Besides running Waking Writer, I also write novels! I know…a woman who runs a site for writers and also writes. Shocker, right? Well, I recently ventured into co-writing with my spouse, Lornett B. Vestal (founder of Evolving Man Project). Coming to online retailers on January 1, 2021, Eve and the Faders will be the first novel in the Faders and Alphas two-part series or duology. Lornett and I sat down to discuss our journey into the strange world of co-writing and why we chose to write speculative fiction in particular.
Berneta: How does it feel to be sitting down to do an author interview? Did you think ten years ago that this would be happening?
Lornett: It’s a little strange. I’ve always thought about writing a book someday. I just thought it would be non-fiction and deal more with current affairs and politics. But writing speculative fiction is fun because you incorporate themes and topics of the day, exploring politics and social issues in a world of your imagination. Ten years ago, I thought I’d have a Ph.D. at this age and be teaching at a university, not writing novels with my partner. Life is a strange journey, all I can say about that.
Berneta: That’s the truth. I thought I’d still be practicing law (or teaching at a university) and writing prolifically on the side, just churning out books under a pseudonym.
Lornett: So, let’s talk about your writing. What method do you use to create characters? Do you do a lot of research to develop characters or do they just come to you?
Having someone else get into the mind of a character I created was interesting. Bouncing ideas off each other helps keep the ideas, the story, and the characters fresh. Co-writing is not an easy or a quick process, though.
Berneta: Usually, in some organic way, I get an idea for a character and that one character serves as a seed that essentially produces the story idea. That’s how it happened with Eve and the Faders. Suddenly, the character of Eve (originally Avia) came to me one day: this woman who’s a jaded and struggling schoolteacher and one day learns she has “abilities.” As you know, the character has changed quite a lot since that original character I started with, but that character was all I needed to create the story and the rest of the characters. I try to do a decent amount of research if I’m developing a character who, for instance, has an occupation that’s unfamiliar to me. A little research can go a long way toward making a character more authentic.
Lornett: I see. Having an interesting character in mind at the offset is necessary to inspire you to write a story?
Berneta: Yeah, characters are my spark. What about you? Any particular spark or experience that made you want to sit down and co-write this series, Faders and Alphas?
Lornett: I was inspired by a graphic novel I read years ago called Superman: Red Son. The authors changed Superman’s origin story: instead of landing in Kansas, he lands in Moscow during the Cold War. From there, Superman tries to shape the world in his image. It was a great graphic novel. It made me wonder what if a regular person from the margins of society develops Superman-type powers? What would their world be like, and how would it change them to realize they have godlike abilities? I always wanted to write a story tackling those questions.
Berneta: How long had you been thinking about this story idea?
Lornett: For years. Long before we met, before I knew about your idea for the character, Eve.
I think I prefer co-writing now, and that’s not something I ever thought I’d say!
Berneta: I remember when we first talked about your story idea about Supes. I was in the first draft stage of Eve’s story and was like…”no, wait, that seems like it’s sort of the point of my book!” Then, you told me about a specific character you had in mind for your story, and I knew then that we had to make this a duology and co-write it. So, I got to work writing and rewriting the first book and you got to work writing the second book. It all felt very organic.
Lornett: Did you ever plan to make Eve’s story a series? Or did it just evolve?
Berneta: Part of me thought Eve and the Faders (Originally “The Flight of Avia Marie Cooper”…what a weird title!) would be a two-part series. But another part of me just assumed it would be a one-off, standalone book. Until we had that conversation about your story idea.
Lornett: What came next after that conversation is even more interesting. The process of co-writing…
Berneta: Yes, our process of co-writing is worth discussing. How would you describe the process?
Lornett: Since this was my first attempt at writing fiction, it was good to be working alongside someone experienced in the space. While I’m a big reader, I’ve always read more non-fiction and comic books, very few novels. But I was a huge fan of horror novels in my younger years. It was good to have someone focus on the story and point out plot elements that didn’t make sense. Having someone else get into the mind of a character I created was interesting. Bouncing ideas off each other helps keep the ideas, the story, and the characters fresh. Co-writing is not an easy or a quick process, though. This is years in the making!
Berneta: It’s a slow process, that’s for sure.
Lornett: How different is co-writing compared to writing solo?
Berneta: Very different. It’s more engaging in some ways and also a longer process than solo writing. You and I spent gobs of time revising this story and infusing it with our ideas in terms of character development and plot. I think I prefer co-writing now, and that’s not something I ever thought I’d say! I didn’t even think I’d ever co-write anything, so color me surprised. 🙂
Lornett: So, co-writing didn’t destroy our marriage, lol. I’d say that’s a win.
Berneta: I like to think I’m a very good team player. Lol. What would you say was the interesting part of co-writing?
Lornett: The most interesting part was taking two unique perspectives and fusing them to create a new fictional universe. I’m also happy that because we don’t take ourselves so seriously, we brought that light-heartedness to the story and injected some self-aware humor. We clicked on that aspect (the need to keep things a bit light), which made it more enjoyable and allowed us to set a casual tone. Although the characters deal with many life and death situations and horrible consequences of their actions, they never lose their sense of humor. In real life, folks use humor to get through hard times. We didn’t lose sight of that, and it made the story more human to me.
Berneta: I agree. I have a tough time with novels that take themselves too seriously. It’s possible that graduate school in English jaded me. Lol.
This conversation will conclude on December 11th, so stay tuned!
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