Today on the blog, I am thrilled to be able to bring you a terrific interview with authors C. Nault and M. Findley! Their new 5-star rated novel, Shadow War, was recently released and they’re here today to talk about their work! Take it away, ladies!

1. Tell me about about yourselves! Who are the authors behind Shadow War?

CN Catherine here, from snowy Quebec, Canada. Well, alright, I’ll admit it’s straight on summer right now, but for a while it seemed like winter would never end. I’m a librarian by trade, taking care of the public library in a town of thirteen thousand people. Shadow War: Innocence is my first collaboration with Mana, and the first book we have published, but the number of files I keep on my hard drive is proof I’ve been writing for a good half of my life, hehehe.

MF “Hmm, shall we be begin like David Copperfield? I am born. I grew up.” [Interview with a Vampire, for those of you requiring a movie quote citation] Ah, all joking aside, this is Mana, the second author of the “Authors Extraordinaire” pair. By day I work on programming websites, by evening I work on writing, machine embroidery, more web programming, and did I mention the kids? They keep me busy.

Like Catherine, Shadow War: Innocence is my first “officially” published novel, but I have a few previously published items. One of my dream jobs as a kid was to be a writer, so I am pleased to finally be living that dream.

2. What’s it like dual authoring a novel?

CN I’m not sure how it is for everyone else, but for us, I’d say it’s fun! When we first started, we tried several methods until we found one we were both comfortable with. For shorter pieces, we’ll sometimes make it a game of completing each other’s paragraph. She’ll write a few sentences, I’ll go into the document and add a few more more, etc. For longer work like Shadow War, what we’ll do is outline the beast together and then decide which scenes or chapter we feel like we’re “seeing” and want to write. Once the rough draft of that scene is done, the other person will go back into it for a first round of editing and adding more details, or even rewriting parts of it! [MF This goes on till both of us are satisfied with the draft. Sometimes it takes five or six passes before that happens — and, ah, I’m doing it here. Whoops!] That way, we keep our writing style consistent in between us. We’re now writing our second novel, and I’d say our work flow is still a work in progress and we’re not done exploring new methods and strategies.

MF Challenging. I would say writing with a co-author is challenging. For one thing, how do you keep track of who will write what? Where is each scene, chapter, section in editing? Do you use Dropbox? What about if both of you have an idea at the same time? What if you don’t agree? What if… what if? There are a lot of what ifs.

These were just a few of the things we faced, and to some extent still face. We have a highly sophisticated method of instant messenger, Google Docs, and email. Most of our daily collaboration is done through IM, but sometimes we leave notes and comments within our scenes. Google Docs allows us to see what the other writer is doing in real time and we have been known to either catch the other’s attention in IM or start a comment in all caps right next to where the other is typing. It can be a bit disconcerting to be mid-thought and then — WAIT, THAT IS A CONTINUITY FLAW or PLOT HOLE! PLOT HOLE! — what was I saying? Oh yes, she keeps me honest.

I think another challenge is overall story vision. If one of us disagrees with the other on scene placement or story element, we hash it out in IM. There was one time where Catherine didn’t see my scene at all and I ended up just writing it. Turns out it was a useful scene. She just didn’t “see” it the way I did.

There have been a few times when I’ve argued a detail in the book. Each time it happens, Catherine just has to ask if I’m hungry… I get argumentative when I’m hungry.

CN *appropriate joke about Snicker bar goes here.* At least she doesn’t transform into a grumpy old man when she’s hungry.

MF Not that you are aware of… We aren’t on Skype after all.

3. Do you have any tips for other folks interested in co-authoring a novel?

CN I feel like I’m speaking to newly married couples here, but communicate, communicate, communicate! And especially, don’t be afraid to criticize (well, alright, that’s definitely not a tip for newly married couples…). When we first started working together, we were both pretty scared of hurting one another with negative comments about one aspect or the other of our writing. It was especially true since we’ve never actually met in person! Our writing relationship is all online, and we both had to learn to “read” each other’s mood. But now, after a book and a half written, we’re doing fine, and we don’t yet want to kill each other, so I’ll say it’s a success.

MF Don’t be afraid to hear the other person’s ideas. They may not match your vision but they may have some really good points. I can’t count the number of times Catherine has said, “Wait… why?” and I explain where I was going/thinking/trying to convey at the time, and she will respond with, “Oh, give me a minute.” She goes and edits what I wrote and makes it AWESOME. Sometimes what we write is clear to us, but not to the reader, and when co-authoring, your co-author is also your beta reader. Their advice and input is priceless.

And for all of you who don’t like confrontation or are shy about your ideas, don’t be. Argue your point or detail if you need to. Don’t sell yourself short. As Catherine said, “Communicate, communicate, communicate!” Since I only argue when I’m hungry, this is really a moot point for me. I go eat, and everything is right as rain again.

CN The awesomeness comes about when we both get our heads together. We can shred each other’s ideas, but then we make them way better than they were.

MF As I mentioned before, sometimes you don’t see what the other is trying to say. If that is the case, write the scene you see anyway. After your co-author reads it they may change their mind. I have a few alternate scenes that have made the cut for this very reason.

4. What got you interested in becoming published authors? (feel free to each answer the question separately if you like.)

CN In my case, it’s been my dream for at least ten years now. At the time, though, I knew I didn’t have much chance of ever being traditionally published for several reasons, not the least of which being that it’s extremely hard to ever get picked up by an agent or, in the case of Quebec’s publishing houses, an editor (we don’t really work with agents here). In the end, I simply gave up hope of one day being a writer for anyone but myself. Then, after reading and loving the Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker, I stumbled upon her blog and discovered the world of indie publishing. The idea was certainly seductive, but I still had no plan on publishing right then; I had a full-time job already, and I’m not a fast writer. Collaborating with Mana was my saving grace. I can say I still wouldn’t have published a book if not of it.

MF I always wanted to be a writer. I remember in third grade standing in front of the class and saying I would be a veterinarian and a writer. I gave up on one of those dreams. As for the other, I have a few side projects, but now that I’ve worked with Catherine, I wouldn’t dream of writing by myself. She has such wonderful ideas that I tend to gravitate towards them and have sidelined my earlier projects.

5. Tell me about your newly published book Shadow War! Where did your ideas come from for the story?

CN The concept for Shadow War came from a single idea that went something like this: “Check out that video game. It’s really cool. I think there is a story that could be done out of it.” (For those into video games, I’m pretty sure it won’t take long into the novel to know which one I’m referring to, hehehe. But I won’t sell the punch.) All this to say it didn’t start as a novel project at all! But it grew from there until we had created fun characters and a story arc that will span several books.

MF Don’t look at me. It was all her idea.

So she IMs me one day, “Hey! I have a cool idea and I want you to write it with me.” And I thought the offer was like “Yeah, we’ll totally hang out this summer. It’ll be fun!” and then you never talk to the person again. So I said yes, and pretty much blew her off. [Sorry, Catherine!]

A week later she said, “I was serious. Write this with me.” So, we discussed our first main character and some ideas she had percolating in her creative mind. I added my opinions and details, and we quickly determined that we had enough material for a trilogy.

From that point on, I saw my dream shining like the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. No one would stop me from publishing now. I nag her at every turn and crack the whip if she slows down too much. It worked, too. We have book one out, and book two is almost roughed in, and we have some of the outline down for book three.

CN If that makes you feel any better, I’m not sure I really was serious when I proposed it. I definitely wasn’t expecting the result we got!

6. Will there be sequels?

CN Definitely sequels. Right now, we plan on finishing up the current story arc in three books, and there is a second story arc already in the making, although we don’t know if it’ll be another three or fewer books. Book two, Shadow War Betrayal will probably be released sometime at the end of the summer.

MF I don’t have much to add. Shadow War 4-? is in the works. We have several plot items for it. And I think we have at least four more books as ideas. I equate our ideas to the waiting room in the movie Beetlejuice. It is crowded in there.

7. Do plan to co-author all your future novels or do you have ideas for individual projects?

CN We’re full of projects. Apart from Shadow War, we also have a loosely connected series of fantasy/steampunk romances in the works, so we have material for several years of collaboration! Not to say we won’t also one day go our separate ways. Who knows what the future will bring.

MF I would have to say co-authoring from now until I’m tired of writing. Would I do individual projects? Ask me again in a few years, because here, now, today, my answer would be a shouted NO. I could never work by myself again. She makes my stuff AWESOME.

8. What’s your favorite thing about being published?

MF Seeing my book cover being shown to a table of friends at a party when no one knew I was coming. Oh, and people buying the book.

CN Seeing that first book sold. Oh, and having friends in chat asking us when book two will be done cause they can’t wait to read more.

9. What’s your least favorite thing about being published?

MF I would have to say book promotion for me. I like to promote by the ostrich method. I poke my head in the sand and hope everything will resolve naturally on its own. I don’t think my method works too well. So Catherine is dragging me kicking and screaming through promotions. I’ll thank her when this is all done.

CN Waiting for reviews. Waiting for book sales. Waiting to hear back from people. I’m… not a particularly patient person.

10. Why did you choose to self-publish?

MF I have too many responsibilities for my time. I have three small businesses, a full-time workweek job, kids, and a husband. There is no way I could meet a publisher’s timetable. Doing it on my own at least removes that stress. The biggest setback I have is how crowded my idea waiting room gets and how slow it is to get the ideas on paper. Some of the ideas are years old and glare at me anytime I don’t call their number. I had one stand and tap their foot at me. I was quite intimidated. Luckily one of the Shadow War assassins had my back.

CN Convenience and the possibility to get our writing to readers without spending months or years on query letters with little chance of ever getting published. The biggest challenge right now is purely business on my side. We’re co-authors and have formed an LLC to collect our royalty money, but she’s in the States while I’m in Canada. Next tax season is going to be fun… not.

MF Which is why we needed the LLC in the first place.

11. Where can folks find YOU and your book?

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And finally, subscribe to our mailing list for the latest news about our books!

And that should be all!

Thanks so much for visiting, ladies! ALL of you should check out their new book, Shadow War! You’re in for a real treat!

Interview: Authors of Shadow War, C. Nault and M. Findley
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