Collaboration Without Getting Shot, Part 2 (Alicia Rasley)

Alicia and Lynn, Back in the Day

After that, we started collaborating. Fortuituously, we had the same editor at Kensington, who was willing to let us try. But even halfway through plotting the book, we’d communicated only online. We agreed to meet at the RWA conference in St. Louis, fondly remembered as the “hell or highwater conference,” as the Mississippi River was flooding and the Arch was unreachable.

There at the conference, I was trying to track her down (back in the dark ages, children, we didn’t have cell phones!) at the hotel, and had punched the elevator button to go down to the bar, where I was sure I’d find her, or at least a martini.  The elevator, going up, opened, and after a moment, a woman inside reached out, grabbed my arm, and pulled me in. It was Lynn, and she said she just knew this was me. (I’m glad it was. Imagine if she’d yanked someone else into the elevator like that!)

This uncanny recognition set the pattern. We just knew each other. We didn’t have one moment of awkwardness, and could talk for hours like old buddies from the very first. Later that night at a banquet, I don’t think either of us was surprised when we met near the door as both of us tried to sneak out.  Well, of course we both wanted to avoid the speeches! There was actually another writer involved in the project, but with her, there wasn’t that immediate sympatico feeling. The next year, when Lynn and I decided to write another book together, it was only the two of us. We are both, you won’t be surprised to hear, arrogant enough to think that we didn’t need much help.

The first book together, we each wrote separate novellas that were later joined in a novel. But this new book, Gwen’s Christmas Ghost (no, we didn’t choose the title), we decided to write together. Yep. Me with my long sentences and affection for semicolons, and  Lynn with her muscular prose and her hatred of any punctuation that wasn’t  a period or a comma. Writing together. Rather quickly we divided up the tasks and the characters, deciding on a major romance (her responsibility) and a secondary romance (mine), and agreeing to alternate the intervening scenes. Because she would do more of the writing, I took on the final edit to unify the prose, and if I do say so myself, I did that well enough that I doubt anyone can tell who originally wrote what sentence. (She refused to let me add semicolons, and I refused to let her shoot my hero, though a ceiling falls in on him.)

Another Rasley Masterpiece

Why did it work? Well, first, we really respected each other as writers.  I don’t think it would be exaggeration to say that we each thought the other one of the best Regency writers in the business. And we knew our own strengths. Lynn is a much better plotter than I am, and quick to notice when a character is acting or speaking out of character. (Even now, I need only say the word “opprobrium” to send both of us into gales of laughter.) I am the romantic, always reminding us both to deepen the conflict and provide the resolution for our couples.

I’m not saying it was an easy process to create this book. But heck, we’re still friends (aren’t we? Lynn? Lynn?), and the summer after publication, we were back at the RWA conference, as Gwen’s Christmas Ghost had been nominated for the RITA award. I was lucky Lynn was there at the awards ceremony. I was sure we weren’t going to win as I’d written an acceptance speech (usually a kiss of death), so I wasn’t paying attention when they announced the winner. Lynn gave me a poke in the side and made me rise and follow her on the stage. We’d won the award—the first collaborators to win a RITA. The honor was all the sweeter, I think, because we won it together.

And here we are, collaborating again.  Some would say this is “the triumph of hope over experience,” but I think we both will agree, the pain of writing is more fun when suffered together.

At some future time, I’ll blog about the current-day adventure of revising our joint backlist book for re-publication. I’ll go ahead and predict a happy ending. After all, Lynn and I have remained friends all this time, and we’re pretty sure our friendship will survive yet another collaboration!

The Librarian Meets an Adventurer


Poetic Justice is available at Amazon:

Alicia Rasley is a RITA-award winner (yes, we agreed that we could each claim this, though we won it together) and Kindle bestseller. Her book Poetic Justice, inspired by Lynn, is currently available at Amazon.

Collaborating Without Getting Shot, Part 1 (Alicia Rasley)

Alicia Rasley


Thanks to Lynn Kerstan for inviting me to guest blog here today and tomorrow! I decided to tell you all the dirt I have on her—No! I forgot. I’m supposed to tell you about our history of collaboration in fiction-writing. We’ve written two books together (one won a RITA award), and are embarking on some new linked novellas.

Lynn and I first “met” online, when we were both on the GEnie network (one of those Internet roundtables in the dark ages before the Web, when we had to get online through the phone at 24 baud a second, using only flints to light our candles). We were both writing Regencies, and the Romex roundtable on GEnie was rife with Regency writers discussing the important issues. (Example: Did men really sign dancecards to claim a dance at a ball?)

Lynn and I are remarkably similar while being almost complete opposites. I mean, she’s had this exciting life—travel, cruises, high-stakes bridge (ask her about her time with Omar Sharif), gambling, hot cars, hotter men… and here I am with my boring little Midwestern life. (But actually, I like boring. I am not good with change, something that should make my husband grateful.) However, in intriguing ways, we’re a lot alike. We both grew up Catholic and went to parochial school, though she went to a posh one high above San Diego Harbor, while my school was in a ramshackle house in Boston and had to close after my family (eight children) moved to Virginia and took half the students away.

We both studied literature in grad school, though she was a Shakespearian (this gets important later :), and I studied American lit.  We had a similar tendency to plunge drastically into love with certain writers and books (Dorothy Dunnett got passed back and forth between us). We both wrote Regencies, but mine were all about the relationships and the slang, while she liked to take her characters on rollicking adventures. And while I always loved my heroes and treated them gently, Lynn liked to shoot them at least once every book.

Poetic Justice, starring a Librarian and an Adventurer

We didn’t have much contact online until I mentioned that I wanted to write a book where the hero (John, a secondary character from Royal Renegade) found some rare book and love too. (Hey, my heroes have adventures too! They can find books!) Lynn, who had actually handled Shakespeare Folios when she worked at the Folger Library, mentioned in an email that I might want to look into the playscript of Sir Thomas More, part of which was purportedly written in Shakespeare’s own hand. Whoa! That sent me off into the rabid swamps of Shakespearian denialists, who think someone else (usually Francis Bacon) wrote the plays.  Within a few days, her wise counsel had led to a real plot, in which John really does have an adventure allying with Jessica to save this manuscript from the destruction planned by an evil “Baconist” librarian.

So I owe that book to Lynn! It is, by the way, Poetic Justice, and it’s available now on Kindle. Really. Lynn inspiration. Shakespeare denial. Evil librarian. Aren’t you scared?

Lynn and Alicia on an ice floe (aka our writing careers)