Bella Andre is the New York Times, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of The Sullivans and The Morrisons series.
Melissa Foster is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of the Snow Sisters, The Bradens, The Remingtons and Seaside Summers series.
IR sat down with the dynamic duo as they talked about their latest collaboration, Love on Rockwell Island, their co-writing routine and what readers can expect from this anticipated, sexy hit.
Loren Kleinman (LK): What’s it like collaborating on a book? How do you coordinate your writing schedules? What was the idea behind LOVE ON ROCKWELL ISLAND and who came up with it first?
Melissa Foster (MF) and Bella Andre (BA): Collaborating is incredibly fun! Instead of having the brainpower and creativity of one, we have the unique opportunity of developing the characters, stories, and settings using ideas from both of us. Varying perspectives bring exciting and fresh ideas. We both have strong ideas about loyalty and the strength of our heroes and heroines, and our visions aligned so well, that it’s made this process even more exciting.
Our process is lengthy, but it works well for us. We flesh out each book in a really detailed outline that we brainstorm before we write, and then we pass the manuscript to one another for revisions. We both have very busy writing schedules, so it takes a lot of calendar coordination, but we’re both really flexible.
The idea for Love on Rockwell Island actually hit us both around the same moment. We knew we wanted to set the series someplace special, which is why we chose Cape Cod. And since our specialty is big family romance, that was a given! Creating the Love on Rockwell Island series, with five siblings who are each going to find their happily-ever-after, was the perfect answer!
LK: Talk about island love. Is there something enchanting about Rockwell Island?
MF and BA: We’ve had such a great time writing about Rockwell Island—from the close-knit community to the beautiful bay breezes and the varying things to do. Besides Cape Cod Bay, there are ponds and lakes, creeks, and coves. There’s caving and hiking, and of course miles and miles of sandy beaches for midnight strolls and moonlight kisses, and family and friends are only a phone call (or a quick walk) away.
LK: What is the publishing schedule like for a series? How long should you leave in between each release? How long does it take you to write one book and talk about the editing process associated with finalizing the book?
MF and BA: We are releasing Cape Cod Kisses in May, Cape Cod Promises in July, and then Cape Cod Dreams in November. Our fourth and fifth releases will be published in February and June of 2016. Of course, we’re already brainstorming even more stories set on Rockwell Island beyond these first five!
The time it takes to write the books varies, and our editing process is quite in-depth. We work through about three drafts (give or take) and revisions, and then work with a host of editors and several proofreaders before our books are queued for release. Quality is our top priority.
LK: How do you both decide you want to write romance in general and specifically to each of you? What does one think the other can give to the series? What are each other’s strengths?
MF: Prior to writing romance I wrote women’s fiction and suspense, and my books always had an element of romance, and extremely strong emotional connections. My reason for writing romance was two-fold. A friend dared me to write something that wasn’t dark (and I wasn’t sure I could!), and I had also thought up a big family romance series that I wanted to write, so the timing was perfect for me to take the challenge!
Working with Bella is incredible! She brings so much to the table—years of experience in the romance genre, fresh perspective, deeply emotional writing, creativity on all aspects of our stories, a sense of humor, strong business sense, and best of all, she’s really fun to work with.
BA: I’ve always written romance, and my books have run the gamut from sexy to sweet. I’m a huge romance reader—I’ll read nearly a book a day when I can squeeze it into my busy writing schedule. That’s how much I love romance novels!
Melissa is AMAZING! She’s been a joy to work with from the first day we met. So smart. Incredibly creative. Super responsive. Not to mention a FABULOUS writer. I’ve been really creatively juiced up by our collaboration. It truly has been a ton of fun, and I couldn’t be happier that we’re working together on this new series.
LK: What is contemporary romance?
MF: Contemporary romance is romance set in modern day, and it’s what we enjoy writing most of all.
LK: How do you both write believable dialogue? How do you character build together?
MF and BA: We put in tons of preparation and backstory building and brainstorming for each character so we know where they’re coming from and how they’ve been effected by their past situations. That allows us to effectively climb into their heads when we’re writing.
LK: Have you both always wanted to write with one another?
MF: When I decided I wanted to reach out and collaborate on a romance novel, Bella was the first person I considered doing so with. I’ve admired her work for ages, and love how connected she is with her fans, which is super important to me when considering a writing partner. Our characters and visions are so similar that I knew it would be a great collaboration—and it’s been incredible!
BA: When Melissa reached out to me, I hadn’t thought about collaborating with anyone before, but of course I knew all about how amazing her books were and how much readers loved her. So after chatting about the possibility of co-writing at length with her, I got super excited about collaborating on our Love on Rockwell Island series. We’ve been writing these books for nearly a year now, and every day it truly is a pleasure to work together on our new series.
LK: What’s the hardest part about collaborating on a book?
MF and BA: We actually haven’t run into any difficulties so far. We both have really clear visions of how we’d like our books to read, but at the same time we’re both good at compromise. Probably the most difficult thing is coordinating our publishing schedules since we’re both so prolific.
LK: What are your favorite romances and why?
MF: Big family romances are my absolute favorite, because I come from a huge, close-knit family, but I really love most contemporary romances.
BA: Ditto! Except that I don’t come from a big family. But family series and contemporaries are my favorite romances to read.
LK: What has been the fan response to the news of your collaboration? What about other writers?
MF: Overwhelmingly positive! They’re really excited to see what fun, emotional, and sexy stories we’re going to bring them!
LK: Would you recommend more co-authorship of books between authors? Or do you recommend they publish on their own first?
MF: That’s such a personal decision. We’ve both heard of co-writing nightmares, so if you’re going to co-write you really need to put great thought into it and look at all of the elements that really matter most. Are your visions similar? What experience do you both bring to the table? If you’re a writer who has several years of experience polishing his/her skills, and then you pair with a newer author, it might be very frustrating for some. Also, if your visions are not the same, or your beliefs in what your underlying characterization traits should be varies greatly, then the writing process likely won’t go as smoothly as it could.
BA: Collaborating is like a marriage. If you don’t think you can work with this person for hours on end, compromise, and stand firm when you feel strongly about something, then perhaps rethink it, because ending a publishing partnership in divorce would not be fun. Fortunately, we really enjoy emailing with each other a zillion times a day and talking on the phone to each other for hours!
LK: Talk about your individual writing processes? Do you believe inspiration is for amateurs?
MF: Wow, I’m not even sure that I understand that question [laughs]. Isn’t inspiration for everyone? How can it not be? I write because I adore the process, and that process, for me, begins, progresses, and ends, with inspiration. When not collaborating, I’m a total pantzer. I flesh out my characters completely, but I hardly ever flesh out my stories beforehand. I usually have a sense of where the story is going, or how it will end, but my characters carry me through. Oftentimes the story is nothing like I had thought at the beginning, so inspiration along the way is my guiding light.
BA: Every time I think I have a set writing process, it changes for the next book. Honestly, if I’m falling in love with my hero and heroine as I write their story, I know odds are pretty good that my readers will, too.
LK: Why do you think readers are addicted to love?
MF and BA: There is so much monotony, negativity, and fear in real life, and let’s face it, even the best marriages sometimes hit rough spots. With romance you can escape into a world of loveliness and sensuality, where characters are dealing with intense issues, but they’re not you, so you can cheer them on from the sidelines while enjoying the ride. Besides, love is beautiful and emotional, what better addiction to have?
LK: Talk about how you incorporate social media awareness into your daily writing routine?
MF: I’m a bit of a social media addict. I am on it all day and all night. I pop over when I’m writing and chat with readers and friends, and when I wake up in the middle of the night, I do the same. Social media has been such a blessing. We get to become friends with our fans, and chat about life and books and even let them help come up with names for shops and characters. It’s too much fun for me to step away, which costs me writing time, but it would take a 12-step program for me to stop, so…
BA: Like Melissa, I’ll drop into FB, Twitter, Goodreads & Pinterest several times a day. I have the most wonderful readers. They’re warm and funny and super supportive. They’re just plain fun to hang out with! Although I know they’d rather have me write faster rather than hang out and chat on FB, too much, so I try to keep focused on writing as much as possible.
LK: How many hours a day do you both write?
MF: I’d pretty much rather write than anything else, so while I’m this inspired, I often write for nine to twelve hours a day, seven days a week. I’m cutting back in September to eight hours a day, five days a week. Maybe. Probably. Okay, probably not, but I am thinking about it.
BA: It depends on where I am in my writing cycle for each book. When I’m drafting, I’ll write 5-6 hours a day. When I’m editing, I’ll often work for longer stretches each day on the book. But if I only have 2-3 hours to write on a certain day, then I’ll grab that as writing time, too.
LK: Can you talk about how you stay physically and emotionally balanced when working on a book?
MF: Well… I never claimed to be emotionally balanced [laughs]. I have a fabulous treadmill desk, and I walk on my treadmill for two hours a day while writing. I think being emotionally balanced while writing is overrated. I allow myself to become immersed in my characters. I feel what they feel when I write, which helps me get the emotions on the page. Sometimes that’s not at all balanced, and other times it’s overly so. It works for me. I play music while I write, which helps with something emotional that I can’t pinpoint. But I can’t write without it. After I’m done writing for the day I shift into a more balanced state, and that happens with simply being around my family and friends, and of course, diving into a good book at midnight.
BA: I love to walk and hike and start every day with a two-hour walk with my husband. I also love riding my beach cruiser bike. I play music while I write, too. And spending time relaxing with family and friends and a good book in the evenings is an important part of recharging for me.
LK: What can we expect from the Rockwell Island series? Can you give us a sneak peek?
MF and BA: Love on Rockwell Island is a fun, emotional, and sensual, big family romance series. We strive to create an enjoyable mix of romance, real-life decisions and issues, and a close-knit community and family to draw strength and inspiration from. These love stories are the perfect escape for a snowy day or an afternoon on the beach. Readers can expect to be swept into the lives of, and fall in love with, the sexy, loyal, and loving Rockwell family.