Acquisitions Announcement: Lauren Emily Whalen & Lillah Lawson
Sword & Silk is pleased to welcome Lauren Emily Whalen & Lillah Lawson.
Their novel, Tomorrow and Tomorrow, is a New Adult Modern Shakespearian tale comparable to The Runaways, Daisy Jones and the Six, and The Agathas.
A dark new adult contemporary remix of Shakespeare's Macbeth, about southern girl bands, hot guy witches and how far one would go for fame, even if that means a body count.
When Duff O’Brien moves to Hiawassee, Georgia after a traumatic experience in her Michigan hometown, she’s looking to finish high school with her head down and work at her beloved granny’s barbeque joint. Enter classmate Marian “Mac” Shepherd: ambitious, rough around the edges, and devoted to Duff immediately. The two best friends pick up instruments and along with their new pal, recently-disgraced golden girl Quincy Banks, form The Scottish Play, the hardest-rocking all-female band North Georgia has ever seen.
Five years later, The Scottish Play is living and playing together in Athens, Georgia, getting all the gigs they can with the help of their rhythm guitarist Rosalyn “Ross” Smith and their manager, legendary record executive and father figure Ian Duncan. When the women meet the handsome and enigmatic Lawrence MacLaren at local hot spot The Grit, it’s love at first sight for Marian—and Lawrence envisions even bigger and better things for his new girlfriend’s band. But when Ian mysteriously drops dead, and teetotaler Quincy succumbs to a drug overdose soon after, Duff and Ross begin to suspect that Mac and Lawrence may be involved. Does this have anything to do with the prophecies from The Hecks, a wickedly handsome male trio of Hiawassee witches—one of whom Duff is now dating? And as the band journeys to Scotland’s historic Glamis Castle for the show of a lifetime, Duff wonders if she ever really knew her best friend Mac at all—and more urgently, is she next?
Lillah Lawson and Lauren Emily Whalen met in 2009 on a feminist message board and immediately bonded over their shared love of Joan Jett and The Runaways, the teenage girl band that kickstarted her career—which along with their Macbeth fandom, inspired them to cowrite Tomorrow and Tomorrow. Lauren is based in Chicago, and her previous two novels, Take Her Down—which went into a second printing on its release day—and Two Winters, are both YA femme-driven Shakespeare reimaginings (of Julius Caesar and The Winter’s Tale, respectively). Lifelong Athens resident and Georgia Author of the Year nominee Lillah (the Dead Rockstar Trilogy, Monarchs Under the Sassafras Tree) is working with Sword and Silk on her next novel, So Long, Bobby. Lauren and Lillah can’t wait for you to read their contemporary, sexy, and diverse remix of one of the Bard’s darkest plays.
An Introductory Interview with Lauren & Lillah
Tell us about yourselves! How and why did your collaboration come about?
Lillah: Lauren and I have been friends for a really long time – over ten years! We started out as internet friends and followed each other into a few different social media spaces over the years. We met in person in 2013 and since then have just always kept in touch. We bonded over a shared love of many things, including Joan Jett, Queen, Mikhail Baryshnikov/The Nutcracker, and Shakespeare, and of course, both being published authors! We’ve just always gotten on really well! We are a lot alike (I think she’s the bubbly, colorful counterpart to my more dark and spooky self) and she’s one of my best friends despite living so far away!
I’m pretty sure we were having one of our many conversations about publishing when the idea came to us to collab. It might’ve even been a joking thing, like, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we co-wrote a book?” But then it sort of wormed its way into our minds and the next thing we knew we were off and running with ideas. We spent several months blowing up each other’s inboxes with voice messages, trading ideas back and forth. We had a lot of shared excitement over it (and still do!).
Lauren: Lillah and I met online when she was pregnant with her son, and we’ve been close ever since! We’re very different in a lot of ways—for starters, she’s a lifelong Southerner and I’m a Midwesterner since birth—but we love a lot of the same pop culture, especially Joan Jett and The Runaways, and we have a similar sensibility about life in general, I think. She just joked over DM that I am the Rhys Darby to her Taika Waititi, and I think that sums us up perfectly!
I can’t remember who suggested we cowrite this book, but I was totally on board from the get-go. We talk constantly over Facebook DM, through text and voice messages, and the idea just sort of took shape. Once we decided to write Tomorrow and Tomorrow, the ideas came so fast, we had to start writing everything down! Thank goodness for Google Drive.
What inspired this story?
Lillah: Well, obviously Lauren is no stranger to Shakespeare adaptations. I’ve always loved her books and after her latest, Take Her Down (which is based on my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays, Julius Caesar), I couldn’t stop thinking about what a modern, goth, rock n’ roll adaptation of Macbeth might be like. The more we talked about the idea, the more we wanted to weave in these other narratives and components into it, the part of the book that is the most us. And that means lots of girls rocking out, lots of steamy scenes, a bunch of juicy historical and fashion details, and naturally, a huge, heaping dose of the macabre! Since we basically became friends over a shared love of Joan Jett, we knew that Joan had to be the book’s biggest muse and inspiration, and we found that her aesthetic fit in perfectly with the dark and stormy (and sexy) tone of the book!
Lauren: I think it was sometime in August of last year that we started going back and forth about remixing Macbeth with a female-driven, rock ‘n roll twist. I love Lillah’s Dead Rockstar series and her historical novel Monarchs Under the Sassafras Tree (which I blurbed), and I think she has such an amazing sense of place and a cool goth sensibility in her writing. My two most recent titles, Take Her Down and Two Winters, have reimagined other Shakespeare plays (The Winter’s Tale and Julius Caesar)—I majored in theater and have performed Shakespeare professionally, and as the daughter of an English major, I’ve loved the Bard my whole life—but I was also eager to try something new in my next project, namely writing for a slightly older audience (okay, fine, I wanted to write sex scenes and you can’t really do that in YA).
I feel like a lot of our respective experiences figure into Tomorrow and Tomorrow: I’ve been a performer since I was four years old, Lillah lives in and loves Georgia, and we’ve both experienced complex female friendships…that have sometimes gone off the rails. We were excited to incorporate all of this, plus all the good stuff that comes with Macbeth—mysterious witches, spooky ghosts, the fascinating quest for power and the consequences that come with it, SCOTLAND—and give it all our own dark and sexy twist! I think we did good. J
How did your story benefit from having two authors? What challenges did having two authors present?
Lillah: For me, it was a total blast. We work really well together – we’re both Type A enough that we communicated really well about our needs, schedules and desires, so we didn’t have much conflict while writing. We struck a nice balance and worked with each other’s deadlines. The hardest part for me was doing the outline and synopsis – if I’m being honest, those are the parts of writing that I dislike the most. Especially the outline – not only do I hate writing them, but when I do use an outline, I often deviate from them. When you’re working with another author, you can’t do that. You’ve agreed upon the storyline and narrative, and you can’t just go off the rails and start writing something else. At least not without clearing it first. So I had to approach this project with more self-discipline than I’m used to.
It made for a better book though, much as I hate to admit it!
Lauren: I think our unique perspectives really benefited the story and made it much richer than if one of us had taken it on solo. We decided to each take a main character and write from their perspective, with additional chapters from supporting characters, which we switched off according to…what felt right. It was so rewarding to see the book take shape through our voices, which have a lot of similarities and a lot of differences as well. I also appreciated having a built-in beta reader as we revised and edited! We both communicate constantly and aren’t shy about sharing any real-life obstacles we’re experiencing at the moment, and we respected each other’s schedules (besides the one-hour time difference, I have a day job and Lillah has a kid, plus we are both constantly on deadline for our other books and projects, so that affects when and where we’re able to write). We also are great at bouncing ideas off one another and listening to each other.
Honestly, I’d never co-written a book before, and the whole process was way smoother than I thought it would be! Writing a book is always challenging, because life tends to get in the way, but we were able to work through any hiccups together without incident.
What advice would you have for other authors seeking to co-write together?
Lillah: Take your time. I’m very impulsive and we definitely had moments where we were like, “Damn, let’s just start this book already!” but we made ourselves wait until we had everything in place. The outline, the schedule, all the character development, etc. And it was hard, because I often just want to sit down and start letting the words come. But that discipline gave us the time to sit with our book and marinate on it, to talk out all the plot points and stuff…and it ended up making the writing of it flow so seamlessly and easily.
So yeah. My first bit of advice would be to GO FOR IT! Co-written novels are having a moment, and it’s a lot of fun to write with someone, if you have similar visions and styles and work well together. My second bit of advice would be to know your co-author’s work. Read their books and get an idea for their voice. And the last, what I said above – take your time.
Lauren: Handle with care and have fun! Keep an open mind, respect deadlines and speak up if you’re not going to be able to meet them, and don’t hesitate to bring up new ideas, hesitations, or, well, anything! Also, Google Drive is your best friend.
I was not an outline person before Tomorrow and Tomorrow—my prewriting prep tends to include a lot of VERY messy handwritten notes to myself—but having an outline, synopsis and plan for the first draft was so incredibly helpful for both of us, and eliminated a lot of potential issues. I used my day-job skills as a corporate admin to make us a calendar during NaNoWriMo—we’ve each used November as a first-draft month in the past and it worked well for us, and in this case we alternated writing days. I’m a big fan of having a plan, and it really kept us on task, but at the same time we were flexible when things came up (because they always do!).
We all see a bit of ourselves in our fiction. Do you see pieces of yourself in the characters? Are there characters that are more like one of you than the other? Or do you think your characters are a solid mix of your influence?
Lillah: I can’t speak for Lauren, but my main characters usually all have an element of me. They aren’t entirely based on me and I’d never presume to write myself over and over again (how boring), but I do have to see a little of myself in my MCs to be able to fully immerse myself in their voice. I’m not an actor, but I think maybe the process is similar…I sort of embody the MC for a while; step into their skin and become them for a bit. I’m a little method that way. I rely heavily on aesthetics while writing – I make all these playlists and read books and watch movies/TV from the time periods/locales I’m writing about, and really throw myself headfirst into that world. So I do become enmeshed, in a way, with my characters. Most of my characters, even the minor ones, start out influenced by others, whether it’s people I know IRL or some celebrity I’m obsessed with. I’m not at all ashamed to admit that I’m heavily influenced by the world and people around me and I’ll use anything I find beautiful or interesting. As I write, though, the characters come into their own and eventually become their own separate entity. That’s the best part. To watch them come alive.
Short answer: Am I Marian? Well, I hope not. But I’m okay with being a little like her. A very little bit.
Lauren: I definitely see pieces of myself in Duff O’Brien (the Macduff character, whose perspective I wrote from throughout the novel). Like me, she’s a Midwesterner who’s close to her family, and she has that sort of practical politeness we pride ourselves on even when it bites us in the ass. Also like me, Duff is big on following her heart, even if that means big gestures like (in her case) moving to a different state on her own at seventeen, picking up a bass when she previously hadn’t played any music, and devoting herself to her best best friend, Marian, as they progress into their twenties. Even when the road is bumpy, and it often is, she holds on with everything she’s got.
Lillah calls me “bubbly” and I think that really seeped into the Duff character, who I’d previously envisioned as a bit more morose and serious. I think of myself as very intense, so I’m always surprised when people call me upbeat, funny, etc.—and it happens a lot! When I got into the first draft, I realized Duff had this very optimistic side to her, and I ended up leaning into that. I’m very excited for everyone to meet her, and the characters we’ve created with help from Billy Shakes!