AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Ali Ahearn and Ros Baxter

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In the coming weeks  Harper Collins are publishing Sister Pact, the first collaborated book by Ali Ahearn and Ros Baxter a very down to earth pair of sisters that I was able to question about their process and their book.

Their answers were lots of fun and I can’t wait to bury my head in Sister Pact, take a look at what they had to say.

Ali, you have been published prolifically over the past decade and now you are writing a book in collaboration with your sister. How has that changed your writing process?

It forced me to sit down and think about the story all the way through. Normally I do a sketchy chapter outline for a book and then rarely look at it. But with two of us writing and being busy with families and jobs and other projects we needed to think about each chapter so the game plan didn’t have to keep being readjusted every chapter because we kept going off script. Of course we did go off script from time to time but everything was then adjusted accordingly – it made for a much more cohesive book once we got to the end. I guess it put me more on the plotting side of the plotter/pantser continuum but I have to say I always was fairly middle of the road anyway.

Ros, you have had a number of career paths; what made you decide to become a writer?

There was never a choice. I wrote from the time I was eight. I just had to get to the point of believing I could actually write a real book and get paid for it. And that life is too short not to do the thing you love. That day came when I was pregnant with my daughter. I was out for a walk and thought “I’m just going to do it” and went straight home and started writing in earnest. Alison was an incredible help – amazingly supportive and encouraging. After I had my first stab at writing a novel and she saw I was serious (and not a complete dud) she suggested we try writing something together, and Sister Pact was born.

Ali, what made you decide to write a novel together?

Well as I remember it, it was Ros who said “let’s write a book together” and she is such a good writer – honestly her first book just blew me away!!! – that I would have been plain stupid to say no. We’re also on the same wavelength, we like to read the same sort of stuff, so I knew we’d have similar thoughts and gut feelings on what was best for the book. That we would complement each other. We also had a unique hook – sisters writing about sisters and a good hook will get you far in publishing.

ali and ros

Ros, what can you tell us about your upcoming release Sister Pact?

Sister Pact tells the story of Frances and Joni, two very different sisters, estranged for seven years after an unimaginable betrayal. When their conniving grandmother leaves them a million quid each in her will if they compete as a team on a Survivor-style reality TV show, they both have their own reasons for needing to say yes.

In the jungle they battle insane contestants, the worst of mother nature, their own inadequacies and the terrible secrets that lie between them to find love, success and that sisterhood is a hard to kill beast. But not before eating a wasabi-dipped scorpion and a deep fried rat drumstick. Because humiliation makes great telly.

Sister Pact is IN HER SHOES meets DEAD FAMOUS. It will appeal to all women who love to laugh and cry in the same book, and who realise that only those who know you well can hurt you like you never imagined. And to everyone who likes a really happy ending.

Ali, can you tell us a little about how the process of writing this together worked, did you write a character each and then bring them together?

Sister Pact is a tandem novel i.e. we each wrote one POV character and the story was told in alternating POV chapters. Roslyn wrote Joni and I wrote Frances. She’d write one chapter, email it to me, I’d give her my thoughts and do some track changes then send it back. She’d then work on it some more and email it to me again. Then I’d write the next chapter and Ros would have her say and the whole process repeated. It was the least complicated way we could think of to write a book together because we’re too busy for complicated!

Ros, do the sisters in Sister Pact reflect your relationship with each other and how?

Anyone who knows us will tell you how different we are, as are Frances and Joni. But we’re also very much the same where it really counts – heart, humour, history. Despite Joni and Frankie’s tumult, they can’t imagine a life without each other. And my life just would not work without my sister.

Ali, do the sisters in the book share any major character traits with either of you?

Yes and no. I think there are aspects of Frances that are more me and aspects of Joni that are more Ros BUT they’re both kind of screwy and Over The Top and I’d like to think that both Ros and I are neither! Mostly anyway

Ros, is Sister Pact a stand alone story or will there be more books about Frances and Joni?

We were contracted for two books and have already written the follow-up which offers more Joni and Frances madness, sweetness and irreverence. Frances is kidnapped by a cult and Joni has to rescue her. We’re hoping to get the green light on that one for an early release 2013.

Ali, aside from any further Frances and Joni stories would you and Ros consider writing together again?

Most definitely. Writing this book was so much fun. We laughed so much. It’s such a pleasure to write with someone who “gets” you.

Ros, What has been the most rewarding aspect of writing this book?

Working with my sister. Planning, playing, laughing and working together to pull apart the wild, fragile threads that tie family together.

Our mother passed away recently, and in many ways doing this project has become a tribute to her. She loved to read and to write, and instilled a love of both in all her children. I think for both of us this is her book.

Ali, What has been the most challenging aspect of writing this book?

Having to consider someone else’s opinion right from page one. Usually for a writer that’s ultimately the editors job and usually only after the whole book is written. I was a lot more precious about my words than Ros. Any time I said to her, I think such and such needs to go she just scrubbed it. I, on the other hand, wasn’t so amenable. Not that we disagreed a lot but having to take that on board in what is the organic stage of the book was different for me.

What is next for Ros Baxter?

Baby number four in ten weeks and counting (every bloody second).

Going on maternity leave and hopefully some time to focus on writing again.

Hopefully more projects with my sister and maybe a SERIOUS project – I work in Indigenous policy and there are some stories of the first Australians I am dying to tell….

And – hopefully – some sleep.

What is next for Ali Ahearn?

Diversifying. It’s an interesting time in publishing and I’m up for dabbling in everything!

I have two medical romances and two RIVA romances out this year for Harlequin (writing as Amy Andrews) and another couple of projects I’m working on so it’s all busy, busy, busy.

And this is a question for both of you: What does being a woman mean to you?

Loving with your whole heart, hoping with your whole being, doubting yourself at every step.

Knowing women can do anything, but wondering why we end up doing everything?

Feeling sorry for men because even though they don’t have to menstruate or do tuckshop, they’ll never get what it means to have proper friends.

Thank you so much for talking to us ladies, it was interesting, amusing and a new experience for me. It was a pleasure to have you over for my first tandem interview.

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