The two authors behind the pen name Liza Kendall have been friends for years. But writing a book together is a wholly different endeavor. In this piece, the two women behind Liza Kendall share how they teamed up to write their first romance together, Walk Me Home.
How did two veteran authors used to controlling their own fictional worlds end up writing together?
We had been friends for years and used to go on dog-sitting and writing retreats together, especially since we discovered that we actually wrote—instead of talking, watching movies, shopping or getting up to no good.
Kendall had taken a break from the crazy business of publishing, but was working on a few ideas of her own when she happened to be on a trip to San Francisco, where Liza used to live. Comically, we almost managed to meet in the airport as Kendall was leaving and Liza was returning. The result was a phone call.
Liza had come up with the idea for Silverlake Ranch and the five Braddock siblings. Kendall loved the idea, so we started brainstorming the plots of the first couple of books and developing the characters. We both got excited, and decided to form a partnership so that we could produce the stories more quickly and have fun while doing so.
Then came the first hurdle.
Liza yelled, “Let’s start writing!”
Kendall said, “Not without ten plot points in a three-act structure.”
Liza said, “But you’re supposed to be the wacky creative who studied art. Not an anal-retentive structure nut!”
Kendall said, “Yeah, but I have to rein in my free spirit or it runs around with its hair on fire, doing whatever it wants.”
Liza said, “Okaaay. But why 10 plot points?”
Kendall said, “Dunno. I guess we could have either nine or 12.”
Liza: “But not 11?”
Kendall: “No. Definitely not 11.”
Then came the second hurdle.
For efficiency’s sake, we write in Google Docs, so that we can each see the ongoing draft of the book. At first it was very intimidating to expose our raw work processes to each other. It’s sort of like running around in your underwear with your hair uncombed and only one sock on. But eventually it became amusing to see each other’s cursors on the same page.
Kendall: “Hey, Liza! Had a lot of coffee this morning, huh?”
Liza: “Yeah . . . why?”
Kendall: “Your pink cursor is skipping around like a kid at a birthday party.”
Liza: “Yours is sitting in front of the word ‘the’ as if it’s in jail.”
Kendall: “Yeah. I’m searching my neural networks for a noun.”
Liza: “Good luck with that.”
Then came the third hurdle.
Liza (the one with the business background) paradoxically writes like a free spirit, hopping around in the book, depending on which scene she feels like working on. Kendall (the one with the art background) writes like a buttoned-down business person: chronologically, line editing as she goes. Both were taken aback at the other’s work process. Interesting conversations ensued.
Liza: “Dude, why do you bother line editing before the final draft?”
Kendall: “Because I’m a professor’s kid. The grammar goblins will get me if I don’t. The typo trolls will eat me alive. The comma kamikazes will blow me up.”
Liza: “You realize how demented you sound, right?”
Kendall: “Yes. That doesn’t bother me.”
It can be a little dicey at times as we dance through each other’s scenes to edit and improve them, but we sit on our egos and it usually works out well. Fortunately, any issues that ensue are usually resolved by an official Author Therapy Phone Call. During an ATPC, both Liza and Kendall talk through any writing, plot or characterization problems, air any friendly grievances and sometimes simply agree to disagree and let our editor make a call.
We made a serious pact before starting to write together: The friendship is more important than the business arrangement. We still feel that way . . . and after writing three books so far, we are still fast friends.
We’ve each learned quite a bit from the other. Liza approaches a book with more of a director’s eye and a wide-angle lens. She enjoys building strong emotional arcs and delving into emotional nuance for both individual books and the series as a whole. She also loves writing family and ensemble scenes. Her process is to put the “bones” of a scene on the page and then keep building it.
Kendall has more of an interest in deep psychology and characterization. She’s a more formal writer and approaches a novel intending to explore what exactly makes each character “tick,” what his/her wounds are and how to heal them. Often, she focuses more on the romance than the family. Her process is to dive deep into a scene and produce it more or less completely all at once.
Both of us love humor, banter and dialogue. We’ve enjoyed creating our small town of Silverlake, its unique businesses and the friends who make it home. We can’t wait to introduce readers to the Braddock siblings and their complicated, colorful worlds. Welcome to Silverlake Ranch!
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our review of Walk Me Home.