Wednesday, August 8, 2012

It's a Party! It's a Murder! It's A Book!

Team writing. In bars.

When I heard about these girlz, and their unique book and writing style, I had to invite them here. Have a seat and enjoy a virtual margarita while we visit with Joan Rylen.

Vivian Taylor's dreams drowned the night she found her husband, father of their four young children, in the pool with another woman. Days from finalizing divorce and in need of resuscitation, Vivian's three closest friends whisk her off to exotic Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where she meets sexy Canadian soap star, Jon Tournay. Their electrifying night on the dance floor ignites into an inferno of passion during a moonlit stroll along the beach. Hours later, the girls are awakened by the bang! bang! bang! of policia at their door. Jon has been murdered, and the lead detective targets his prime suspect: Vivian. Leery of local authorities, the Getaway Girlz — vivacious Vivian, unwavering Wendy, impulsive Lucy and brainiac Kate — embark on a journey of justice to prevent Vivian from being a broad, locked up abroad.

Texas gals and lifelong friends, Johnell Kelley and Robbyn Hill, a.k.a. Joan Rylen, can be found vacationing across the globe with their favorite Getaway Girlz, then writing about it!

How long have you been friends?
J: Thirty-three years, since kindergarten.
R: Yep, we were Teague Tigers.
J: We grew up five streets from each other in Pasadena, Texas, and were in all the same stuff: Brownies, dance, band.
R: We even waited tables together our first year of college and then stayed in touch after Johnell went to UT. She later landed in Fort Worth and I moved up there for my husband’s job almost six years ago. 

What made you start writing?
J: Robbyn made me.
R: I had to! It was an epiphany! I couldn’t write the story without her. The idea popped into my head and her voice was pertinent to the story.

What was the inspiration behind Getaway Girlz?
J: Our girls’ trips. My friends rescued me after a really crappy, very unexpected divorce.
R: A big group of us whisked her off to San Antonio for a birthday/divorce party. It was so much fun, we started taking annual trips after that.
J: We’ve had as many as 11 girlz on the trips, but always the ‘core four.’ Angie, Robbyn, Lea and myself. In fact, that’s how we came up with our pen name, Joan Rylen. Two letters from each name.  

Joan Rylen at Chuy's
How do the two of you write together?
J: In bars. Seriously.
R: We’ll meet at one of our favorite restaurants or bars, set up the laptop, connect the external keyboard and start at it. We’ll pass the keyboard back and forth. One types while the other makes commentary. We share a book brain.
J: I’ll admit, there’s usually a bucket of beer or margaritas nearby. Sometimes, by the end of the night, our stories get a little wacky. We have to re-read the next day.
R: “Where did that come from?” is a common occurrence after a night like that. There’s laughing involved. 

How long does it take you to write a book?
R: It took us a year and a half to write the first one, mostly because we had no outline. It was very much a “what would we do next if we were on vacation and in this situation?” Halfway through, we stopped and plotted out the rest of the story.
J: For book two and then going forward, we knew in order to stay on deadline, we’d need a general outline. We usually write it right after our trips. In fact, it’s become a custom to write on airplane barf bags.
R: Unused. 

So you’ve launched the first book. What’s next?
R: We’re halfway through with book two, Rocky Mountain Mayhem.
J: It’ll be released in December. Then we’ll release Big Easy X-capade in June 2013.
R: That’s a fun one! We’ll have a signing in New Orleans, for sure!
J: Then we have Upstate Uproar coming out in December 2013. Whew, I’m tired already.

What are the top three lessons you’ve learned throughout your publishing journey?
R: First, trust your instinct. We knew we had a good thing, but it felt damn good when three out of four editors with the Big Six requested partials at a conference in New York.
J: There was some screaming in Central Park after that. We scared some people from Oklahoma, but then after we told them why, they told us to do it again.
R: We did. Even louder.

J: Second, I’d say we’ve learned to treat this as a business. The creative part is fun, but the fact is that one day we’d both like to quit our day jobs and do this full time.
R: We maintain a writing schedule with serious deadlines, created a corporation, got a crash course in accounting (thanks Dad), pay sales taxes quarterly and count inventory, all that fun stuff.

R: I guess the third thing we’ve learned is that we can’t do it all on our own. We need beta readers because we don’t always catch the little things.
J: Extra eyeballs are important, for instance, I just caught one of Robbyn’s typos.
R: Yeah, yeah. We need helperz at bookstore signings to help create buzz and wrangle the customers. 
J: We always try to have a few friends stay during the entire time to pass out cards, direct people to our table and show them the book.
R: It has made all the difference.
J: We also need friends to help spread the word. Our friends have been great about reposting our news on Facebook and telling everyone they know. They rock.

Johnell Kelley & Robbyn Hill, writing as Joan Rydell
Do you have a destination for book five?
R: You know it! A dude ranch in Bandera, Texas.
J and R: Yeeeehawwww!

You can find Joan Rylen:

Thank you ladiez, er, girlz, for sharing your unique story about writing as a team and your vacation-fueled stories. *sips margarita* That was tasty.

Questions, comments?
Have you ever tried writing with a partner?
What made it work - or not work?