This post first appeared on Being Anne - a fabulous book review blog that is well worth a look if you're wondering what to read next!
I am one of the Ginger Black writing partnership and write with my friend and neighbour Gaynor Pengelly. The two of us dreamed up the concept of a series of village mysteries wondering around Bray, walking dogs and dropping off children while observing the rules and nuances of the village social structure. We began to wonder, what would happen, for example, if you dropped an international spy into the midst of such a quintessentially English community? How would a conman or an art thief fair among the curtain twitching complexity of a typical English village. The plot for our first novel, Riverside Lane which we set in our home village of Bray, grew organically through these conversations and we decided a house swap would be a good vehicle to introduce different protagonists through a series of stories. We are now mid-way through our second novel which is set upstream in Cookham, a historic village made famous by, amongst other things, The Wind In The Willows, Stanley Spencer and, of course, the Profumo affair at Cliveden .
Once we agreed to write together our nom de plume came early, dreamed up by Gaynor’s mother to whom Ginger Black was an obvious choice; Gaynor has ginger hair, mine is dark and my maiden name is Blackburn. In some ways, having a ‘brand name’ spurred us on, making us feel professional and like a team. While I had written novels before - mostly children’s - I had never submitted them for publication and as a national newspaper journalist Gaynor was used to being published, but had not written fiction.
We developed the plot for Riverside Lane pacing the Thames path with Rumpole, my British Bulldog panting in our wake. Pretty soon stuff needed to be written down so we committed to a regular Monday meeting. Here we would plan for the week and then leave armed with a brief for - depending on where we were in the process - character development, scene breakdown or copy for the next scene. We set a midweek deadline to file copy to one another and edited the work, emailing it to and fro before signing it off the following Monday.
And so we progressed, step by step along the towpaths, word by word onto the page until we completed our first draft. While every word, character and plot point is a collaboration, we each bring different strengths to the Ginger Black partnership. Gaynor is good at seeing the big picture and excellent at pace and shape while I sweat every word and comma and obsess over continuity and credibility. She is patient with my pedantry and I am grateful for her vision.
Once we finished the first draft of Riverside Lane, we filed it to the bottom draw and worked on promoting the Ginger Black name much as we did the writing; discussing what needed to be done at Monday meetings and dividing the work between us. We developed a website and social media identity then set about building a digital presence and that all important mailing list to give us something - as well as our magnum opus - to make us a marketable prospect to agents and publishers. And then we rewrote the manuscript. Like all the other jobs, we shared this one but instead of working in parallel Gaynor edited the entire novel, then I did, and then we each did it again, and again, and again!
We are often asked how our writing partnership works and I think the short answer is with a similar work ethic, a sense of humour and complete trust. We take the discipline of writing seriously - in three years of partnership we have rarely missed a deadline - but a healthy dose of self deprecation and irreverence has definitely smoothed our path while guaranteeing terrific fun along the way.
I feel fortunate to have met Gaynor and found a kindred spirit and writing partner. Being with her has made the rebuttals and submission failures easier to bear and the successes and delights have been far more exciting together.