Hiya peeps, we have Nicki Bennett & Ariel Tachna stopping by today with their upcoming re-release Checkmate, we have a brilliant guest post from both Nicki & Ariel where they chat of having one brain between them… er sharing a brain & writing together, and there’s a great excerpt. So check out the post and enjoy! <3 ~Pixie~
Nicki Bennett & Ariel Tachna
When sword-for-hire Teodoro Ciéza de Vivar accepts a commission to “rescue” Lord Christian Blackwood from unsuitable influences, he has no idea he’s landed himself in the middle of a plot to assassinate King Philip IV of Spain and blame the English ambassador for the deed. Nor does he expect the spoiled child he’s sent to retrieve to be a handsome, engaging young man.
As Teodoro and Christian face down enemies at every turn, they fall more and more in love, an emotion they can’t safely indulge with the threat of the Inquisition looming over them. It will take all their combined guile and influence to outmaneuver the powerful men who would see them separated… or even killed.
Two Authors, One Brain
By Ariel Tachna & Nicki Bennett
Anyone who has talked to us for more than a few minutes has figured out that Nicki and I share a brain. No, really. We finish each other’s sentences, we say the same thing in chat at the same time using the same words. We look at something and have the same reaction. It made writing together a logical next step.
Sharing a brain makes a lot of what we do together when we write seamless. We feed off of each other’s ideas as we plot the book. We generally agree on which ideas will actually work and which ones don’t fit the story we ultimately come up with. We have done this enough that we have a style that is “us” as opposed to one that is Ariel or one that is Nicki. And most of the time, even those who know us best can’t tell which of us wrote which sections.
Which leads to the most common question we get: But how do we do it?
The answer is both simple and rather complicated. Simply, we each pick one of the main characters to write and off we go. The more complicated part of that is that we actually write together in real time using Google Docs. Depending on the POV of the scene, one of us starts, but each character’s actions, thoughts, and lines of dialogue will always be written by whichever of us claimed that character. It has an interesting effect on dialogue especially, because while we discussed the scene ahead of time—and often even in a chat window as we’re writing—neither of us actually controls the conversation, just like in real life. Christian can say whatever he wants in the hope of getting a particular reaction from Teodoro, but he doesn’t know what Teodoro is going to say in reply until he actually says it, and vice versa. No matter how much we’ve agreed on the general vein and tone, it can change at any moment, just like in real life. Because I don’t know what Nicki is going to write until those words show up on my screen.
We edit a lot of things as we write and revise, but one of the things we rarely touch is the flow of the conversation once it’s started, even if that means the scene doesn’t go at all the way we planned it. After all, life doesn’t always go according to plan either.
We’ve talked with several other writing teams, but most of them seem to alternate chapters or at least scenes. I can’t remember any who’ve said they write the way we do, “owning” characters and writing together in real time. Which doesn’t mean it’s the best way to coauthor, but it works for us, and I think it gives each of the characters a stronger and more consistent voice.
We have a general outline of what’s going to happen in the story – or at least I do; Ariel’s a pantser while I’m very much a plotter, which is another whole blog post in itself – but we’ve also learned that we can’t let that outline box us in. In the best stories, characters take on a life of their own, and sometimes they don’t agree with the direction we think they should be headed. We’ve both learned over time that when we get stuck in a story, it’s almost always because we’re trying to force the characters to do something they don’t want to do.
Ariel’s not kidding about us typing the same things in our chat windows at the same time – it happened just now as we were discussing what excerpt we should include with this blog post. We both identified the same scene, which was supposed to be a simple lead-in to a round of hot sex – but it didn’t quite work out that way.
Teodoro may be a sword-for-hire, but his pride is second only to his sense of honor. That honor keeps him at Christian’s side as his protector, even while his pride tells him there’s no way a noble of Christian’s stature can love a mercenary like him. The scene we’d planned to write had Christian sending their companions off to the market to replace Teodoro’s sword, lost when he was captured by the Inquisition, so they could spend the afternoon alone together in bed. When Teodoro’s pride reared its head, the action went in a direction neither of us had planned, but it led to what I think is the most powerful scene in the book. (No, I won’t give that away – you’ll have to read the entire story for that – though it’s no spoiler to reveal that they do end up in bed eventually.)
“And how is Esteban to pay for this sword?” Teodoro asked shortly, knowing to a reale how much money he had to his name—not enough to cover the cost of a decent daga izquierda, let alone a length of good Toledo steel.
“He still has my purse from Saturday, when I sent him to buy me new clothes so I could bluff the archbishop. There’s enough in there for a sword for you,” Christian said, tugging gently on Teodoro’s hand. “You don’t need to worry about Esteban. Come back to bed.”
“I am not an invalid to lie in bed all day.” Teodoro refused to concede to the pain in his joints and back.
“I think you proved that quite well last night,” Christian retorted. “I was rather hoping you’d be interested in proving it again.”
Despite his irritation, Christian’s suggestive comment, and the seductive tone in which he delivered it, sent a wave of heat through Teodoro. How could he wish to ravish his lover and to throttle him at the same time? But however strong the desire that tempted him to take Christian to bed and forget everything but the pleasure they could bring one another, his pride would not allow him to let the matter go.
“Before we attempt to demonstrate my recovery, there is something you must understand.” Teodoro pushed to his feet, his brown eyes smoldering as they met Christian’s. “I earn my living by my sword. I am not always proud of the things I have taken pay to do, but I had not only myself to provide for, but Esteban as well, and so I have done what I must.”
“Of course you have.” Christian wondered why Teodoro felt the need to point out to him something he had known from the first days of their acquaintance. “I have always known that, but don’t you see? Those days are over now. You don’t have to worry about money anymore.”
“No!” Teodoro insisted, his eyes flashing in anger. “You cannot simply toss your purse at me and expect me to thank you for it!”
Christian stared at Teodoro, flabbergasted. They had had this conversation once before, and he had thought the issue resolved. Apparently he had been wrong. “Is that what you think I’m doing?” His own anger began to flare. “I can’t change the way we met, nor would I if I could. I can’t change our pasts or even our relative fortunes, and I won’t pretend to be something I’m not. You told me you would take such help as I could offer, told me you would let me be a partner to you, not another charge, yet the first time I do just that, you slap me down as if I’ve done something wrong. Make up your mind.”
“Partners?” Teodoro growled. “I do not recall you asking whether I wished you to provide me with a sword. You simply informed me and expect me to be grateful for your munificence.”
About Nicki & Ariel!
Growing up in Chicago, Nicki Bennett spent every Saturday at the central library, losing herself in the world of books. A voracious reader, she eventually found it difficult to find enough of the kind of stories she liked to read and decided to start writing them herself.
When Ariel Tachna was twelve years old, she discovered two things: the French language and romance novels. Those two loves have defined her ever since. By the time she finished high school, she’d written four novels, none of which anyone would want to read now, featuring a young woman who was—you guessed it—bilingual. That girl was everything Ariel wanted to be at age twelve and wasn’t.
She now lives on the outskirts of Houston with her husband (who also speaks French), her kids (who understand French even when they’re too lazy to speak it back), and their two dogs (who steadfastly refuse to answer any French commands).