Welcome back Elizabeth Heiter, who is visiting today to talk about a fabulous new project!
Author Collaboration and a Novel in Stories
It started two years ago. A fellow blogger at The Thrill Begins (the International Thriller Writers organization’s blog) suggested that a group of us work on a project together. Perhaps an anthology. But something different, a new way to tie the stories together that would stand out.
After phone calls, a special Facebook group to chat, and a Google Doc where we could collaborate, we had an idea: instead of writing individual short stories tied together through a theme, we’d set up a catastrophe and then give each writer an hour time slot within the next twenty-four hours to set a story in the aftermath. Everything was going to interconnect, and each story would bring the book closer to a big conclusion. But each author was also going to have the freedom to use the characters and situations of their choosing.
At first, it sounded a bit like a pipe dream. A group of writers – it ultimately became 14 of us – working both independently and collectively on a novel made up of stories, while juggling their own book commitments. But the collaboration itself turned out to be surprisingly easy – most of the group already knew each other from writers’ conferences and working on The Thrill Begins, which helped.
We already had the premise: after a woman was put to death for killing her rapists, a group of activists blew up the dam in the city of Everton, PA in retribution. Based off that premise, each author picked a time slot in those following twenty-four hours, wrote a synopsis of their intended story in a shared Google Doc and got to work. Afterward, we read each other’s stories and incorporated small details into our own. Ed Aymar and Sarah Chen volunteered to edit the stories, going through for consistency issues, like how far the flood had traveled during each time frame, where the moon was in the sky, and so on.
My personal story – “The Chase” – features a police officer determined to find her brother in the flooded town – before he kills their father. After I wrote my draft, it was surprisingly easy to go through and add in small details: a bundle of drugs that waded past from Rob Brunet’s story, a random shotgun blast that might have originated from Shannon Kirk’s killer, two shadowy figures skulking toward a home with ill intentions that I imagined to be the brother-sister duo from E.A. Aymar’s story. Working in those details added to the joy of writing “The Chase,” and for readers, I hope those moments will add to the fun of the concept of a novel in stories.
This week, about two years from the time the initial concept was suggested, The Night of the Flood hit shelves! We had such a good time writing it, in fact, that there’s been discussion of another collaboration, another Google doc timeline, and more chaos and crime written in individual stories but merged into a much larger idea…
But that’s a story for another day.
Critically acclaimed and award-winning author ELIZABETH HEITER likes her suspense to feature strong heroines, chilling villains, psychological twists, and a little bit of romance. Her research has taken her into the minds of serial killers, through murder investigations, and onto the FBI Academy’s shooting range. Her novels have been published in more than a dozen countries and translated into eight languages; they’ve also been shortlisted for the HOLT Medallion, the Daphne Du Maurier award, the National Readers’ Choice award and the Booksellers’ Best award and won the RT Reviewers’ Choice award. Learn more at http://www.elizabethheiter.com.
The Night of the Flood will take you to the fictional town of Everton, with stories from criminals, cops, and civilians that explore the thin line between the rich and the poor, the insider and the outsider, the innocent and the guilty. It’s an intricate and intimate examination of the moment when chaos is released—in both society and the human spirit, and features stories by E.A. Aymar, Rob Brunet, Sarah M. Chen, Angel Luis Colón, Hilary Davidson, Mark Edwards, Gwen Florio, Elizabeth Heiter, J.J. Hensley, Jennifer Hillier, Shannon Kirk, Jenny Milchman, Alan Orloff, and Wendy Tyson, and an introduction by Hank Phillippi Ryan.