Megan: I am a freelance journalist, poet, novelist, humorist, and general literary lackey. I like chocolate, cats, Jane Austen, tea, journaling, owls, celery, cooking, and travel, to name a few things. I really like my sleep. I am marrying my sweetheart soon and moving to Liverpool, England where I plan to continue my writing career, and possibly pursue a librarian job considering I love libraries, and it’s the only “real job” I miss.
Susan: I’m a wife, a mother of six, and grandmother of five. Megan is my #3 child and #2 daughter. I’ve been writing fiction seriously for about nine years now. Before that I did newspaper writing. All of our children are home-schooled, and four are college grads. I still have #5 and #6 in “home high school.” I also like embroidery and genealogy, but don’t have much time for those anymore. I still do logic puzzles, especially on trips. I grew up in Maine and married a man from Oregon (my awesome husband Jim, a news editor). Page is my maiden name (no “i” in it, please).2. How did you know you wanted to be a writer, have you always had the desire or did it come later?
Megan: I was born with the infection. So, yes, I have always wanted to be a writer.
Susan: I made up stories from the time I was very small and always thought a writer was the neatest thing anyone could be.
Megan: A writer. Or did you mean if I couldn’t be a writer? An independently wealthy house wife.
Susan: Man, she’s a hard act to follow. I knew I should have done my answers first, but I was procrastinating. Before I was a writer, I was a teacher, a waitress, and a blacksmith, among other things. But I’d like to be an acrobat. A thin acrobat.
4. When you co-write a book how do you choose someone to write with?
Megan: Considering I’ve only co-written books with my mom, I would have to say I chose someone I knew was a good writer.
Susan: Aw, thanks! I chose my co-author because I had an idea for the plot, but something was missing. It just wasn’t sparkling. When I told Megan about it, she immediately saw what would make it better. Yeah! A business partner should always be one who makes the business and the product work better.
Megan: We brainstorm together to come up with the story, then we hash out the synopsis together. After that, we generally take turns writing.
Susan: As to research, we’ve both done some, but if we need to call policemen or lawyers, Megan makes me do it. For the actual writing, we decided on the first book to alternate chapters. Doesn’t matter whose point of view it’s in, we switch off chapters. But we’re now on book 3, and we’re a little more flexible because of other events, like trips and wedding preparations. Whoever is least busy that week writes a chapter or two. I think it’s evening out pretty well. I just returned from a five-day trip, and Megan had written a chapter and a half. The week before I did about two chapters while she completed some other “must-do” obligations.
Megan: Yes, sometimes we disagree. But usually we just keep coming up with new ideas that work for both of us. And sometimes we ask a third party, like my dad, to help us unravel some knots.
Susan: We’ve had a few differing opinions on plot points, but more on details. We try to respect the other person’s ideas and keep track of the descriptions each time a new character is introduced. If one author comes up with a plot twist the other doesn’t like (sounds hokey, improbable, or just plain boring) the other will usually agree to drop it and save her “pet” ideas for a solo book.
7. What benefits have you gained from co-writing books?
Megan: Well, I have gotten my foot in the door with novel writing, and I get to have my name associated with my mom’s, a now fairly big name in Christian fiction. I’ve also really enjoyed being able to use the co-writing as a credit when I am in contact with other publishers.
Susan: Thanks! You’re so sweet. I think writing books together has brought Megan and me closer and given us each deeper respect for the other’s abilities. Meg is an awesome poet, too (which I am NOT), and I’m very proud of her. It’s also taught us to be careful and to be clear. Don’t assume the other person can read your mind! Every now and then in the middle of writing a manuscript, we schedule a time to hash over the plot, how the clues are coming together, and any adjustments we may need to make.
Megan: We heard about the new cozy mystery line, and mom had an idea for a book so she shared it with me. As we both like mysteries we kind of started brainstorming together and eventually it became “our book” rather than only hers.
Susan: I had submitted one idea for a mystery to this editor (Susan Downs at Heartsong Presents: Mysteries) and it was rejected. Susan said it was too suspenseful, not the “cozy mystery” she wanted. So I worked on a new idea. I grew up in Belgrade, Maine, where Great Pond was supposedly the inspiration for On Golden Pond. I wanted to write about a large lake with a mail delivery boat and people living in their summer cottages on islands in the lake. Megan helped me take it from a simple romance to a nifty mystery.
Megan: No. Although mom might say yes. I save those characters for things I write by myself so that I can take full blame—er, I mean credit.
Susan: In this series, I’d say no. These are the people we felt should inhabit our fictional and mysterious town, lake, and islands.
10. A lot of mysteries seem to be based in Maine (thinking back to Murder she Wrote, and I have read a couple others this year). What makes Maine such a good place for mysteries?
Megan: Lots of uninhabited land. Lots of small towns. We have ocean, forest, and mountains. And because Maine is part of New England, which we all know is named for old England, a very good setting for mysteries.
Susan. Good answer. And you’re right, Jenny. There are a LOT of mysteries set in Maine and mystery writers living in Maine. To people who don’t live here, I think Maine is a bit mysterious. It might seem primitive and basic—perhaps a bit quaint and “backwaterish.” Maine is packed with quirky people, a must in cozy mysteries. It also shares a long, largely unguarded border with Canada and a long coastline—both of which make it a good place for stories about smugglers and fugitives.
Megan: Right now I am doing a lot of non-writing projects, such as applying for a spouse visa, sorting out and packing my personal belongings, and planning my wedding. But I hope to break into some more newspaper and magazine writing when I move to England.
Susan: I’m writing a contemporary romance called Trail to Justice for Heartsong, after which I’ll be doing a romantic suspense set in Maine, titled Hearts in the Crosshairs, for Love Inspired Suspense. In it, I give Maine something new: a female governor.
Megan: I have a page on my sister Amy Ballard’s Web site: http://amyballard.com/Sister
13. Do you have any final thoughts for us?
Megan: Last words? The key to the safe is in the roll top desk. But, seriously: It’s wonderful to be writing. I hope I never stop.
Susan: I can’t thank God enough for letting me earn money doing something this much fun. Thanks, Jenny!
Susan and Megan are giving away a copy of Homicide at Blue Heron Lake to one lucky reader. Just post a comment by midday next Tuesday Australian time. (add away for me to contact you if you win. disguise your email like mymail (at) mail . com.
To read my review click here.