Jessica Haight & Stephanie Robinson Co-Author Interview
The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Morrow/ Middle Grade Novel
Why did you decide to co-author this work?
Jess: I have always enjoyed sharing about books with Stephanie. We have been friends for a long time, so when I wanted to turn my children’s poem into a middle grade book- it seemed natural to ask her if she wanted to write it with me.
Stephanie: I have always loved writing and have written many short stories and poems. I always hoped to write a book. When Jess asked me to co-author a book with her, I decided it was the perfect chance to begin working on one of my dreams.
How did you meet your writing partner(s)?
Jess and Stephanie: We met in English class freshman year of high school. The rest is history- and lots of it! lol : )
How long have you all been writing and why did you decide to become writers?
Jess: Ever since I realized that being an astronaut was out of the question, the idea of writing and reading stories became the main focus of my path. I have been writing and drawing for as long as I have been able to hold a pencil.
Stephanie: Ever since I was a little girl I have loved reading and creating stories. When I was younger I thought I would be a teacher during the year and spend the summer writing books (yes, that is plural). I obviously didn’t understand how much time teaching and writing would actually take! From 5th grade until the I got married I wrote in a journal almost every single day. Once I got married I didn’t keep up my daily entries, but I do write occasionally. I always thought my journals might help me when I had the time to sit down and start writing books- and I was right!
What genres do you each prefer to write and why?
Jess: Fantasy/fiction- they’re so much fun.
Stephanie: I prefer fantasy and realistic fiction. I like the fact that anything can happen with fantasy and it is magical to create new worlds. Realistic fiction has always appealed to me because I can write about themes and ideas that I like to read about and I can draw inspiration from my life and the people I have met.
What are the difficulties of co-authoring a book?
Jess: Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I see more difficulties with not co-authoring a book. I feel lucky to have Stephanie as my partner in fiction ; )
Stephanie: Oddly enough I cannot think of one! From start to finish it just felt right to write a book together.
What are the benefits?
Jess: Well, I get to chat about a fun project with my best friend. We flesh out ideas and actually get things accomplished in meetings. When the two of us get together to chat and work on the book, it feels like the world is our oyster. We divide the work up, and accept what we are both more suited to perform best. We put aside personal feelings and work on it until we are satisfied, just like we used to put together puzzles for hours in silence (oddly enough, they always had to be Harry Potter puzzles- never worked the same with any other kind). I trust her opinion, and she trusts mine- therefore it’s okay when we receive criticism. We are able to take the critique and look at it from a positive point of view- this can be very satisfying and really clears the mind. Plus, it’s great to have someone else who understands exactly what you are trying to say, even if you can’t get the words out right.
Stephanie: Having two authors was an adventure that was exciting at every turn. Jess and I agreed early on that we would always be honest with each other and that we wouldn’t take things personally. We wanted to create the best story we could, and we knew that we would need to put our egos aside. Luckily, we have always had a relationship in which we could tell the other person exactly how we felt. Jess and I spoke daily about Fairday and the DMS. We flushed out characters, storylines, and everything else both in person and on the phone. Our meetings were always productive and helped us to be on the same page. We used Google Docs, which allowed us to write in one document from anywhere. I even worked on the book in Poland and during my travels to Yellowstone National Park. Usually one of us would start a chapter and the other person would go in and start working their magic- adding, deleting, and crafting the writing until it was a blended expression of both of our ideas. It was a blast writing with Jess and I am thankful to have her on this incredible journey!
What is the process for jointly writing a book?
Jess: We usually sit on Stephanie’s porch and talk about our ideas- she writes them down as we put together the pieces. Then, we write. Google Docs has been great- this way, we are able to collaborate in real time. I will sketch out a chapter that we’ve previously discussed, and then share it with Stephanie. She will go through it and add or omit. Then, I go through it again- then she goes through it again- possibly there are two or three more times until we are both satisfied with the direction, sentence structure, and fluidity of the chapter. Then, we move on. It’s a lot of work and a lot of time, but it’s also extremely fun- like Tetris with words.
Stephanie: Jess said it perfectly. We also talk each day to flush out ideas, talk about characters, and discuss the book in general. We got together for in person meetings about every other month and would read the book aloud together making edits. Every time we get together we work for hours and hours and have the most productive meetings!
What are your plans for marketing the book and where can readers purchase the work?
Jess and Stephanie: Oh, we have so, so many ideas. We continually learn about how to market our book. We are lucky to have a wonderful agent working with us. Currently, the book is not for sale. However, readers can connect with the DMS on our blog, facebook page and twitter networks, where we continually host book giveaways and other wonderful resources for kids who love to read, including author interviews and tricky riddles. In January, we will be talking to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders at a Connecticut elementary school about our book and our writing process. We can’t wait to share our love of reading and writing with these young readers.
Where can readers learn more about you and your writing?
Stuff for readers to do on our sites:
Into the Begonia House (online game)
Any tips for other authors wanting to co-author?
Tips: If you decide you want to co-author a book with someone else make sure it is someone that you trust. It is necessary to have an honest relationship with the person so that you can both pursue your dreams and you both need to agree with where the book is headed. Co-authoring is working together at its best and it is important to write with someone who has the same work ethic as you do. It is also a good idea to set up ground rules before you start the writing process.
Any other news you’d like to share?
Fear not the unexpected.
Book Short Synopsis:
The Begonia House keeps its secrets. Everyone knows that. Everyone, that is, except for clever eleven-year-old Fairday Morrow, whose family has just moved in. Being the Senior Investigator in the Detective Mystery Squad, more commonly known as the DMS, she’s ready to uncover the mysteries hidden within the strange manor. As the investigation gears up and the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place, the DMS enters into a world where anything is possible, and the danger is most definitely real. Follow along with Fairday and her friends, as spooky meets lovely in this twisting tale of dark secrets and hidden pasts.
Jessica is a quintessential New Englander, harboring a desperate need to be near the ocean and a personal desire to experience the four seasons every year. Now at the age of 38, she lives in New Fairfield, CT with her finance, James, her dog, Jack, and her cat, Bill.
Stephanie lives with her husband in a quiet town in Connecticut, though not as quaint as Ashpot. She has been a fifth grade teacher for over ten years and learns something new every day. When she isn’t working, Stephanie spends her time writing, reading, and traveling.