Somewhere along the way, on the open road, they were struck by brilliance. They asked me and Heather Moore to have breakfast with them one morning at a restaurant, where they laid out the idea:
What if we created a series that actual book clubs would enjoy reading?
What if we did that by coming up with four great characters, each with her own set of problems, and throwing them together?
What if the four of us each wrote one book in the series, which featured an actual book club?
What if the books could stand alone but had stories that intersected?
By the time I finished my omelet, we already had a general idea of who the four characters would be, which of us would write which character, and what their main problems would be.
Over the course of the next few months, we played around with time lines and story ideas. We all had other things we were working on, and we had to put those projects "to bed" before tackling our book club idea, but eventually we reached the point where it was time.
Since January, we've had several writing weekends, where we get together at a library, write most of the day, take a break around 3:00 for a late lunch/early dinner, check into a hotel, write our brains out (with snack food alongside so we don't have to leave) until we can't keep our eyes open any longer, go to bed, write in the morning, then check out.
During that time, we pause to pick one another's brains. We throw out ideas. We ask one another questions about characters, back story, and geography. We smooth out time lines (each book covers the exact same period, and each book features some scenes that show up in others). We do Internet research. We consult maps.
And . . . we get addicted to trail mix. Walk the halls of the hotel in pajamas to stretch our legs. Laugh. Lots. And go home with lots of new words on our laptops.
In between those weekends, we do a lot of emailing back and forth, sending one another scene clips, details we need from each other, corrections to scenes, and so on.
As of last Saturday, I finished drafting my contribution to The Newport Ladies Book Club series, called Paige. Each book is titled after that book's main character, and they're all written in first person.
The four books are all either drafted or almost so. We're entering the stage of swapping manuscripts for editing and revision (and for flow and accuracy between books) before submission.
It's an exciting project, something totally unlike anything I've done before, and something I couldn't have done with just anyone. The series works entirely because the four of us are friends and have already worked well together professionally. And because we get each other. I don't know how many other groups of women who hang out this much, working so hard, with so much give and take, and still love each other to pieces at the end. It's been an amazing ride.
I can't wait for the final result and for when readers, too, will get to learn about Athena, Paige, Livvy, and Daisy. I hope readers will come to love these fictional women like we do and discover how they impact one another's lives.
Each book will be able to stand on its own, but readers will only get the full braided story by reading all four, although you can do that in any order, so it's not a "series" in the typical sense.
To keep up-to-date on The Newport Ladies Book Club, check out the series blog.
In the meantime, I get to celebrate the completion of a shiny new draft with a little chocolate!