Dear Tosh. . . One Year On

This time last year I was excited for the launch of Dear Tosh at 19.30 UK time. We, Carla Jenkins and I, had rehearsed how we wanted the launch to go and it was worth putting in the effort. Apart from a couple of minor problems (technical) it all went very smoothly. You can catch it here if you didn’t attend or just fancy another look.

To celebrate the one year anniversary of the book I gave away a signed copy to a lovely person who I met only this week in the beautiful village of Cailhau in France where The Man and I are staying for a few days. We go back to Provence on Monday and then back to England on the 10th June.

The book was well received and I’m happy to say that there are copies of Dear Tosh all over the world. The reviews have been amazing and I’m thrilled to think that the book has brought a little something into the lives of so many. If you haven’t yet got a copy you can order it from any independent book shop or from Waterstones HERE or Amazon HERE (audio version and ebook available from Amazon as well as the paperback).

Author Interview – A first on this blog but not the last I hope!

This is a first for this blog and I hope it won’t be the last. I’m delighted to be joined today by Sim Alec Sansford and Chantelle Atkins who are going to answer some questions about their book Fortune’s Well it’s the first book in their series and it’s called Hangman’s Revenge . The interview makes fascinating reading and I’m tempted to try writing something with another author myself. I’ll have to put out the feelers.

Welcome Sim and Chantelle. Thank you so much for joining me on my blog today.

First of all, a little bit of blurb about the book:

Book blurb:

In the town of Fortune’s Well a dangerous storm is brewing, and two unsuspecting teenagers are standing right at the heart of it.

For JJ Carson, life has not been easy. His father is dead, his mother arrested for the murder, and he has been forced to live on the farm with his alcoholic uncle, Henry.

Just when things could not get any worse, JJ discovers his living situation is not the only thing that makes him different from the other kids. A dark, swirling mist has made itself at home inside him and it is slowly changing him from the inside out.

Enter Darcie Duffield. Beautiful, popular, and incredibly misunderstood.

Darcie is sick of the status quo and wants to make a difference. After a chance meeting with a strange boy at the river she becomes tangled in a web of lies and deceit stretching back generations, as she tries to help save him from the darkness lurking within.

Why is this happening?

Where has it come from?

And why is Darcie the only one who can see it?

Welcome Sim and Chantelle. Thank you so much for joining me on my blog today. I’m going to throw quite a few questions at you both and here’s the first one:

How many books have you each published so far?

Chantelle: I’ve published 14 altogether.

Sim: I’m still a bit of a novice. Currently, I have one novel and a handful of short stories/novellas.

What genre?

Chantelle: A mix of adult and young adult. Coming of age, psychological thriller and suspense, family drama and mystery and crime, plus dystopian! Oh, and short stories and poetry.

Sim: I’m a firm believer in writing what you love to read, so I predominantly write Young Adult Paranormal Mystery. Although I am currently writing a Young Adult Mystery which I am enjoying.

What made you decide to write together for your latest publication?

Chantelle: Sim joined me as a director in my company Chasing Driftwood Writing Group and not long after that he asked if I’d ever consider writing with another author. I hadn’t and I’d often wondered how such a thing was possible! But we got on so well, had similar writing styles, and a mutual love of YA and character driven stories, so I thought why not?

Sim: As Chantelle says, we’d worked so well on a few writing-related projects (workshops, competitions, events) before so to me, the next step for us was to create something together. I first had the idea for a story that would take something negative (anxiety, depression) and turn it into something positive and magical. I knew I could never do the story justice alone, it needed a dual narrative, so I asked Chantelle and hoped for the best. Having become a fan of her work, I was blown away when she said, “Yes!”

Have you known each other long?

Chantelle: I first met Sim at Blandford Literary Festival in 2019 so not too long!

Sim: No, not long at all. But strangely it feels like I’ve known Chantelle my entire life. I’m pretty sure the feeling is mutual too. We’ve actually only met in person once, which is crazy for me to even think about. Writing is such a vulnerable thing and I feel like I now know Chantelle better than I know myself.

How did you meet? Or how do you know each other?

Chantelle: We had a mutual friend in Author Paula Harmon who was running Blandford Literary Festival as well. So, I met Sim there after agreeing to run a teen writing workshop.

Sim: It’s really funny actually. I remember the first time I spoke to Chantelle. I’d been running the website and social media for Blandford Literary Festival, so I’d seen her photo and info and thought she was so cool. Her books looked edgy, and dark, and that’s completely my vibe. The first time I spoke to her in person was at an event where I bought one of her books, I was so nervous I think I just said, “This please.” Then ran.

How was the experience of writing together? Did you argue a lot or just get along fine?

Chantelle: We didn’t argue once. We started with a basic idea that Sim had and both thought of a character. It just spiralled from there, with us messaging each other via Facebook to suggest plot lines etc. I wrote the first chapter and Sim responded and so on.

Sim: We just gelled together so well. We’re very similar in a lot of ways and very different in others. We see each other’s strengths and we build each other up. It was scary for me, writing with someone who already has a large catalogue of books. But it was new for Chantelle to tackle the paranormal genre, so we both taught each other things as we went. It really just flowed and took on a life of its own. I’m not sure if we are just the luckiest authors in the world, or if it was pure fluke, but it’s lasted for three books now and hopefully many more to come.

Can you talk us through the process?

Chantelle: It was all on Facebook messenger! Back and forth, suggesting ideas, messaging each other whenever we thought of a twist! It happened fast because each time one of us sent a chapter, the other would read it and get so excited they would instantly respond!

Sim: Like Chantelle says, it was very organic. Whenever we encountered a plot hole or character arc, we talked it through on messenger and found a way around it in no time.

What made you choose YA supernatural?

Chantelle: We both love YA, reading and writing it. Supernatural was a new genre for me personally but I’ve really enjoyed and embraced it now.

Sim: I am a huge fan of the supernatural/paranormal genre. This goes for everything from books to TV shows, movies, and even video games. I was a big fan of R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series as a child, I loved the bizarre twists and horror elements. As I got older, I fell in love with series like The Twilight Saga (Stephenie Meyer), The Halo Trilogy (Alexandra Adornetto), The Elixir Trilogy (Hilary Duff & Elise Allen), and my current series read, Vampire Academy (Richelle Mead).

Did you write together, sharing each chapter or did you work separately?

Chantelle: We decided early on to write chapters separately from our characters point of view and swap back and forth.

Sim: It was important for us to each have our own protagonist to focus on. It helped us keep the characters believable and we could maintain our own style. Of course, our characters do cross paths, but we had a lot of trust in each other. The characters also seemed so real to us both, that it was easy to write each other’s as if they were a living, breathing person.

How many hours a week did you work together?

 Chantelle: Ooh not sure, but we were constantly messaging every day!

Sim: I can’t give you the specifics, but I can tell you it felt like 24/7.

How often did you exchange work?

Chantelle: Sometimes every day, sometimes a few days would pass between chapters.

Sim: Let me tell you something about Chantelle Atkins… She’s not human! Chantelle was an absolute machine when it came to writing these books (bearing in mind she was writing her own four-book series at the time whilst working and being a mum). We were pretty good at doing a chapter each and sending it over within a day or two. However, there were a few delays (mostly from my side) when life would get in the way. For the most part it was quick. We completed all three books within eleven months from the original conversation.

Did you create and develop the characters together?

Chantelle: We came up with our own, but I feel like they developed alongside each other. To start with for instance, we were both conscious of getting the others character right when they were in our POV chapter but once we had gotten to know them better, it came easily.

Sim: I agree, writing each other’s characters seems second nature now. That includes the minor characters. Remember, these are teens, so they have their own friend groups, family, teachers, bullies etc. I think the thing that helped us here is we both really knew who these characters were. Whether they were a parent or a student, we knew the characters inside out.

Who came up with the idea for the book?

Chantelle: Sim!

Sim: Me. Although Chantelle wrote the first chapter, and she completely captured the world I wanted to create. I couldn’t have done it without her.

Any advice for others who are thinking of writing jointly?

 Chantelle: Definitely pick someone with a similar style and genre. Keep messaging and communicating!

Sim: As Chantelle says, communication is key. It will only work if you’re one hundred percent authentic. As we’ve proven here, writing “pedigree” doesn’t matter. Number of books is irrelevant. You need to find someone you trust who shares your visions. Someone who knows your weak points and your strengths and is willing to work with you to create something together. It’s all about teamwork and friendship.

What was the best thing about writing together and the worst thing?

Chantelle: Best thing was how addictive writing it became and how much we fell in love with the characters. I can’t think of a worst thing!

Sim: I agree! It was so exciting because you got to be a reader and a writer. Eagerly awaiting the next chapter and not sure what to expect. I guess for me the only negative was not having more time in the day to write together due to our other commitments.

What’s the next move for both of you?

Chantelle: Our company (ChasingDriftwoodWritingGroup.org) is putting together another anthology so we will be working on that together. For me, I’m working on a four-part YA post-apocalyptic series. It’s pretty much done but the first book is with beta readers, so it’ll be a while until it’s all ready. I also have a few other works in progress on the go!

Sim: Along with plans for future literary festival events (BlandfordLiteraryFestival.com) and working on various projects for our company; I am working on a YA Mystery book right now. I started the story for a university assignment sometime around 2012-15 but lost the original file. So, I started again last year from scratch, and it’s been so fun to write. I am also working on the second book in the Denver Falls Saga, the sequel to my debut novel.

Any plans for writing another book together?

Chantelle: Yes! When Fortune’s Well is fully released and done with, we will start writing another series together. This time it’s an idea I had that I think will work well in the same way. It’s a dystopian, post-apocalyptic story called The Few.

Sim: Of course! I can’t wait to get started on the next one. We have also discussed working on prequels and sequels to our Fortune’s Well series (both novels and short stories), but there’s nothing concrete right now.

A couple of fun question now:

Do you both have animals? If yes, what and what are their names?

Chantelle: Yes, I have two scruffy lurchers called Tinks and Jesse, plus various ducks, and chickens!

Sim: I have two adorable dogs, Bilbo and Buddy, and three cats named Willow, Sam, and Susie.

Have you googled yourselves?

Chantelle: Last time I did it said I had died. But it turned out to be an Eastenders character!

Sim: Yes! Mostly to check there were no embarrassing Facebook photos of me appearing now that I’m an author and publishing under my real name. I’m pleased to say it’s all book related. Sadly, no Eastenders characters. I guess I’m one of a kind!

If you could spend a day with your favourite author, who would you both pick — apart from each other or me!

 Chantelle: Stephen King without a doubt.

Sim: I have to say I agree with Chantelle on that one. King is writing royalty!

Thank you for a great insight to yourselves and your writing process. I’ve really enjoyed asking the questions and reading your answers. I plan to do more of these on my blog. So, readers, look out for the next one!