As part of the WOW! Women on Writing Book Blog Tour, please welcome authors (and sisters!) Joanne Lewis and Amy Lewis Faircloth as they share the journey of researching and writing a beautiful novel about a mother and her son with Asperger’s syndrome.
After the interview, please leave a comment or question for Joanne or Amy for a chance to win a Kindle version of Wicked Good.
Details of the second contest (to win $100) follow the interview, as well.
It was a chilly day in Maine when Amy received the call from her sister, Joanne, “Wanna write a book together?” Amy said yes and the journey began.
Amy is the older sister who loves her 2 sons and nephew, dogs, volunteering at the Bangor Humane Society, running, hiking, snowshoeing, surfing the web, her brown poodle Teddy, Lola, writing, reading, cycling, going to bed early, spending time with her friends and family, being outdoors when it’s nice outside and indoors when it’s not, and editing Joanne’s writing. She is a pescatarian and a lawyer in Maine.
Joanne is the younger sister who loves her 3 nephews, her grey poodle Frisco, writing, hiking, snowshoeing, kayaking, cooking, traveling, Florence, Italy, anything to do with the Italian Renaissance, Michelangelo, spending time with her friends and family, and being edited by Amy. She a vegetarian and a lawyer in Florida.
Two sisters, both attorneys; as sisters, Amy and Joanne have learned to play to each others strengths—an important lesson for any co-authors.
Interview by Mary Jo Campbell
1. How did the idea of this story emerge and develop?
Joanne had written several novels and was between books. Amy had never written a book nor even thought about writing one. One day, on a whim, we decided to write a novel together for no other reason than we figured it would be a fun thing to do. The initial idea was about a mad scientist who seeks to extract DNA from a boy with Asperger’s syndrome in order to cure cancer. It didn’t take long before we realized that was a dumb idea. Over time and through many drafts, the story of a mother (Archer) and her adopted son (Rory) who has Asperger’s syndrome and searches for his birth parents began to emerge.
2. What was the research process like? Please share how you began, who you reached out to and how many notes were “left on the cutting room floor?”
As we developed the plot, we researched the issues that came up. We don’t out-line since we like the writing process to be organic. As we plotted if there was something we needed more information on we would stop writing and do the research until we felt comfortable continuing. Also, after we finished a draft that we felt good about, we would fill in gaps with additional research. To research, we used different processes. We used the Internet and books. For example, Rory loves lawn mowers and gas globes in Wicked Good. We knew very little about both. We learned a lot about them by researching on the Internet and reading books. We visited actual locations for the novel such as Bangor, Maine and Salem and Gloucester, Massachusetts. We asked questions of people who might have first-hand information. We also do a lot of research just by being aware of our surroundings, watching and listening. Amy’s son (Joanne’s nephew) has Asperger’s syndrome so her life is filled with experiences that could be used in Wicked Good. Just watching and listening to her son gave her information as to how Rory might act in a situation. We are both keenly aware of our surroundings and the people we come into contact with. For example, in the novel, Archer gives Rory the candy Skittles that she calls his feel-good pills. Amy got that idea from a friend who had done the same thing with her son. It’s these real life touches that make the fiction world of Wicked Good appear very real. As far as reaching out to people, there is a police officer in the novel so we contacted a friend of ours who is a former police officer to make sure we got the character of Campbell correct. It took us 3 years to go from inception to completion of Wicked Good with maybe 20 different drafts of the novel. Not a lot of research was left on the cutting room floor since our research is narrowly targeted. However, a lot of the novel was left on the cutting room floor. We did a lot of editing of Wicked Good. And when we thought we were done editing, we edited some more!
3. You’re both lawyers with families. Please give us a glimpse into your writing routine/schedule. How do you fit it all in? And, more importantly, how do you get your family onboard?
Amy: I not only work as an attorney but I am on the Board of the Bangor Humane Society and volunteer there too. I write after work, Sunday afternoons and in bed before I go to sleep if I’m not too tired. I have two teenage boys who are quite happy when I am out of their hairs! Jo: I work as an attorney and volunteer as well. I write when I’m not working. Before work, after work, evening, weekends, sometimes until the wee hours of the morning. I don’t like a definite schedule. It’s not easy juggling a full-time job as an attorney with being a novelist but our family knows how important this is to us so they are completely on-board. Amy: We have also learned when not to write. Many times, it’s important to shut off the computer and spend quality time with our families. That’s why I always try and have dinner with my sons. Jo: I completely agree.
4. Like I mentioned, I was pulled into Archer and Rory’s world from page one. The dialogue and setting are so strong. The emotion is tense, yet fragile. I’m always curious how many drafts writers go through from 1st to finished. Can you share your revision process? (i.e. Do you revise while writing; revise by hand, on computer; use a special technique, etc.?)
We do all our writing on the computer. Amy lives in Maine and Joanne lives in Florida so we e-mail drafts back and forth. We went through about 20 drafts of Wicked Good. After we got a handle on what the plot was going to be, we wrote it straight through without any major editing. We just wanted to get a first full draft done that was starting to look like the novel we wanted to write. Eventually, when we felt we had completed a decent draft, we gave a copy to each member of our mother’s book group. They took it very seriously, which we really appreciate. We went to the meeting when they discussed Wicked Good and they ripped it apart! While it was painful then, looking back it was an amazing experience. We dusted ourselves off and got back to work. We revise on the computer. When we make a lot of revisions and the draft starts to look significantly different, we save it under another name so we have all our drafts on our computers. And we back up everything on an external hard drive. Thank you for enjoying Wicked Good. There is nothing we want more than for people to get lost in Archer and Rory’s world as we did.
5. What were the highs and lows of co-authoring a book? Do you think these were intensified because you’re sisters?
The highs of writing the book feel endless. We know that sounds hokey but it really is true. Everything about writing Wicked Good is better because we are sisters. From day one, we decided to have fun writing Wicked Good. We both have good jobs so while we love writing we do not approach it with an expectation to make livings as full-time authors. That takes a lot of pressure off of us. The highs were speaking and e-mailing each other every day and learning about each other’s lives in a way we had never known before. The biggest high now is looking back and realizing what we have accomplished together. While we were great friends before we began writing Wicked Good, we are now the best of friends. We guess it could have gone the other way but are glad it didn’t. We’ve never had a fight over Wicked Good. If we have a disagreement over the plot, we discuss it and usually reach a compromise very quickly. However, if Amy is adamant about plotting or characterization, she usually prevails since she is the one who lives with a child on the autism spectrum and is most qualified to keep Wicked Good realistic in that regard. And she is the older sister too! The lows have really involved post-publication and marketing. The reviews have been great and Wicked Good has won an award and is up for another award (to be announced in October) but getting Wicked Good out there has been difficult. We know it takes one reader at a time. We are hoping as more people read Wicked Good and they tell their friends who tell their friends…so please, if you enjoy Wicked Good, please tell your friends and family.
6. Do you have any future writing projects planned together or individually?
Yes, to both. We are working on the second book in the Wicked series called Wicked Wise. In Wicked Good, Rory is fifteen years old. In Wicked Wise, he is nineteen and graduating high school. We are planning on following Rory into old age. We are hoping to have Wicked Wise released in 2012. Individually, Joanne is in the final editing process of a historical fiction novel called The Lantern that will be released by the end of this year, or early 2012.
Please leave a comment or question for the authors to be entered to win a Kindle version of Wicked Good! Winner will be randomly selected and announced tomorrow, Wed. Sept 21
And, now the deets on the $100 contest:
Have you ever said something that totally stopped conversation? Maybe it was insightful. Maybe it was weird. Maybe it was the thing everyone was thinking but was afraid to say. Rory, the teenage character in Wicked Good, is the master of conversation stoppers—his family calls them “Roryisms”.
WOW! is hosting a “Roryism” contest; the winner will receive a $100 prepaid Visa card and their Roryism will be published in the next book in the Wicked series. Full details can be found on The Muffin. http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/2011/09/wicked-good-by-amy-lewis-faircloth-and.html