How does the team writing process work?
The plotting aspect is like a hilarious ping-pong match, back and forth for weeks or sometimes months, and most of it we do when we’re together. This is an annoying phase for anyone around us because we never stop talking and find it hard to focus on anything else. Ideas come randomly and sometimes at inopportune times and must be immediately discussed. I’m sure our conversations have terrified innocent bystanders within earshot when we’re out together in public.
The actual writing is more solitary – we each decide what part of the book we’d like to tackle on any given day and hunker down in our home offices. The following morning, we meet to go over our individual work, discuss the next phase, polish and blend the pieces we’ve written separately, and repeat the process until the last page is written.
How do you get story/plot ideas? And how do you develop them into the final
Plots and stories are everywhere, we could find one looking at a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of somebody’s shoe. The story behind DEAD RUN is indicative of our creative proceses: we were driving through a seemingly deserted Wisconsin town on a beautiful September day, when everybody should have been outside soaking up the last of summer. We immediately imagined that something horrible had happened to the town’s occupants, but the sane third party in the car informed us the Green Bay Packers were playing and that everybody was inside watching the game.
But the incubation from general concept to finished novel is much more arduous and unpredictable. The old, hackneyed saying: ‘If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life’ is true only in that you don’t care that you’re obsessed with the current project and work 365 days a year, sometimes even in your sleep. You can’t ever take a vacation from your mind when it’s working on a book.
What are some of the basic lessons you have learned about writing
It definitely requires passion, but the nuts-and-bolts of writing professionally are discipline, patience, and absolute dedication to the craft. Read everything you can get your hands on. Great books and horrible books all have a lesson in them. Above all, tell a story and let it flow naturally. If you give your characters a voice, they will guide you. Don’t just write to fill in the blanks of a plot you’ve come up with in advance.
What is it like writing together?
Everybody always wants to know what it’s like to write with your mother/daughter. We’ve agonized over this question, trying to think of a thoughtful answer, maybe even a profound one, but the truth is, there’s little profundity to be found in two women sitting around giggling over imaginary people. We have fun – always. We rarely disagree, we never argue, we laugh most of the time, and a lot of people hate us for this.
Did you both always want to be writers, and if so, why?
Boy, a therapist could probably have a lot of fun with that one, but the fast, superficial answer is that each of us started writing as soon as someone taught us the alphabet. We are both ardent storytellers – it was the only way you could get away with telling a lie in our family, and we did love telling whoppers.
What authors have influenced you?
Almost every one we’ve ever read.
Why is MONKEEWRENCH published under two different titles? I bought MONKEEWRENCH, then purchased a copy of WANT TO PLAY, thinking it was a different book. I was disappointed when I got a copy of the same book with a different cover and title.
We send our deepest apologies to all of you who thought you were buying a new PJ Tracy book and didn’t get it. It certainly wasn’t an intentional ploy to sell more books. Title changes happen often when a book is published in a foreign market and it can indeed be confusing. Here’s the backstory: MONKEEWRENCH was published first in the U.S. under that title, but when Penguin U.K. bought the rights to publish, they felt their markets would be better served by a different approach, which included making changes in the presentation and title — much the same way Coca-Cola markets their products differently in the U.S. than they do in, say, Italy or China. But since then, we’ve all been working together to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
I’ve heard that the British version of SNOW BLIND has some extra pages that aren’t included in the U.S. version. Is this true? If so, why?
It’s true — we did add some material for the British version, about 18 manuscript pages. The Penguin U.K. publishing schedule afforded us a little more time to windbag, and this was an opportunity we just couldn’t pass up! But rest assured, the outcome of SNOW BLIND remains the same in both versions.
I see lots of signed copies of your books for sale on the internet, but some of them look like they were signed by the same person. Are these forgeries?
If they look like they were signed by the same person, they probably were, but they’re not forgeries – PJ and I often do events separately, in which case we have to sign ‘PJ Tracy’ in our own hand. However, when we’re at an event together, PJ signs her name, and I sign mine, hence the variation you might see in the signatures. For the most part, they’re probably all illegible, no matter who was doing the signing!
The MONKEEWRENCH characters took a backseat in SNOW BLIND, but there’s still so much I want to know about them, especially since you’ve given hints about their pasts in the other books. Are they coming back as main characters in the next book, and are we ever going to find out more?
Yes, you will. In the new book, we spend much more time with the MONKEEWRENCH gang, and some secrets shall at last be revealed.
Is MONKEEWRENCH ever going to be a movie? Have you had any offers?
We would love to see MONKEEWRENCH on the screen one day. In fact, when we write the books, we often envision them as movies. We’ve had some nice offers over the years, but we’re not quite ready to sell the children yet. But some exciting things are happening on that front at the moment, and you will be the first to hear any good news.
Is Iris Rikker, the new Sheriff in SNOW BLIND, going to come back in a future book?
We’ve had a lot of positive feedback on Iris, and we enjoyed writing about her. And the fun part about introducing new characters, and having an ensemble cast to begin with, is that you can always bring old favorites back, as we did with Sharon Mueller and Sheriff Halloran in DEAD RUN. As long as we don’t kill them off, there’s a good chance that they’ll make another appearance at some point.
I read in Ladies’ Home Journal that you’ve written several other novels together. What are they, and how can I get them?
Most are romance novels! Yes, believe it or not, we started out loving before we moved on to killing. I think they’re all out of print, but I believe there are a couple internet used book sites that still carry stray copies from time to time. We wrote under Melinda Cross, Jessica McBain, and one novel under Mariah Kent.
What are your work schedules like?
We have no work schedules. We are both equally and happily disorganized, slothful, and easily distracted. This was the only job we could get.