I’m pleased to be welcoming Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus to the blog today and the blog tour for their new book, The Book Ninja. Hello to you both. Thank you so much for joining me today. Your book is called The Book Ninja (I love the title.) Can you tell me about it and what inspired it?
The Book Ninja is a quirky, romantic, comedic love letter to friendship, soulmates and books! The protagonist of the story, Frankie, is desperate to shake things up – she is frustrated in life and in love.
An author, with a serious case of writer’s block and post-horrifically-bad-reviews blues, Frankie decides to take fate into her own hands and embarks on the ultimate love experiment. Her plan? Plant her favourite books on trains inscribed with her contact details in a bid to lure the sophisticated, charming and well-read man of her dreams. Her journey leads her to stumble across some very wacky dates, some astonishing discoveries, some great literature and, overall, leads her to find herself.
The story is inspired by our community initiative, Books on the Rail, which we co-founded in April 2016 after Ali lived in London and became friends with the co-founder of Books on the Underground, Hollie Fraser. As part of this project, we set books loose on public transport around Australia for people to find, read and then return for somebody else to enjoy. Thanks to our growing team of some 1000 Book Ninjas, who place their own books on their local trains, trams and buses, with a Books on the Rail sticker attached to it, we have over 5000 books traveling around Australia.
What’s your step by step process when planning a novel? How do you separate the workload and what are the challenges of co-writing a novel?
At first we started writing side by side, piano style. Then we realised how difficult that was! We discovered that the best way to write was to, in the words of one of our favourite authors, Graeme Simsion (The Rosie Project), become plotters, not pantsers (writing by the seat of ones pants). Before we started writing anything, we came together for huge plotting sessions, during which we would map everything that would take place in each chapter down to a tee. Then, we simply divided the chapters up between us and wrote one each. We passed the chapters back and forth between us to edit and put our writing style into each chapter. We’ve written so closely together that now our tone is basically a blend of the both of us! So much so, when reading back over the book, we often find it difficult to pinpoint who wrote what!
One of the biggest challenges of co-writing? Well, Ali always used to be a pantser (writing by the seat of her pants). She let the characters lead the story and the plot line, and she discovered what would happen as she went. With two people – it’s a bit tricky to do that. So her writing style has definitely changed quite a lot, from being a pantser to a plotter. We also had slightly different tones when we started writing (Ali is more dialogue heavy, Michelle more descriptive)! But now we’ve found a happy medium and we absolutely love writing this way.
What’s your approach to editing?
Do it. And do it often! Being co-authors, we’re lucky, because whatever we write, it always gets edited by the other person. This means we’re constantly in editing mode. When Ali writes something, Mich will edit it, and visa versa. The problem is, we can’t stop editing – we constantly think we can keep making our work better and better, which makes it hard to let go and finally submit our manuscript!
What is your favourite word and why?
Mellifluous – because it literally means a pleasant sounding word, which is what it is! We love the sound of it.by