Writing can be solitary and also rather frightening – and sometimes it can feel like going mad (and I write in an attic). Writing with Sean is less solitary and less frightening, and there’s something rather exhilarating about going mad with another person – folie a deux. In many ways the actual process of writing isn’t so different from when I write solo novels, because Sean and I actually never write together (we did try once, at the end of our first book, The Memory Game, in an act of symbolic unity – but it was dreadful: we took about an hour to come up with one drab sentence, and squabbled throughout).
There are things that are straightforwardly lovely and fun – like the planning, when we go for long walks, or sit over coffee and tea and wine, and bounce ideas off each other without fear of being ridiculous. But usually the advantages are also the challenges – what’s good about writing together can also be what’s hard. We have to trust each other and to be vulnerable in front of each other. We have to allow the other to edit an even to erase our precious words. And there’s nowhere to hide – most relationships thrive with areas of separation, with boundaries .
But we live together and work together and boundaries have crumbled away. I can’t pretend to Sean that my day’s been good when he can see that I’ve only written a paragraph. It’s hard to complain to him about my colleague at work when he is my colleague at work. On the other hand, when it goes well, it’s doubly exciting. We can pull each other along. And when it goes badly, we can protect each other, stand behind each other.
Perhaps writing is a way of exploring the world. Sean and I are exploring the world together. And I think that feeds into our collaborative writing.
Also, there are days when I can have a bath, go on a long walk, go shopping, meet friends – and still Nicci French is working.
Nicci’s new book, The Twilight Hour has just recently been released by Penguin and is available from most major bookstores.
Novel Kicks is a blog for story tellers and book lovers.
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