Saturday, July 07, 2012

June Williams on Writing With Friends

Our guest today is June Williams. one of three authors of "Honor and Integrity: A Collection of Pride and Prejudice-Inspired Short Stories". She, Enid Wilson, and Aimée Avery met online in a Jane Austen community. After reading each other's fanfiction stories for years, they decided to publish a collection together, with each person writing one-third of the content – and collaborating on a tag-along story.

Please welcome June Williams.

Similarities and Differences

Thank you, Helen, for hosting me today. The three of us writers all love happy endings and Jane Austen's characters. I can proudly say that we are nice ladies who dislike conflict and fuss, we're all responsible, and we admire good writing. You would like having us as your neighbours. We're not super-heroes, but we might bake you cookies.

Our differences are numerous. Enid is in Sydney, Australia, while Aimée and I live 250 miles apart in California. Aimée usually writes modern stories, Enid writes in every genre but is a science fiction fan who especially loves creating stories in the future, and I prefer historical settings. We differ in the amount of heat level we write and how sassy our heroines are – but our ladies are never submissive doormats.

Enid has self-published nine books, Aimée has two, and I am the newbie.

Working Together

I have to say that I am the luckiest newbie ever. As the veteran, Enid did all the formatting and set up the book on Createspace, Smashwords, and Lulu. Aimée is a professional graphics artist, so she did all the artwork; her cover design is gorgeous. I learned from them; if you are new to self-publishing, find yourself a veteran who can teach you the ropes.

Fortunately, we all write well, so we have managed to communicate everything by email – no Skype, no Instant Message chats across a 17-hour time difference. Actually, that would have been easy, as Aimée and I are both insomniacs. There is a blackmail photo of Aimée, asleep on the floor and curled around a laptop, her fingers still on the keyboard.

Writing Together

Enid suggested a tag-along story, which Aimée started, Enid continued, and I concluded. The only hard-and-fast rule: no changing what the previous person wrote. My fingers were twitching, but I controlled myself!

I nearly fainted when they sent me the first two parts. I sent a flood of emails – "what does this phrase mean," "is the Quantum Chamber inside the Crystal Palace," and "can we say it's like the TARDIS from Doctor Who." (No, we could not say anything about Doctor Who or the TARDIS due to copyright issues. Aimée checked the law.)

Enid and Aimée assured me that I could write whatever I wanted – I didn't have to continue in the same vein. Yes, Enid was visualizing a steampunk fantasy and London's Great Exhibition of 1851, but I could change that.

I used to write technical and policy manuals that were often signed off by corporate lawyers, so I wasn't used to all this freedom. Write whatever I wanted? Inconceivable! I still did my best to write an ending that was faithful to what Enid and Aimée started, and I think it's a fun story. You'll have to read it and tell me if we succeeded. It has a Victorian Darcy, modern Lizzy and Jane Bennet, the Bingleys, blue aliens, dinosaurs, a kidnapping, and horqvathkas – in less than 9000 words.

We each sent each other our short stories for review. Enid slashed a huge subplot from my Regency story, and while it hurt, it was the right decision. When you choose someone to write with, find someone who will be honest – not just an encourager who says, "Oh, this is very good! Yay, you!" I have a tendency to be too detailed (again, a by-product from technical writing), so I needed that honest voice. Ouch.

I also needed  Enid to remind me that we were writing short stories – not novellas. You know how the best characters run away with the storylines? I told my characters to stay on the horse, but they were ready to ride the horse hundreds of miles and commit epic mayhem on three continents. Whoa!


Our friendship has survived and grown in this collaborative process, we have learned much from each other, and we will publish a second volume later this year. The biggest reason we succeeded: we chose the right co-authors. Our project would have failed if even one of us had thrown a temper tantrum or demanded that the other two accede to her wishes.

It would have also failed if one of us was a weaker writer than the others, but we've read each other's stories for years, so that wasn't an issue. Lastly, the best editors are fellow writers who are friends.

And one final thing: while I am ordinarily very dignified, I must let out a huge SQUEEEEEE!!! It is a huge thrill to see my name on a book, formatted perfectly and with a beautiful professional cover. I never thought it would happen, but thanks to indie publishing, it's real.

For more information about the authors and book, the book's Facebook page is at We are giving out an ebook to one lucky reader here. Just leave a comment here about how you get on with your neighbor. Entry is open to worldwide readers and closes on 9 July 2012 at 10 p.m. Happy reading and writing!


  1. Thank you Helen for hosting us. June, a cold hug for you from Sydney.

  2. Thank you, Helen!

    Blackmail photo?!?! Who has been hiding in my shrubbery with a camera? Must remember to pull curtains!

  3. Thank you for hosting us today, Helen! I can hardly imagine being in your shoes – five books written – and I appreciate your encouraging new writers.

  4. What an unusual collection of storylines! It sounds like a monumental feat. :)

  5. Delightful to hear about your collaboration. Honor and Integrity came up in my Amazon email this morning. Congratulations. Beth Massey

  6. Thanks Laura and Beth. It was fun to write together.

  7. What a great idea. And y'all pulled it off so well, you're still friends! I like this idea. Congratulations! And thanks so much for stopping by Straight From Hel.

  8. How lovely that the three ladies got together through cyber space. It sounds like a wonderful collaboration. I was intrigued when I saw "Crystal Palace" as I grew up in that part of London.

  9. If the idea worked so well among you three, when can we expect another collaboration?

  10. The Crystal Palace and Great Exhibition of 1851 displayed the latest technology, including... the first public toilets! That would be a deal-breaker for me, if I had to choose to go back to the past.

    Helen, we're aiming for a second volume in November. We work together so easily that we look forward to it.

  11. Hi Cozy, how come you are now in Texas? You love the hot sun better? Helen, big hugs for you for having us. It's cold here though.

  12. Wow. I'm impressed that your collaboration worked. My friends and I tried it once with no damage to our friendship, but we couldn't manage to finish the project.

    1. Is it okay to ask you what happened? I'm glad your friendship had no damage.

  13. Sorry to hear that Bob. Perhaps the next partnership project will work out better.

  14. That's great, June! I love hearing of authors working together.

    Bob, how long ago was that? If it was years ago, things are certainly easier now when it comes to publishing an ebook.


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