that I wouldn’t need to read them again. Twice I’ve bought new copies.

Which Work?

Dedicated to Dorothy GanapathyThis is a dedication which intrigues me enormously. I was reminded of it by the recent sad news that  Tim Pigott-Smith has died. He played the ambiguous and haunting villain Merrick in the BBC’s epic series about the end of the Raj, The Jewel In the Crown. 

The series was based on Paul Scott’s mighty Raj Quartet.  Continue reading

Crossing Cultures and an Author Panel

Author panel participants

Earlier this month a publisher invited me to chair an Author Panel. There were four of them, all just publishing that difficult second novel. We were to meet at Waterstone’s Piccadilly and they would discuss Love and Romance Across Cultures. Their own experience and writing gave them the basic material. It sounded a blast. But I havered… Continue reading

dedicated to the one I love

Dedicating to the One You Love – or Are You?

 

Trumpets dedicating

Dedicating a book to someone is powerful. It’s an announcement with trumpets.

We’ve all read the thanks that go on for several pages. They embrace everyone from the author’s family, agent and editor, to anyone who gave them help with research or did the typing.

Justified? Probably. Sincere? Mostly. But a dedication? No. Continue reading

Be My Valentine? I Don’t Think So

old laptop with valentineWhen email was new and spam was something you found in school lunches, I once got a message on my hefty laptop headed “Be My Valentine?”

I deleted it, unopened.

With a shudder. And I’d never even heard of viruses then. I just didn’t want to go there. Continue reading

An International Cover Story

A Cover Story begins  . . .

cover story -- UK cover of A Regency Invitation 2004

original UK cover 2004

Once upon a time, three writers of Mills & Boon Historicals got together to write a book. The three were Nicola Cornick, Joanna Maitland (me!), and Elizabeth Rolls. This is the cover story of that book of three interlinked novellas —
A Regency Invitation.

This blog is not about how the book was written, though we had great fun doing it, creating three love affairs and two mysteries at our Regency house party. No, this post is about the book’s cover — where it started, how it changed over time, and how different international markets adapted the cover look of A Regency Invitation to suit their readers.

Want to know how the Japanese market presents a romance set in Regency England? You can see it further down. And it may surprise you. Continue reading

Goblin Court, Past and Present

Goblin Court cover by Sophie WestonIn one way, the whole of my writing life is encapsulated in Goblin Court, past and present.

Reading Goblin Court cat on lapGoblin Court was my second book and it is still, umpty um years later, a story that people email and talk to me about with real affection. That is like having a cat sit on your knee in front of a blazing fire at Christmas and purr hard — flattering, comforting, magical, a gift! In fact, it’s the best sort of gift that any author can have, I think. I am terribly grateful.

Goblin Court First 

Continue reading

Why go Indie? Joanna Maitland’s answers

This post on Going Indie was originally a guest piece on Sue Moorcroft’s blog. Many thanks to her for letting us repost it here, complete with new thoughts, several months on…

Back in November 2015, I wrote:

Why go indie? At the risk of stating the obvious, I’d say the answer is freedom.

indie has freedom

Freedom to ride off into the sunset. What’s not to like?

Here’s an example of independent author freedom in action. As originally published, in the Harlequin Undone! series of short ebooks, His Silken Seduction was well under 50 pages. That was the length the line required, so that was the length I wrote. Simples!

When I reread it, for the first time in more than five years, I could see that the characters were just begging for more room to tell their story. Some readers had already told me so, in fact, but I hadn’t been able to change anything, first time round.

As I struck off their shackles, the characters gave three excited cheers at the prospect of freedom and simply took charge of the story.

going indie let a thousand birds fly free

They wanted to show me what was missing before — how they were falling in love in the midst of violence, and turmoil, and the threat of war; and how they had to live each day knowing it could be their last. They still wanted me to share their passion, but also their fears, and especially the terrible choices they were being forced to make, between love and duty.

Above all, they wanted time so that their full story could be told.

How could I refuse? And so, like Topsy, the story growed. And it was a joy, for me as the author, to grow with it.

freedom figure

 

This new, much expanded version of His Silken Seduction now weighs in at well over twice the length of the original. I still call it a novella, but my Libertà partner, Sophie Weston, has reminded me that some authors have published stories of this length and labelled them novels.
Barbara Cartland, for one!

 

Cover of His Silken Seduction by Joanna MaitlandFreedom has other advantages, too. By publishing the new version of His Silken Seduction myself, I have the final say on the cover design. As a professional, I couldn’t say so in public, but I really hated the original cover. To me, it didn’t look Regency, or sexy, or even very female.

The new cover, designed by Jane Dixon Smith, has everything I wanted. It even shows the streets of old Lyons where most of the story is set. And it’s certainly sexy. I hope you like it as much as I do.


The new, expanded version of His Silken Seduction was published as an Amazon ebook on 7th December, 2015. It is available from your local Amazon store.


Reposting this here in April 2016, I’d add:

Going indie is hard work.

You have to do everything for yourself, including marketing your books (via social media, website material, book signings and the like) and you have to do all the book formatting stuff as well. That’s an awful lot of non-writing tasks, even when you use professional helpers, as I do, for editing and cover design.

indie businesswoman goes shackle freeSomewhere in the middle of all that, you still have to find the time to write!

But in spite of everything, I’m very glad I made the jump to indie. And I still say that Freedom is the answer.

If you’ll excuse a groanworthy pun, I’d even add that it’s all about Libertà!

Joanna the shacklefree