When my Bliss editor, the wonderful and hard-working Stacy Abrams, asked me to write a follow-up to my debut novel, Love Songs for the Road, I jumped at the chance. The only problem: I was hard at work on a young-adult novel, and I was concerned about juggling two sprawling stories at the same time. The last thing I wanted to do was to short-change either project, but neither did I want to delay the fine folks at Bliss, or miss a chance at building an audience of new readers in my fledgling career as a writer of romances.
The obvious solution was to ask that go-to problem solver, my very own mother, for help!
My mom, Linden Taylor, though an unpublished novelist (until now) is an accomplished writer and teacher, and I knew that she could work with me on a great follow-up to Love Songs, in the Bigfork, Montana setting we both know well. We had a great time plotting the book, though she truly took over as “head writer,” while I contributed additions and edited along the way. I asked my mom to share some thoughts on the co-writing process, one I found richly rewarding and a ton of fun. Plus, I got to know my mother even better—what a gift, because she’s a great lady!
From Farrah’s mom, Linden:
This spring, when my daughter Farrah asked me to help her write a book for Entangled’s Bliss line, I was flattered and excited about the opportunity to work together. And overwhelmed. I’d never had a novel accepted for publication. Short stories in obscure journals, a handful of poems and three manuscripts gathering dust under my bed: that was my entire publishing history. Like Farrah, I teach in public school, and editing three anthologies of middle-school poetry comprised the work I was proudest of.
The novel would be set, like Farrah’s first romance, Love Songs for the Road, in our favorite little town of Bigfork, Montana. Our work was cut out for us when we decided on our main characters, a horse-whispering woman and a leather-thumping rodeo cowboy. Our search for authentic Western names turned up Wolf Olsen for the guy and Abadabun Maccready for the girl, an adopted Native American who mostly goes by “Abby.”
Before he dumped her at the Prom, Wolf was the leading man in Abby’s thoughts (though he’d scarcely noticed her in high school and thought of her as his younger sister’s sidekick). When Wolf returns for Doc Macready’s birthday after eight rough years on the rodeo circuit, and Abby moves back from Seattle with her horse-healing trailer in tow, the two are poised to fall in love against the dramatic backdrop of the Continental Divide. Though I was ready by page 25 to have Abby and Wolf ride off into the sunset on matched palominos, Farrah (and our editor Stacy!) warned me that we’d have to create one conflict after another to keep them apart until they (and the readers) were good and ready.
Getting the manuscript off the ground was our first challenge. One snowy February afternoon, we met up for a couple of days—luckily we live only a couple of towns apart—and outlined the book. By the time I got back on the plane, my fingers were itching to write. If a metaphor for our process exists, it involves an untrained horse running around a ring (that would be me) with a disciplined rider in the center, flicking a whip at the horse’s heels (Farrah). I quickly evolved into the writer of first drafts while Farrah edited and made sense of non sequitur scenes and characters. I watched You-Tubes of rodeo events and talked to a horse whisperer several times to give our manuscript authenticity.
We finished the book in five months with Farrah “super-editing” the sections a day or two after I’d emailed them. I use the term “super-edit,” because I rarely had any argument with the changes she suggested; she listened to our characters and got them just right. I hid out from friends and family dogs at our local library where I knew at least three books were being created around me; Farrah wrote on the run between job and family.
The high energy level, the excitement of seeing the story progress, the awareness that this was a rare form of collaboration between mother and child: all of this creativity exacted a price. I was hungry all the time. And I wanted chocolate. Not good, expensive chocolate, metered out at an ounce per hour. But Safeway-ready chocolate. Cadbury’s 32-ounce Fruit and Nut Bar on the second aisle, on special 2/$3.00 with a Safeway card.
Thank you. That will do nicely. No, I don’t need help carrying my groceries to the car.
Seven pounds later, I arrived at the ultimate challenge: to write the important love scene on page 110, the one that would determine the future of the Entire Human Race.
I wrote a few smoking paragraphs, trying to offset my premonition that Farrah would be shocked by their intensity with a genuine memory of myself as a young girl, falling in love with someone who loved horses as much as he loved me. Farrah returned these pages without comment, my chocolate consumption dropped back to an ounce per day, and we finished the book on schedule.
Writing a romance with my child was a wonderful invitation to combine our talents and see what happened. Postpartum, I returned to a normal life of literary seclusion this summer in a cabin with my laptop, a Nespresso machine and the eternally Unpublished Literary Manuscript.
My writing life is much duller without my writing partner. Her editing skills—from her ruthless red-penciling of characters to her deft sequencing of scenes—were skills I lacked. My research on a sport new to both of us, rodeo, and a profession that was gaining credence among horse people, horse-healing and gentle training, proved essential to keep the story, and the romance, moving.
I learned a lot. And I came to value Farrah’s literary skills more than ever.
I’d partner again with her in a Montana minute.
About Love Songs for the Road by Farrah Taylor
A rock star. The nanny. A love that could rock their world.
The only thing rock star Marcus Troy loves more than making music is his kids. So finding just the right nanny to take on tour with them is important—as is proving to his ex he deserves joint custody. Falling for his employee wouldn’t just be fodder for the paparazzi: it could ruin everything.
Too bad the perfect nanny turns out to be beautiful, vibrant Ryan Evans. Ryan’s never left her small Montana town before, so she jumps at the chance to see the country. And as much as accidental fame doesn’t gel with shy Ryan, what does is her relationship with her capricious, smoking-hot, shockingly good dad of a boss. Marcus is nothing like what she expected. But when the whole world’s watching them, will life in the spotlight be too hot to handle?