Author Friendship and the Art of Working Together

by Carol Ross, author of The Rancher’s Twins

“Is Devil a troubled horse?”

“How many ex-wives does Big E have, and do they all still live in Falcon Creek?”

“What’s the name of Jon’s dog?”

The folder marked “Rancher Series” in my email currently contains 316 messages. Keep in mind, these are just the emails I’ve saved. All with questions like the ones above, seeking important information, key tidbits or mundane details about the Blackwell family—grandfather Elias, commonly known as Big E, and his grandsons Jonathon, Ben, Ethan, Tyler and Chance. Then there are the files containing synopses, scenes, chapters and full drafts of early manuscripts. There are also folders for photos…of hot cowboys, farmhouses, Montana scenery, ranches, dogs, horses, cattle and even chairs constructed out of tractor seats.

Writing a book is challenging enough, and writing a series takes the process to another level. But writing one book in a five-book multiauthor series is something else altogether. I’d describe it as a sort of magical organized chaos. And taking on a project like this with authors who were already my friends was just plain fun. In fact, everything about Amy Vastine, Anna J. Stewart, Cari Lynn Webb and Melinda Curtis is fun. Like most any job, having friends who sympathize with your failures and share your triumphs is the best. Five years ago, when I received my first contract, I never imagined that these friendships would come to mean as much to me as the job itself.

A lot of authors out there are savvy and smart and make connections before they embark on a writing career. That would not be me. I wasn’t active in a local Romance Writers of America chapter. I didn’t belong to any critique groups or writing clubs. In short, I knew nothing about the romance industry or even the field of writing. (Seriously, when I received my first set of revisions I had to Google abbreviations like POV and MS.)

My first author friend, Amy Vastine, was in a similar boat. Our debut books came out the same year just a couple months apart, and we emailed a bit, celebrating our shared good fortune and mutual ignorance, um, I mean inexperience. That year we both signed up for our first RWA national conference. I took a chance and asked Amy if she wanted to room together. She agreed, although I’m sure at that point we were both thinking something warm and fuzzy like Oh, what have I done? This woman could steal my shoes or smother me in my sleep. Thankfully it turned out to be the Best. Decision. Ever. Instant friendship.

Amy and I sort of knew Melinda and Anna from the email loop most of the Heartwarming authors belong to. Melinda, Cari and Anna already had a long-standing friendship. We met them in person at that conference where the five of us connected. And when I say connected, I mean it in much the same way like-minded (and mildly misbehaving) kids do at summer camp. Our shared senses of humor, the constant struggle to keep our laughter in check, an appreciation for the finer things in life (like dessert and free breakfast) along with a collective touch of geekiness make us a natural fit. I have no doubt we would all be friends no matter what life circumstances brought us together. It’s that kind of thing.

Every year, RWA national allows us to hang out together for a week or so of workshops, speakers, meetings, dinners, book signings, sightseeing and those epic Harlequin parties. There have been too many shenanigans to list them all, but celebrity sightings, an unintentional tour of the men’s room, deranged macaws and an alleged cupcake “theft” top the list. And always, always, there is endless laughter.

Fast forward through four years of friendship and novel-writing experience (including a loosely connected indie-published collaboration) and the Return of the Blackwell Brothers endeavor didn’t seem as daunting as it once might have. It wasn’t until I volunteered to write the first book that the pressure hit me. Not only are these guys my friends, but they are also super talented, highly motivated, disciplined professionals. I did not want to disappoint these ladies!

Skype is a godsend. Working around five busy schedules and three time zones (I’m in Washington, Anna and Melinda are in California, Amy lives near Chicago and Cari is in South Carolina), we began to hammer out details. After just one session, my anxiety level dropped to a somewhat more manageable level. After a couple more, I was off and running (or ranching in this case).

Hundreds of emails, texts and countless details later we are finally ready to share the Blackwell brothers, the women who fall in love with them (despite their many, many faults), their infamous and enigmatic grandfather, the family ranch, the charming town of Falcon Creek, Montana, and a host of other irresistible characters with our readers. (Along with the answers to all of the questions above!)

 

About The Rancher’s Twins:

She’s not the country nanny he advertised for

But she could be perfect for him…

Jon Blackwell needs a woman ready to tackle the duties of a cattle ranch and two lively, take-no-prisoners twin girls. But ever since Lydia Newbury showed up at his six-generation Montana spread, the frazzled single father is rethinking, well, everything. The Philadelphia dazzler is a marvel. What he doesn’t know is the secret that has Lydia on the run…

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Comments ( 5 )
  1. Marcie R
    August 7, 2018 at 4:29 pm
    Reply

    I am SOOOO excited for this series. I’ve had the opportunity to read Melinda’s The Rancher’s Redemption in advance and now am excited to start at the beginning.

    I recently went on my first business trip and, even though we had a daily per diem for food, when I found out the hotel had free breakfast (not just donuts either but eggs and bacon), I gladly filled up a plate.

  2. Liz Flaherty
    August 7, 2018 at 7:02 pm
    Reply

    This is so exciting! Such a great cast of writers is sure to come up with an equally great cast of characters.

  3. Anna J Stewart
    August 8, 2018 at 9:30 am
    Reply

    Carol, you made me cry! Such a lovely post and I LOVE being part of your circle. So glad you came to RWA that year. Couldn’t imagine life without you guys now. <3 x 100000!

  4. Gale S.
    August 8, 2018 at 12:09 pm
    Reply

    I was SO excited to hear about this series…and then I started reading… I loved The Rancher’s Twins! Jon, the brother you wrote about in your story, really makes you want to find out alllllll about the rest of the cast of characters. I can’t wait. And the twins are adorable, of course! I did, however, want to talk to you about those friends of yours… Nah! I was fortunate to meet (almost) all of them at a booksigning in Denver and they are all so very nice, and crazy — crazy being high praise in my world. Can’t wait to read the rest of the brothers!

  5. Angi Morgan
    August 8, 2018 at 3:01 pm
    Reply

    What a wonderful story. I bet the books are amazing.

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