Write Byte

A Beloved Duo Talks About Writing as a Team

We asked Sharon and Tom Curtis, aka Laura London, to talk about writing romance as a team, writing together as wife and husband, and writing as a woman and a man. Here is what they had to say:

Writing fiction is a strange process - taking the gleanings of one imagination and trying to distill those into a logical and coherent story that will have meaning or at least interest to someone else.

Collaboration is even stranger because it combines the flotsam and jetsam of two imaginations. But that has a certain appeal when you are already close to someone. We do write slowly, and we can go years sometimes without publishing a novel when we have things going on in our lives that keep us away from the keyboard.

Tom and I married in our teens, and began our first novel together in our early twenties. Tom regards the world with a kind of ironic pessimism; I'm optimistic and introspective. We are so impractical ourselves that our children were forced to rebel by developing common sense. Tom thinks the glass is half empty; I think the glass is half full; our kids think the glass ought to be washed, dried and put away. In essence, Tom and I began collaborating because we didn't have the raw common sense to realize it would be a complex or challenging process.

We've often been asked if we run into male/female differences in perspective as we write and I have to admit, in all honesty, we don't. We both bring a human perspective. If a gender-based conflict has ever occurred, it's been so minimal, I can't recall a single example.

Our writing process starts with a mutually agreed upon time period and usually a theme and subtext. Then we take a snapshot of our central character - in some novels, this was the heroine, in others it was the hero. We get to know them, answering questions like these:

  • What are his/her character traits and interests?
  • What are his/her strengths, weaknesses, and problems?
  • What are his/her yearnings and dreams?
  • What does he/she care about?
We try to draw these from the character's social, historical and family background.

Īncident comes from character. If the character has a problem, what would solve it? What does the character want? What do we want for her? The questions we ask become increasingly specific.

When we have a portrait, we work on a plot. Mind you, this is not a very sophisticated or sleek process. We use the old "ideas on index cards" method, rearranging them on the living room floor until we have sense of where we are going with our story. Of course, you can be sure at that point, our dachshund will spy the neighbor's doberman in the front yard and race across the carpet barking wildly and sending all the index cards flying.

Once we have roughed out a plot, we work out a first draft together. We talk, Tom types. I work on the second draft, Tom consults.

For Tom and I, collaboration has always been both an act of friendship and an expression of our shared romantic sensibility. We write to spend time together, to relax, to get to know each other better. We write to have fun.

Tom and I stick to very simple forms of conflict resolution. We each have the power to veto any ideas presented by the other partner if we feel strongly antagonistic toward them. Most potential for conflict is eliminated because strong objections aren't subject to discussion, they are merely discarded as unsuitable.

Minor disagreements are handled by discussion, looking at the features of any given idea. It usually doesn't take long to decide if something will work well for us. Both of us are pretty good at being able to articulate our preferences.

Sharon Curtis

Sharon added: We are currrently working on another historical romance. We've written a short piece for an anthology being released in October by Bantam. It's called When You Wish. Elizabeth Elliott is one of the contributors, along with Patricia Potter, Jane Feather, and Suzanne Robinson. In each story, the same ancient and mysterious bottle appears.

Sharon's Rif on Sexuality
Read our DIK Review of the London's The Bad Baron's Daughter
Read our DIK Review of Robin James' (aka Tom and Sharon Curtis) The Golden Touch
Author Katherine Deauxville's DIK Review of the London's Lightning that Lingers
Author Deborah Simmons' DIK Review of the London's The Windflower