Guest blogger: Anne Gracie
Writing a linked anthology aka herding cats
I’ve written a couple of Christmas stories, and been in a couple of Christmas anthologies but The Last Chance Christmas Ball was the first one where the stories were linked. I blog with the Word Wenches (Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley (who died earlier this year), Pat Rice, Cara Elliot, Joanna Bourne and Susan King). We’re all historical writers, and as well as the blog we have a private email group where we chat constantly.
Mary Jo came up with the idea of the Last Chance Christmas Ball—a ball held annually by Lady Holly, an elderly dowager who loved to match-make. All the stories would be linked to this event, and for a character in each story, it would be their last chance to fall in love.
It seemed so simple, such a fun idea. Yes—we were all in, enthusiastically. Kensington (the publisher) liked the idea and we were contracted to write it.
We often joke that organising any bunch of writers is a bit like herding cats—we’re all quite independent and have a tendency to go our own way. And even though the stories weren’t all linked in an exact sequential manner, it was still pretty tricky. We shared our story ideas, of course, so we could weave in relevant details where possible—and that’s where the trouble started.
There were long discussions and diagrams and hundreds of photos of the location—which was a combination of several real locations. There was a plan of the (imaginary) castle.
There were detailed plots and counter plots, and a couple of story events that had to be timed exactly—to the minute. Emails flew back and forth and we used a wiki-site to store the info.
And when we’d finished our drafts, we shared them.
And there were conversations like this:
“Please don’t have your character notice that detail about my character. It adds nothing to your story and it will wreck the suspense in mine.”
“But my character is very observant and would be bound to notice.”
“Then can she notice, but not say anything to anyone in the story, because if she does, it will give away the whole surprise in my story.”
“Hmm, I’m not sure. It doesn’t seem likely that she wouldn’t notice.”
“What if she just frowns and then gets distracted? And doesn’t even think it on the page.”
It was all very friendly—and from a distance, quite funny—but it did get intense at times. Not long after we’d finished the project, someone asked us if we’d do another linked anthology, and I think we all said instantly, ‘No!’ LOL. But now, with the pain of childbirth long behind us, we’re remembering the experience fondly, and even tossing around the possibility of doing another one. Maybe.
You can read a snippet of my story here.
Do you enjoy reading Christmas stories? What’s your favourite part of Christmas? I’ll send a copy of The Last Chance Christmas Ball to someone who leaves a comment. (The giveaway is now closed. The winner was Yvonne.)