Hello readers! It’s Iron Heart’s release day and I’m happy to share guest from the authors of this new historical romance. Check out more about the book and interesting guest post about how collaboration worked for them.
Iron Heart by MC D’Alton and Melanie Page (Iron Universe Book #1)
Publication Date: January 24th 2020
Publisher: Vulpine Press
Genre: Historical Fiction / Steampunk Romantic Suspense
Beauden Somerton is dying. Despite the efforts of his father and renowned medical expert, Dr Augustus Somerton, time is running out for Beauden. So, when the research of an enterprising young medical student catches their attention, they realise she may be their last hope.
Galena Tindale fears her unorthodox research has jeopardised her chances of graduating from Edinburgh Medical College. Still, she cannot turn down an opportunity to assist the infamous Dr Somerton in a ground-breaking attempt to save his son’s life. And, as she strives to mend Beauden’s failing heart, he succeeds in capturing hers.
But not everyone wants Beauden to survive, and it’s clear they’ll go to violent and destructive lengths to prevent his revolutionary treatment from going ahead. But how far will they go? Will Galena manage to perform life-saving surgery before it’s too late? Or will she be forced to live in a world that doesn’t include Beauden Somerton?
Iron Heart is the first from the authors’ beautifully written Iron Universe series. Dive into 1800s Edinburgh to meet trainee doctor Galena as she embarks on a romantic love affair with the handsome and mysterious Beauden. But there is a limit on their time together unless Galena can figure out how to save her true love from his failing heart.
Guest Post: Collaborating Iron Heart
When we say we collaborate to write books, people do a double-take. We can understand that; there is a time honoured image of the artist/ writer, starving in his garrett, or Jane Austen sitting at her quaint little writing desk, writing ‘Pride and Prejudice’ longhand with a quill and inkpot. Writing is supposed to be a solitary activity.
We are often asked how collaboration works. The answer varies from ‘brilliantly’ to ‘I have no idea!’. But work it does, at least for us. We think it is because we bring different things to the mix.
‘Iron Heart’ was the first book we collaborated on, and to be perfectly honest, we hadn’t really heard of collaboration, or considered it in any rational way. It just happened.
The idea for the novel was Michelle’s (most ideas are Michelle’s). She had been watching ‘Penny Dreadful’, dark, brooding, gothic – and she wanted to write a monster who was a hero. So, we started to email back and forth about what such a story would look like, fleshing out the characterisation, the setting, the conflict, and we agreed to give it a go. Neither of us, at that point, believed we were writing anything other than a short story or novella. Michelle wrote a draft of the first chapter and pressed send.
And here’s where the collaboration really began. Melanie took a look at that draft, poured a large glass of wine, and reworked it, adding a bit of backstory here, some scenery and description there, polishing the dialogue, bringing out character, conflict, mood. These are all the things a writer might do with the second draft of their own novel, but this was done within twenty-four hours. Then she sent it back. Michelle took the new information on board and her second chapter incorporated the developing characterisation, plot lines and so on. Thus began a pattern of practical collaboration.
The result is a seamless blend of two people’s ideas. Here is an example. Michelle wrote; ‘Galena raised her arms in defence as she lost her balance and fell over onto the cobble stoned road, knocking the wind from her lungs.’ And this is Melanie’s edited version; ‘Galena picked up her striped skirts and fled, pushing through the heavy oak doors that separated the enclave she had left forever from the rest of Edinburgh society. The cobbles were slick and putrid, but the tears swimming in her eyes made it hard for Galena to discern where she was going.’
In this collaboration, there is no division of labour, both of us are responsible, in some degree for all aspects of the story. Nevertheless, the plot, the characters, the technology are predominantly Michelle’s, the dialogue, the description, the detail are more Melanie’s. That’s not a hard and fast rule; Michelle wrote some really powerful imagery, Melanie occasionally added a plot twist.
Not only was the story written by two people, we weren’t even in the same room (or same suburb) for most of it. We passed the story backwards and forwards by email, with one or both of us working on it most nights. We also had a running commentary going on Messenger. Sometimes it was ‘Please send something to write… I hate cricket.’ Or it was discussion of characters, structure, something like; ‘So I will prob shift stuff, shorten the timeframe. Maybe have B go past, call out, J gloating, G gagged and unable to reply… I’m off to get haircut. Talk later.’ We did meet at a coffee shop quite often, particularly towards the end, to work out what was going to happen. That usually consisted of Michelle saying ‘I think the characters will do X’, and Melanie saying… ‘but if they do that then what about…’
With people of such opposite personalities working so closely on a project, there were bound to be ‘differences of creative opinion.’ There were. Lots of them. Michelle is a big concept writer who relies on her muse to get the detail of the story. Melanie is all about the pernickety details. The key to effective collaboration is to realise that both are necessary parts of the whole picture and to accept the value of the other person’s contribution.
Michelle states, ‘For us, collaboration has been a Godsend. And it has to do with balancing our different strengths. Mel took my plot outline and breathed life into characters and descriptions. When I read Mel’s work, I can smell the soot in the air and hear the clip-clopping of the unicarriage. I can taste the port they sip from crystal glasses. That is her gift.’
But there is more to a story than beautifully crafted detail. Melanie’s comment was that, ‘Even though I plot out a story, it will never have the life, the courage and the sheer vibrancy that pours so spontaneously from MC’s brain. I shape it, colour it, polish it to a high gloss, but the core of the story is all her.’ And that is the issue. We are able to collaborate because our gifts complement one another and because we are committed to the story, not our own egos.
Since we wrote ‘Iron Heart’, we have contracted it to Vulpine Publishing, along with three other stories. ‘Iron Fist’ is currently in edits, the third story is the early stages of writing. Our collaboration has changed and grown too. ‘Iron Heart’, and its siblings are not stories that either of us could write on our own. Collaboration has helped make us, individually, better writers, but it has given us a deeper friendship and a lot of fun.
About the authors:
MC and Melanie are both Aussie gals who were born overseas but now live their lives in quiet, leafy suburbs to the north of Brisbane. Their days are full of husbands, kids (and grandies), work and general craziness. They have medical and educational backgrounds respectively and both love wine and chocolate.
Iron Heart is available here from 24 January
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