Today on Authors Interviewing Authors, it’s fantastic writing duo, Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner! They write sexy, diverse historicals set around the 1960s space program. Their stories are unique, and relevant, and just so spot on. If you haven’t picked them up, well, I highly suggest you devour the three books already out before getting in line with the rest of us while we wait impatiently for book 4!
In the meantime…here’s this awesome writing team talking about writing together, how they met, and a super list of stuff even they didn’t know about each other after four years.
Emma: Hi, everyone! I’m Emma, and I write contemporary and historical romance. It’s incomprehensible to me, but Genevieve Turner and I met almost four years ago on a writing listserv and we’ve been reading for each other ever since and writing together for about half that time. Genevieve also writes both historical and contemporary, and she’s an all-around brilliant, hilarious, generous person. (Genevieve: None of that is true. Emma is the brilliant, hilarious, generous one, and the proof is that she puts up with me.)
When Judith asked us to do this, we wondered whether there was anything that we didn’t know about each other. But we came up with some stuff.
Two of the themes I see running through all of your work, Genevieve, are place and family. The place is usually California—it’s history and future, it’s tensions, how all these different cultures come together there—and the family is usually large and interconnected. These themes are foreign to me (I grew up everywhere and my family is very WASP-y, small, and geographically spread out). I’m curious about how intentional those themes are for you; do you keep circling them on purpose? What do place and family mean to you?
Genevieve: Well, it probably mostly has to do with when I started writing. I had moved from Northern California and left behind a career I thought would consume my entire life—science—back to the region where I grew up and where my family has been since the 1850s and I was suddenly something I thought I never would be—a stay-at-home mom. So everything was old and new all at once, which is probably why I keep coming back to those themes of place and family—I’m still trying to work stuff out.
Themes I see running through your work are often women searching for their calling in life, or coming to terms with the hard realities of following their callings in the real world. As you get farther and farther from grad school and academia (which was a calling for both of us that didn’t work out), do you think those themes will change?
Emma: Maybe? But I sort of doubt it. I definitely believe writers have core stories or mythologies, and mine is about characters whose plans have failed. My heroines especially tend to be disappointed or reevaluating their professional lives when things get confused by meeting someone. My heroes tend to be gooey inside, even when they present a harder face to the world, and are very, very gone for my heroines. Maybe at some point I’ll feel like I have my life figured out and my core story will shift, but I’m intrigued by imperfect people who are perfect for each other and how that intersects with their professional lives, so I don’t think I can get away from it.
To switch subjects, we both have entourages of similarly-aged children. How has motherhood shaped your writing?
Genevieve: Well, I never would have been a writer if I hadn’t had kids; I would still be in science. Unlike a lot of writers, telling stories had never been a passion of mine, although I was always a voracious reader. This whole author thing really did start as simply something to do during naptime.
Emma: Wait, what is this naptime you speak of? I don’t think my children know about that. (Not to self: evangelize to your children about the benefits of sleeping during the day.) But because in your previous life you were a neuroscientist, what if any science skills do you use as a writer?
Genevieve: Um… my Photoshop skills? I don’t think there’s anything specific I learned as a scientist that I use as a writer, but science has so shaped how I think about the world and history and everything else, that it’d be hard to point to any one thing besides maybe my entire personality.
I guess the one thing I do that is related to my scientific career is how I develop my books: At some level, I’m just constructing operant chambers for my characters.
Same question to you: You have training in critical theory and often apply this to romances, creating detailed and pretty profound analyses of the books and the genre as a whole. How does your critical training influence your own writing? Or do you leave it all behind when you sit down to write?
Emma: I’m not convinced my academic background has been a plus for me as a writer. Like as I’ve been trying to decide how to answer this question, my first thought was that Brueghel painting “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.” My critical training is Icarus drowning, and I have to look away from that and talk about these other things while that’s happening in like one tiny bit of the canvas.
But then I realized if I said that, no one would ever want to read my books again, so I made some notes about how it feels to be a prig and I put on Taylor Swift and explained to my cat that I’m a dork. (She blinked at me not at all sympathetically.)
When it’s your work, you have to leave the interpretation up to other people and tell a damn good story. It’s not a coincidence I wrote my first book when I should have been writing my dissertation; writing novels is rebellion against that training. It’s like the biggest middle finger to how I’m supposed to use my brain, how my advisor wants me to use it, and that’s why I love it. Except in a way more mature, less tantrum-y way.
But more seriously, every writer struggles with time: having enough of it, using it in the best way, etc. If I could wave a magic wand and give you three months of extra writing time to pursue a genre you haven’t written in before or a different kind of story, what would it be?
Genevieve: Hmm, can I say the secret thing we have planned? I guess that wouldn’t count though. ☺ I suppose I’d like to try some historical fiction or historical mystery. Or even further out, speculative/sci fi/fantasy fiction, which I really enjoy reading, although I’ve never had any story ideas for those, whereas I have had some plot bunnies for historical fiction/mysteries.
Emma: Yeah, beyond that series (which we are totally going to write…once we’re done with Star Crossed), historical mystery is a great call. I couldn’t do it because I’m utterly horrid at planting clues and hiding who really done it, but I think you would be great at it.
What lessons would you want to share with Genevieve and Emma circa 2012? What do you know about writing or the market now that you wished you’d known earlier in your career?
Genevieve: Hmm, maybe that you can’t build a career on just one book or one series or even one subgenre? I spent a long time thinking I could never write a contemporary, when I could have spent that time actually trying to write one. But I will say that for the most part, my career has unfolded mostly as I’d hoped. There’s still a lot more I want to do, but nothing’s failed utterly, and nothing’s taken off like crazy, which is how I like it. Methodically building my career step by step is more my speed.
What’s your favorite part of co-writing? Mine is watching you craft emotional beats, since you’re so good at it, both in terms of character development and your use of language. (I also like handing off emotional beats to you to write, since I’m a bit lazy about that.)
Emma: Sincerely, there’s no part of co-writing I don’t like. It’s changed how I work on my own and forced me to be much more intentional about craft. All these things I was doing by touch or intuition, I had to figure out why I did them and if they were working.
Our process when we’re drafting is to divide POVs; so Genevieve will write one character and I’ll write the other. This means the story unfolds organically. While we have a plan for the book, I’m not entirely sure what you’re going to write, just as Charlie isn’t quite sure what Parsons is going to do. I’ll open the document we share and be surprised by where you’ve taken a scene or how a moment has played, and then I get to write a legit reaction to it, just filtered through the character. It’s the most tremendous fun. (And it’s utter crap to say you’re lazy at emotional beats—though I am glad when you write the black moments, because if it were up to me, I would leave them out. I’m not good at darkness.)
And on that note, we’ve probably taken up enough of everyone’s time.
You can find more about Genevieve on her website and you can find me on the web here. Genevieve and I are currently serializing a retro New Year’s Eve novella on our mailing list. The next full-length Fly Me to the Moon book, Star Crossed, should be out in January.
Thank you for having us, Judith!
Genevieve Turner writes Western romance fresh from the Golden State. (She also writes astronaut romance with Emma Barry.) In a previous life, she was a scientist studying the genetics of behavior, but now she’s a stay at home mom studying the intersection of nature and nurture in her own kids. (So far, nature is winning!) She lives in beautiful Southern California, where she manages her family and homestead in an indolent manner.
You can find her on the web at http://www.genturner.com.