Lilian Darcy: Anatomy of a Multi-Author Series

Hi everybody.  I’ve asked Lilian Darcy to share this incredible article she wrote for an Australian romance newsletter about Tule and Montana Born.  Lilian is one of Tule’s founding authors, and one of the most gifted writers I know.  You all know her already (or should!!) so here’s Lilian and the first half of her article on “Anatomy of a Multi-Author Series”

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Anatomy of a Multi-Author Series

by Lilian Darcy

When I told ARRA’s Debbie Phillips about the launch of a new mini‐series from a new imprint, Montana Born Books, by new boutique publisher Tule Publishing Group, she pricked up her ears. Could I possibly write an article charting the milestones in the process of bringing all this newness from its bud‐like idea stage to its full blown rose of publishing glory? (Okay, she may not have put it quite like this. But she did use the word ‘milestones’.)

Since it’s been an enormously fun and satisfying year of milestone passing, I happily accepted the assignment.

It began in February …

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Milestone #1—The phone call

Jane Porter calls me from California. Jane is a good friend, so I’m smiling when I hear her voice. ‘I want to launch a publishing company’, she says. ‘Are you in?’

I think I’m in before she even gets to the word. We talk on the phone until my ear turns blue and I have to seek medical attention. The plan is ambitious. This will be a real publishing company, not simply a group of like‐minded authors publishing independently with some linked stories and branding (although, hey, that would be great, too). We will bring in experienced professionals in publishing, editing and marketing, as well as authors whose attitude and quality of work we can count on.

Honestly, I think my whole world feels different after this one phone call.

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Milestone #2—The preparation

‘I want you to come over here’, Jane says in a follow‐up email. ‘I have Megan Crane and CJ Carmichael on board, and we all need to get together to talk about our story ideas, and about how this is going to work.’

Did I mention that Jane is a good friend? She has frequent flyer miles that she actually gives me to cover the airline ticket. We decide May will be the best time, so I naturally go straight to the most vital pieces of preparation—crossing the days off a calendar and shopping for clothes.

We do also brainstorm a lot via email about stories during these two months. We decide to create the Montana Born Books imprint, and to set our first few series of books in our fictional town of Marietta, Montana. (Because Montana is cool. I’ve been there now, and I know.)

We each throw in a bunch of ideas. Megan comes up with a big, single title mini‐series about three sisters who’ve grown up with the difficult parenting of their saloon‐owner and Vietnam vet father, Jason Grey, after their mother left town.  CJ creates a traditional ranching family, the Carrigans, while Jane also creates a ranching family, the Shanahans, on the adjacent property. I have a major women’s fiction trilogy in mind, following the lives of characters who’ve all been changed by what happened at the Marietta High School Prom in 1996.

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Milestone #3—The brainstorming

May 1st arrives, and I fly across the Pacific to California. Jane meets me at LAX and nearly drives off the road about nine times on the way down to her house in San Clemente because we’re so busy talking.  Three days later, we fly to Kalispell, Montana, where CJ picks us up, after collecting Megan earlier in the day, and we drive to her cottage on Flathead Lake.

Now, some of you may have seen the pictures on Facebook, but I want to stress that we actually do work quite hard, despite appearances to the contrary.

First, we talk for a whole day, building our fictional universe. Where exactly is our town located? What’s the population? What’s its history? What stores and other buildings are there in Main Street? Who owns them? (Hint: When you read the books, watch out for mentions of a Jane Austen–inspired character, who’s a bit of a gossip‐monger.)

We go to bed very satisfied with our first day’s work, and then the next morning when we get up CJ says, ‘You know what? I don’t think our planned stories are closely enough linked.’

She’s right, we realise at once. We’ve each gone off on our own tangent, with the Carrigans, the Greys, the Shanahans and my tragic 1996 prom night. For our launch, we need something that knits our characters more closely together and celebrates our fictional town in a more vibrant way.

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Milestone #4—The stories

‘How about a rodeo?’ I think this is CJ, too. She is so great at cutting to the heart of the problem and coming up with the right idea.

‘Full‐length stories?’

‘No, how about a novella each?’

As writers, you tend to know something is right when the sparks immediately catch fire. Within an hour, this morning, we’ve each come up with the basic bones for a story. The Title Fairy pays us a visit, which is close to being a Montana Miracle. She is a pretty temperamental creature, that one, and can withhold her creativity for months, sometimes.

Armed with titles, story ideas, linking threads and a whole lot of detail on our fictional world, some of us begin writing this very day …

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**This article first appeared in the September 2013 issue of the Australian Romance Readers Association newsletter. Reproduced with permission.**

Look for Lilian’s free Copper Mountain Rodeo story, Rodeo Sweethearts on Amazon – Available October 8th!

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20 Comments

  1. I enjoyed hearing how the stories came together. The pictures are awesome, as well as the stories. It makes me want to visit Montana and I’ve always been a beach vacation kind of girl.

  2. I missed the post on the 7th.
    It was my 50th birthday but I am glad I got to see it this eventing. I will have to go look for Rodeo Sweethearts. It sound splendid.

  3. What a beautiful post. Even more exciting than hearing how this came together is seeing a glimpse into such an amazing friendship. You are blessed to have careers you love, and such lovely ladies to share your passion with!

    I haven’t picked up any of the books yet, but it’s on my list!

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