This month seems to have a theme of collaborative writing! Like last week, we have another writing duo, this time a husband and wife team, whose book, MERGED, is set to debut tomorrow, September 17:
Seven of our country’s most gifted teens will become Nobels, hosts for the implantation of brilliant Mentor minds, in an effort to accelerate human progress.
But as the line between what’s possible and what’s right, draws ever blurrier, the teens discover everything has a cost.
Scientists have created an evolved form of living known as Merged Consciousness, and sixteen-year-old Lake finds herself unable to merge with her Mentor.
Lake, the Nobel for Chemistry and Orfyn, the Nobel for Art, are two from among the inaugural class of Nobels, and with the best intent and motivation. But when Stryker, the Nobel for Peace, makes them question the motivation of the scientists behind the program, their world begins to unravel.
As the Nobels work to uncover the dark secrets of the program’s origins, everyone’s a suspect and no one can be trusted, not even the other Nobels.
As the Mentors begin to take over the bodies and minds of the Nobels, Lake and Orfyn must find a way to regain control before they lose all semblance or memory of their former selves.
How did you know you wanted to collaborate together?
We fell in love when we were nineteen years old. We were pursuing business majors in different fields, and then spent our corporate careers working separately. Our lives changed when we moved to a tiny town at the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. The natural beauty is truly inspiring. It was finally time to pursue something we’re passionate about, and do it with each other. We’re both avid readers and have always written for our careers, so the idea of creating stories together fulfilled a lifelong dream.
Wonderful. How did the premise of MERGED come to you, and in what ways did writing the book surprise you?
Three death-related incidences occurred within days of each other. First, an older friend was in hospice, and just before he died he shared amazing stories about his life that none of us knew. Then, Brittany Lauren Maynard, a younger woman with terminal brain cancer, decided to intentionally end her life “when the time seemed right.” Finally, friends had to put down their old dog, and it was fascinating how their lives changed afterwards. It got us thinking about all the things that would change if people—in good health—had more time. This led to the concept of merged consciousness, which provides those who are making world-changing differences another lifetime to continue their work.
The aspect that surprised us is the STEM vs. STEAM theme. One of our protagonists, the street artist Orfyn, appeared on the page as if by magic. He was too fascinating a character not to incorporate into the story, and it changed the entire plot line. Jim is a musician and Stephanie is an artist, and it was a huge part of our lives while growing up. Without being preachy, we wanted to show how valuable it is to include right-brained people when solving problems, and how their artistic contributions enrich our world.
What a great way to encompass the importance of art in story! What is the most difficult about writing emotionally?
It is challenging to ensure each major character has their own unique character arc. Meaning, while the characters are moving through the story, they need to change and learn from their experiences and interactions. Otherwise, what’s the point of the story? Every person reacts differently to emotional situations, and each reaction must feel true for that particular character.
We don’t believe a scene or chapter is complete until one of the characters experiences a significant emotional shift. When a character begins with one emotion and then goes through a dramatic emotional change, it needs to be something visceral that the reader (hopefully) actually feels—a roller coaster ride of tension and release. And that’s where the hard work comes in. We have to show that emotional shift and not merely tell the reader what’s happening to the character.
Hard work–but also necessary! What are some of your current projects?
We’re busing promoting MERGED, and also writing the sequel RE-MERGED. We’re speaking at high schools and colleges about the craft of writing a novel and the business of getting published. We have a number of novels in various stages of development, but we also love writing short stories and have recently had “The Patch” published in the Northern Colorado Writers anthology, “Change.” This is a story about a group of teens who travel to the Pacific Garbage Patch to colonize a new homestead for their religious sect back on the troubled mainland. These short stories are often the basis of our future novels, so we’re working on developing this story into something bigger. Finally, we’re constantly brainstorming and keeping notes on future characters and book ideas.