When my friend told me about Kara Leigh Miller/Anaiah’s co-authoring contest, I thought it sounded very cool. To be honest, I didn’t really think I would win, which I know is what anyone who wins anything probably says. Truly though, I didn’t. When I was selected as one of five finalists, it was a mixed blessing. One of the other five was my good friend, Tara Creel, who had told me about the contest. So while I was happy to be in the top five, I also wanted my friend to win. When it was announced that I was chosen, my friend was very gracious and genuinely happy for me. In my excitement, and surprise, at having been selected, I forgot one key component of this competition. I was going to have to write a book! With someone else! That I didn’t know!
When I let that realization settle in, I was filled with questions. Questions I likely should have considered before I signed a contract. What if we didn’t mesh? What if my writing wasn’t good enough? What if I didn’t like the story? What if I irritated Kara and she thought my ideas were weird? What if I don’t like something she writes? These are all very valid questions. Writing, for me, had been a somewhat solitary activity, though I don’t think this is always the case for writers. For me, I wrote something then sent it to my CPs, revised as necessary. Yes, you have to be flexible, open to opinion and constructive criticism, but essentially, the story is yours. One of my worries, knowing Kara had started the story, was whether or not we could move the story from being hers to ours.
I’m not sure if co-authoring goes so smoothly for all partners, but settling into a routine with Kara happened with ease. All of my questions, concerns, and thoughts were validated and answered. When you tell someone you are co-authoring, they ask, “How does that work?” We email, a lot. She opened a google file that we share, that we both contribute ideas, outlines, and suggestions to. We work on the same manuscript document. If Kara feels strongly about one scene or area, she says so and takes it. If I feel the same about something else, same goes. If I am not sure of a story line, a development, or a character quirk, I ask, tell her or, bring it up in conversation. We read each other’s work to make sure the flow is consistent. My concern that I wouldn’t feel like the characters were mine too has not come to light. I feel invested in who they are and this is in large part due to Kara’s willingness to share them with me. That is not always an easy thing to do as a writer but she has done this with extreme grace.
When I’m asked, what makes it work, the most important answer, the biggest reason, is communication. That is the essential component of making a co-authoring experience work. We might not agree on certain moments in the story but by voicing our thoughts, we have been able to keep the momentum and the flow going. We have developed characters with both heart and flaws. Characters that others will be able to fall for and care about. I am so excited about this story and I never imagined that I would feel so much a part of something that I did not start. You have to choose a partner that is open and communicative. It was a risk for Kara to offer this opportunity because how can you truly know someone’s writing style, their process, until you work with them. I am very grateful she took that risk. It’s leading us to a very good place. We’re creating a story with a multitude of real life themes, such as grief, love, redemption, starting over, and taking chances. I truly don’t know if I would have the same experience with another author. Our styles have meshed very well and part of that is luck. But I think it’s also largely due to both of us being invested, willing to talk, and wanting to write a story that will stay with readers long after they close the book.
Jody Holford is co-author with Kara Leigh Miller of the romantic suspense Dangerous Love which will be available next year.