Good Reading : October 2008
14 goodreading ı OCTOBER 2008 One of the most common things we get asked about our novel- writing process is how often we fight. People (particularly those with sisters themselves) lean forward eagerly when they ask, hoping, it seems, for stories of slamming phones and angry emails. Maybe we got it all out of our systems when we were kids but the truth is we don’t fight nowadays.We disagree on things sometimes but usually one of us feels more strongly about it than the other so they tend to get their way. With our first book Sacking the Stork, we couldn’t decide how it should end. So we each wrote the final chapter and decided which was better (it would be childish here to mention that it was my version that was published so I won’t). Our writing process begins with an idea. In the case of Other People’s Diaries, it was the idea that most people are so busy they have lost sight of the little things that make them happy: the first cup of coffee in the morning, sitting in the sunshine, the lopsided but lovingly homemade birthday cake. From the original idea, we then agree on characters and a (frighteningly rough) plot outline. And then the good bit starts.We each take a scene and work on it for as long as it feels right. Once we’ve gone as far as we can go, we swap the documents via email and either finish off the scene or edit it. Some scenes go back and forth between us many times. It means that rather than slaving over the same scene without getting anywhere, you get to work on a new scene, which is so much easier. It really is the perfect cure for writer’s block because when the inspiration stops, you just hit the send button and someone else worries about it for a while. When we first started writing together, Kris was living in Hong Kong so we got used to using email to write. As a result, the geographical distance really isn’t an issue for us now.We do, however, really miss being able to get together for a bottle of wine now and then. A bigger challenge is writing while we have young children.With the time difference, it is almost impossible for us to find time that is quiet for both of us to discuss our work. On one memorable occasion, we were on a deadline and had to finalise the last edits on Other People’s Diaries.While we were talking, Kris was making tarte tatin because she had six people coming over for dinner that night. She also had two extra kids over to play so we could hardly hear each other. At my end, my daughter was sitting on my lap trying to get at the keyboard and my two sons and some neighbours were playing football just outside.The try line was the back door and every so often there’d be a huge thump followed an enormous cheer. I’ve read interviews with writers who have a quiet room where they go when they are ready to write and make a cup of tea and light a special candle. I am so envious of that but I have a terrible feeling that if we were to ever to get that kind of calm, we wouldn’t be able to write at all. The other thing about writing together (and maybe this works because we are sisters) is that sometimes we sort of tag team, really pushing the novel forward. Given our lives, it is rare that we are both completely focused on writing at the same time. Since our first book was published, between us we have had four more children, changed jobs, moved house several times and changed countries. It tends to work out that while one of us is distracted, the other can keep focused (and keep writing) so we don’t lose momentum.When I had my third child, Kris and I agreed that we’d take a break so I could enjoy my baby. Unbeknownst to me though, she kept writing and when I surfaced several months later, she presented me with two completed chapters. It was sort of like Christmas. Right now, she is somewhere in France and has been out of contact for about a week so it is my turn to hold the fort (and she knows she can trust me not to reveal things like whose last chapter was chosen to finish our first book). Other People’s Diaries by Kathy Webb is published by Pan Macmillian, rrp $32.99. To find out more about the sisters go to www.kathywebb.net KRIS WEBB and KATHY WILSON are sisters who together make up the writing team KATHY WEBB. Kathy Wilson lives in Brisbane and Kris Webb lives in Abu Dhabi. Kathy explains how they manage to write together while being so far apart. up close sisters are doing it ...