With writing partner Annie Ashworth otherwise engaged, Meg Sanders— together the British duo make up Annie Sanders—graciously tackled your questions solo. Read her answers (all Briticisms intact) below. If you wish to read more about Annie and Meg, or get in touch with them, check out their Web site, anniesanders.co.uk/.
Q. How do you manage to write a novel together? Do you each focus on different parts of the story, or maybe alternate chapters?
This is the question so many people ask us. I know our arrangement is not unique but it’s still fairly unusual—probably because writing has the reputation of being a solitary occupation. Once we have an idea for a plot, we spend a long time discussing it and trying to develop the cast of characters before we start writing. We each usually take one or more characters as our own—in this book, I wrote Frankie and Ella, Annie wrote Alex and Saff, and we both wrote the Bean when she interacted with one of “our” characters. Since the narrative is related from changing points of view, we discuss where we’re going with the plot, decide which character has the best viewpoint of what’s happening (sometimes that’s an easy decision, other times less so), and then divide up the action accordingly. We write apart but get together at convenient points (usually the end of every chapter or two) to stitch together what we’ve just written and to decide how to move on.
Q. I would be very interested in knowing if Alex is more like Annie or Meg, or perhaps a combination of both?
Posted by: Helen | Friday, June 19, 2009 at 12:19 PM
Difficult question to answer. Since Annie wrote Alex, you might assume that Alex is more like her, but actually Annie is extremely well organised and runs her home and family with effortless ease—or so it appears to me. All the characters evolve from long discussion, so I suppose she’s a hybrid of our ideas. Annie and I both have children so, in many ways, our lives are more like Saff’s, with that endless domestic round and constant juggling that working mothers know so well. In fact, it was one of our conversations over coffee that resulted in the idea for the title of the book—we both decided that what we needed was a “proper” wife because we felt we were falling so far short of the ideal!
Q. I’d love to know if Frankie is based on a real live guy that they actually know!!
Posted by: Gayle Ann| Friday, June 19, 2009 at 01:58 PM
Well, it is fiction you know! He’s not based on any one person—but he is an amalgam of people and characteristics. If I did find a real Frankie, I’d be very tempted to keep him for myself because I think he’s adorable. I loved writing him and it’s very important to the plot that he’s so perceptive and considerate—as well as a bit of a domestic god!—because his character is a catalyst for the changes that take place for the various characters. At the start of the book, the characters are all slightly out of harmony with themselves—Frankie included. By the end they’re all in a much better place and see each other and themselves in a new light. (Actually, I think this is a bit of a theme in our writing—Warnings of Gales and The Xmas Factor both have elements of this, as does our new novel, Getting Mad, Getting Even, which will be published in the U.K. in September.)
Q. My question for the authors is: How in the heck did you decide to write together? The writing seems so seamless it’s as though you have created one writer from the two of you.
Posted by: Chris H| Saturday, June 20, 2009 at 09:22 PM
We’ve known each other for ages, and when Annie’s youngest child started school, we decided to try some commercial writing together (we both worked in publishing—me in books, Annie in magazines) because we thought we covered more bases together than apart. This took off a lot faster than we expected, and we were soon asked to write a series of nonfiction TV spin-offs, so we had several years writing together and synchronising our writing styles, and that certainly helped when we made the change to fiction. Eventually we got a bit tired of writing what other people wanted, so we decided to try developing a fiction idea—and came up with the plot of our first novel, Goodbye, Jimmy Choo. It very much reflected where we were in our lives at the time—we’d both moved from London to the country and we’d both reached that point in motherhood when you lift your head and think to yourself, “Well, who am I now?” It also looked at the work/life balance, which is something all women are faced with these days. It was a fun novel to write, and we’ve just gone on from there. As for the seamless writing style (!)—well, that’s very good to hear. We have similar senses of humor and do tend to finish off each other’s sentences, so that helps, and we spend a long time going over the chapters eliminating inconsistencies and smoothing over the joins. I tend to write more dialogue, Annie writes more narrative, and we edit accordingly to try to make the story flow.
We’re very glad you enjoyed the book—we wanted it to be funny overall, but to deal with some real issues of contemporary life. We know that many women have very little time to read—just moments before school pickup, or while commuting, or those few minutes before you fall asleep—so we try to write in short scenes that allow you to pick up and put down without losing the thread of the plot. Thank you so much for choosing Busy Woman Seeks Wife as your club read—and thank you for your v interesting questions! Feel free to come back to me if you have more.