Monday, September 9, 2013

Her not-so-silent partner - David



Though we write for Harlequin Heartwarming under the Aimée Thurlo name, most of you know that there are two of us. Today I’d like to give some insight on how we work together. Keep in mind that we’ve been writing partners since 1980, and that Aimée has always been the major talent and biggest contributor, especially with our romances, the Ella Clah mysteries, and the Sister Agatha series.


I’ve taken the lead with our Lee Nez and Charlie Henry books, and the non-fiction science workbooks, but we learned fairly early in our partnership who does what best, and wisely we stuck with a winning combination.

At first we had a lot to learn about how to create an acceptable manuscript as a team - something with one voice, not two. That takes practice. You can’t do it overnight. But it can be done.

Partnerships are the best way to write - though I am prejudiced on that. When something good happens, you have someone to share it with - someone who sweat right there along with you, someone who understands the sacrifices you had to make, the hours at the computer, the feeling in your gut when the scene you think is brilliant is out of character, or just doesn’t really work in the story.


It helps that we work together in the same house, though we do have different offices and work habits. Aimée has two dogs with her, a day bed, and shoes everywhere. I’m, let’s say, more organized, though Aimée would use the term compulsive. I think that’s because I can find stuff and I file folders using the English alphabet. And my dog guards the door, not my boots.


Fortunately, one component that makes our books better than they would be if we worked individually is that we aren’t at all alike, except that we’re best friends and we’re committed to bringing the reader the best possible book.
Early on, it became very apparent what our strengths are. I’m better with action scenes, descriptions, and plotting. Aimée hates choreographing action and has direction issues. Her ability to bring emotions to the page are far better than mine, however, and she’s great with dialogue, at least with women characters. One might suggest that this is a boy/girl type of thing, but I don’t mean to appear sexist.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned while working with Aimée is neither of us can ever suggest that `my words and/or ideas are better than yours'. Our teamwork and commitment to the project forces us to look at what we’ve written even more closely, and that makes our stories even better.

When I left teaching and my writing became full time, it was a test for us at first, but it’s been worth it, and I wouldn’t trade one second of working with Aimée for any other person, or career. We’ve lived a Heartwarming life together for forty-four years, and now, finally, we get to write about it. How cool.

15 comments:

  1. David and Aimee,
    I've heard workshops by a couple of other husband/wife writing teams--Ann and Evan Maxwell, and Lori and Tony (gosh I can't remember their last name) You may know them as they write for Harlequin. Anyway, they said similar things about knowing the strengths and weaknesses in what they brought to the project. I miss that I no longer have Denny to read my work. He was not a writer, but good at telling me if a man would say thus or so. Also better at knowing airplanes, cars, and other things I have used as backdrops. It's not sexist to say that men and women think and talk differently. I try to read as many books written by men just to see how they handle male characters. So I think you guys are blessed to be able to write together. Keep on for another 44 years.

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    1. Making a guy sound like a guy is one of my strongest assets, but we also have to remember, sometimes, that we need to make our male characters sound like our readers think they sound. It's always a good idea to read authors of the opposite sex to get the tone and dialogue often neccessary to make them seem real. Thanks for the support.

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  2. I enjoyed your post, David! I write Young Adult novels with my sister-in-law and writing partner, fellow Harlequin author Joanne Rock. We love the synergy of crafting books together and it is so rewarding to share the experience, as you do, with someone you care about. As a teacher who took the leap into full-time writing this year, I also appreciated your comments about that time in your life. It is scary to let go of what is certain to reach for the unknown. I hope I achieve some success and watching the heights you and Aimee have reached gives me faith to keep trying. Thanks! You are both an inspiration.

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    1. Karen, you're right about the value of sharing the experience, and especially about stepping away from teaching, or any other career you've been deeply immersed in, to take up writing. It can be scary. But those years in the classroom give you a treasure chest of personalities to draw from. In our YA, The Spirit Line, one of our early scenes in the school cafeteria is drawn from my lunch duty days. Keep up the great work, you're certainly on the right path.

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  3. I love this post, David! You and Aimee share the gift of not only complimenting and completing each other in marriage, but in writing too. I think it's an amazing and rare type of relationship. Bless you both, knock on wood, waving incense or whatever works for you...may you have infinite happiness and success :).....

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    1. Rula, I think the most important thing we share is our relationship, which is more important to us than anything else we do. You know how difficult writing can be sometimes, it's a lonely profession. We compliment each other, our greatest strength.

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  4. I really enjoyed your post, David! It's so fascinating to hear about the writing process.

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    1. Dana, thanks. As you know, every writer has to find what works for them, but listening to what works for others can sometimes help us discover new ways of doing things. We love to share our strengths and weaknesses.

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  5. David - what a wonderful and informative post, and tribute to your love and respect for Aimee as a partner in writing and in life. I so admire writing teams because I always feel so possessive about my characters and their actions that I don't want anyone else's input. I can take criticism from an editor (not always graciously, but, you know . . .) but not direction from anyone else. Good for you! And I like the Bavarian stein near your computer.

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    1. Muriel, for a team to work, respect and trust must be at the top of the list. We also have our favorite characters, and sometimes we need to talk things out. At first, this wasn't easy, but when the goal is to tell the best story possible, we have to make smart choices. As a writer, you also have to maintain your voice, and that cannot be compromised. Listen to feedback, but in the end you have to stick to your guns when you know what is right for your characters. As for the stein, Aimee gave that to me about twenty years ago. She has her own collection of Budwiser steins, with the Clydesdales, but she hates beer. She makes smoothies in them...What a waste.

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  6. Ha, ha! Smoothies in a Stein. Doesn't that sound like a book title? Aimee's autobiography, perhaps?

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  7. Great idea. Now all I have to do is convince Aimee to write an autobiography. Problem is, she never looks back, always to the future.

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  8. Great post! If I tried to get my husband to help me write a book, the book would wind up being three pages long. I'd have written 2 and 9/10 pages. You are an awesome team.

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  9. Aww, I agree with everyone that you and Aimee make a great team. You balance each other in the process even if you drive the other crazy doing it. LOL. Congratulations on your success and best wishes for your future!

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