It seems hard to believe that The Blissfully Dead is our sixth novel together! We never set out to write a series, but somehow when DI Patrick Lennon sprang off the page in From The Cradle*, we knew that we wanted to have him feature in more books, and the reactions to him from readers have been exactly what we hoped. We are about to start on Book 3 and cannot wait. In the meantime, we wanted to tell you a bit about how The Blissfully Dead came about.
The initial idea for it came from a TV documentary called Crazy About One Direction, which was shown on Channel 4 in the UK in 2013. In this documentary, a number of teenage fans of the titular boy band demonstrated their extreme love for their idols and revealed the rivalry and jealousy that can spring up when emotions are high and hormones are running riot. One interesting thread of the documentary focused on fan fiction and ‘shipping’, the creation of stories in which members of the band are engaged in a love affair.
The documentary itself was illuminating, but the reaction of One Direction’s fans was even more fascinating. Twitter exploded with outrage and horror, the girls who appeared on the programme were vilified and, bizarrely, thousands of fans began to tweet claims that a number of ‘shippers’ were so distraught they had committed suicide. These claims were false, but it demonstrated how fandom and social media can collide to create what can only be described as hysteria.
We are both big music lovers and first bonded over our love of The Cure (whose song ‘Lullaby’ gave this novel its title). Also, Louise used to work in the music industry. We knew writing a novel set in that world would be fun.
As we started to write The Blissfully Dead, and to think about the relationship between fans and celebrities, our thoughts turned to the Operation Yewtree investigations of the last few years. We should point out that all of the characters in The Blissfully Dead are fictional and not based on any real people, but some of the cases referred to in the book, including Ian Watkins, the former singer with Lostprophets, are factual. OnTarget are not based on One Direction but are a composite of all the manufactured bands who have inspired devotion over the years.
So how did we write it? This is the question we get asked more than any other: exactly how do two people go about writing a novel together? We live several hundred miles apart (that’s not too bad; we wrote our first novel with one of us in London, the other in Tokyo) and don’t meet up very often. But when we start, we get together and discuss the basic plot of the book and create a chapter plan.
We follow the ‘driving in the dark’ method of writing, where you can only see a certain distance ahead. So our initial chapter plan might cover the first ten chapters. We divide them up and get going. One of us writes a chapter and sends it to the other. That person edits it and makes comments, then sends it back. When we are both happy with the chapter it goes into a master document.
Our books nearly always have multiple narrators, so we each choose characters to write, though we take turns to write from our main character’s point of view. There are certain types of scene that suit us best. For example, Mark usually writes action scenes and Louise tends to write more emotional chapters. But we mix these up more than we used to. We’re not saying who writes the sex scenes . . .
During the writing of the novel we meet several times to discuss the plot and when we finally reach the end, we both go through and produce a huge list of points to be addressed. But co-writing is much easier than writing a novel solo because you get instant feedback and somebody to bounce ideas off. We highly recommend it – as long as you find the right person. It’s no lie to say that over the course of six novels together we have never argued. We imagine that married couples who co-write books have far more heated discussions than we’ve ever had!