I have an extra special guest today on Indie IQ: my writing partner and great friend Louise Voss, whose writing biography you can read here. Louise and I co-wrote Killing Cupid and Catch Your Death together. I hope this post isn’t too self-indulgent as the subject is us. I am planning to steal this piece, in which Louise explains how she and I met and spills the beans on our enduring friendship, and use it in my autobiography, Mark My Words, when I am 80. Over to Louise (with interjections from me in italics):
Louise: When Mark asked me to write a piece for his blog, I tried to think of something that we hadn’t already done to death – ie. the process of co-writing – on other websites. This was proving surprisingly difficult – what did we have in common, besides writing?
Er… nothing. No network of mutual friends, no other shared interests, no real similarities at all. Oh hang on, there’s one: we both adore The Cure. But since we aren’t 15, this isn’t really enough to sustain a friendship. And yet we’ve been very good friends for over twelve years.
So I decided we should write a blog about our friendship itself. It’s pretty unusual, and completely different to any other friendship I’ve ever had. I’m going to write it, and let Mark add in his own comments….could be risky, but I trust him!
Even the way we met was weird. As an aspiring writer with two (fairly dodgy) manuscripts under my belt and a less-than-enthusiastic agent on board I was naturally very interested in a BBC2 documentary I stumbled upon one evening back in 1999 featuring three writers: Jake Arnott, who’d just garnered a £50K advance for The Long Firm; a girl who was sending out her first manuscript to agents, and somebody called Mark Edwards who happened to be in exactly the same situation as I was (with the two manuscripts, an agent, and myriad rejection letters from publishers). Now, I really am NOT the type who routinely writes letters to people ‘off the telly’, famous or otherwise. I mean, I’ve never even written to Robert Smith, and I’ve been in love with him since I was thirteen *.
Mark: In those days I called myself Mark Tyler Edwards, although this led to many people assuming I was posh, when in fact I’m as common as muck. I received three letters/emails after appearing on TV: Louise’s; one from a girl who wrote to me in green ink on a scrappy piece of paper, and a guy in Bristol who told me I had a writer’s soul and would I like to hook up. I also got recognised on the street, once by a bus driver and once at a Suede concert. It was just like being Madonna (without the nudity, dodgy religion or riches).
Louise: But I so identified with Mark, his passion for writing and his dream of being published, and I’d thought that the extracts he read out on the documentary were really good, so I wrote him a brief email saying so, via his agent. To my surprise, he replied. Albeit cautiously, I might add, probably thinking I was a stalker (ironic, perhaps, that we ended up writing a novel about a stalker!) An email correspondence was born. I can’t remember anything about the content of those emails, other than that they were exclusively concerned with writing: our own; other writers we admired; the books we were reading. Pretty soon we were emailing each other our manuscripts and swapping extracts for opinions from each other’s works in progress.
Mark: We had to go through that worrying step of reading another writer’s stuff and hoping it’s good – because if it, isn’t it can be excruciatingly awkward. “Er…yes, I thought that sentence on page 83 was quite good. Ish.” Fortunately Louise was (and is) a fantastic writer.
Louise: I knew almost nothing about Mark except where he lived (far away). But at least I could put a name to his face, which was more than he could do for me, back in those pre-Facebook days. It certainly wasn’t a romance – not even a hint of flirtation – and I’m sure that would have been no different even had we not both had other partners. It just wasn’t That Type of Thing. But we were emailing back and forth all the time.
After about 18 months of emailing, I bit the bullet and invited Mark along to one of my birthday parties, a meal in a restaurant in Notting Hill. He came along, which I thought was incredibly brave of him, since he didn’t know anybody present. Not even me! Luckily we got on fine, and after that, started meeting up about once a month. That was when we got the idea of co-writing, and started brainstorming Killing Cupid. We invariably got pretty tipsy over pints of beer, and gradually began to veer away from the safe subject of fiction, into more personal territory, ie. our respective relationships. It’s funny that whenever we meet, we talk about personal stuff – but the rest of the time, our contact is still predominantly business. When we have a personal crisis (and we’ve both had many, over the years!) we never call each other up for a shoulder to cry on – and yet, when we do meet, we will retrospectively discuss it until the cows come home.
We go through phases of seeing more or less of each other, depending on what’s happening with our writing projects and family life. Mark moved to Japan for a year during the writing of Killing Cupid, so apart from a few brainstorming sessions before he left, we did the whole thing via email. Then when it got optioned the first time by the BBC, we saw quite a bit of each other, having those wonderfully exciting ‘ I wonder who will be cast to play Alex?’ sort of meetings up in town quite regularly. It was during that period that we also came up with the idea of Catch Your Death, and began to work on that. It was more labour intensive as, unlike Killing Cupid, we weren’t each narrating a separate character; instead, we had decided to give it an omniscient third-person narrative. (We still wrote alternate chapters, but in order to give the narrative voice enough continuity of style, we would heavily edit each other’s chapters and add stuff in, so there was more uniformity – our writers’ voices are very different. Mark’s very fond of sentence fragments. Like this. I, however, prefer longer sentences; and I’m a big fan of the semi-colon and three dashes… like this…)
Mark: I don’t think Louise has yet realised that I just went through Catch Your Death and took out all the semi-colons I could find. Louise also uses tabs all the time which drives me mad. And I swear and blaspheme too much, but have learned to edit myself. I am not allowed to use the c word any more and even though I say ‘Oh God’ at least 100 times a day in real life, my characters have to find more imaginative ways of expressing frustration. ‘Fiddlesticks, drat and bother!’
Louise: Ha ha! Conversely, I don’t think Mark has realised quite how many sentence fragments I culled in my last edit of Catch Your Death!! I didn’t know that I had a bad tab habit, though…!
Mark: Until this year, when Mark had the idea of putting our books out on Amazon Kindle, we’d hardly seen anything of each other for quite some time – small children, geographical locations, and full-time jobs pretty much putting paid to that. But since January, we’ve been in constant daily contact. And I have to say that’s been the nicest part of the whole Kindle experience. It’s really lovely to have someone in your life whom you trust completely, can have a laugh with, give and receive support, tell your darkest secrets, and work creatively with, without any of the subtext that often accompanies male/female friendships; nor any of the irritations and petty rivalries that might easily exist. We’re talking about writing a third novel together, and are going to make a concerted effort to meet up more frequently, despite all the obstacles. Oh – and we have the film option coming up too – more excuses to drink beer together!
Looking back over this piece I’ve just written has made me realise that my spur-of-the-moment decision, twelve years ago, to write to a random bloke I’d seen on telly the night before turned out to be one of the best ideas I’d ever had. So – cheers, Mark, and here’s to the next twelve years!
*When I say I’ve never written to Robert Smith, what I actually mean is ‘I never posted any of the letters I wrote to Robert Smith’. Just for the record.
Mark: Thanks Louise. At least my telly appearance brought me one good thing (well, apart from a free bus ride). Oh, and I have written to Robert Smith. I sent him a postcard once, professing my undying platonic love. The bastard never wrote back.
About the Author (Author Profile)Mark Edwards is the co-author of Catch Your Death and Killing Cupid, which hit No.1 and 2 on Amazon when self-published. They were subsequently published by HarperCollins. He is keeping a toe in the self-publishing waters with his scary short story, Kissing Games, available on Amazon now. Mark offers consultation and book description services through IndieIQ, along with lots of free advice for authors. The mission of IndieIQ is to help writers find readers.
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