Saturday, 10 December 2016

Honorary award for "Musta Susi" - our werewolf story

Something soft and furry touched him. He screamed, smelled blood and sweat. Panting, clutching his dagger, he stumbled around in the small space. Where was the exit? Where?

An item stolen from the Royal Palace of Stockholm ends up in the hands of Caribbean pirates. [...] The adventure, set in the 17th century, has many plot twists and is rigorous in its historical detail.

Above is an excerpt and the judges’ description of the short story “Musta Susi” (“Black Wolf”) that my DH and I submitted to the competition organised by the Science Fiction Society of Tampere. The judges decided to give our pirate/werewolf adventure story an honorary award! Last night, we attended the awards ceremony in Tampere. The story, set in the 17th century, will later be published in “Portti”, a science fiction and fantasy magazine. You can read more about the competition and our story over in Marko's blog.

(Photo by Varpu Susimetsä)

Now that my husband and I have been writing together for some time (our story "Entombed" was published in "666" horror anthology), people often ask us how that works. Writing is a creative process, after all, so how do two people collaborate on it? I mentioned some of the benefits earlier, but how it works in practice is something like this:

Usually, one of us has an initial idea. We develop it together and draft some kind of an outline, sometimes more, sometimes less detailed. Then we decide which chapters/scenes/parts each of us would like to write, or at least to start with, and do that. (Eventually someone does have to write the scenes neither of us was too keen on, so then there’s nothing for it; we have to do it.) Anyway, once we’ve written the first draft of a scene/chapter, we give it to the other one who then reads it and rewrites it.

To be able to do that, you have to trust the other person completely. You have to trust that they’ll see what you’ve been trying/wanting to do with the scene, to improve the parts that need improving and to enhance the parts that already work. We keep cycling the scenes/chapters back and forth, each of us making changes and rewriting in their turn – and often getting new ideas from what the other one has done with the scene.

This approach has worked well for us, probably because we have very similar ideas about what sort of stories we want to write, what – for us – makes a good story. Another thing that helps is that we have fairly different strengths: my DH is the logical one, he can see the story as a whole and this makes him a better plotter. I tend to focus more on feelings, both in terms of what the characters are going through, how to show that, and in terms of the feel of the writing (tension; how to express atmosphere etc.). Since we write historical fiction, we have to do research – and it helps when there are two of you. While there are things we both need to know, our interests also diverge a bit, so that Marko is more interested in, e.g., how muskets work, while I’m more interested in, say, what people wore and what they ate.

So, we keep working on individual chapters until we think we have all the scenes, which is when we put it all together. Then we take turns rereading and rewriting the whole story.

In addition to a similar idea of what we want to write, there seems to be one topic we’re both drawn to again and again: werewolves. Or werewolves, wolfmen, shape-shifting into wolves... My DH’s previous werewolf story “Susiveri” (“Wolf Blood”) received an honorary award in the same competition in 2014, while my shape-shifter story “Surunkantaja” (“Sorrow Bearer”) set in Viking Age Finland received a second prize in Nova short story competition in 2013 (more here), and another one I wrote about a werewolf theme got shortlisted in the same competition earlier this year. One of the competition organisers remarked yesterday that we might consider putting together an anthology one day... Well, who knows!


  1. Congratulations!
    I'm so proud of you both and so happy for you - well done and well deserved. I hope you had a nice night out in Tampere.
    And thanks for sharing information on your co-writing process. I guess I am a bit of a groupie for writers, and love hearing about the creative process. I always imagine co-writing is fascinating and fun, but also takes a fair amount of coordination and communication - so good on you for doing that so well. (Also... werewolves rule!)
    Congratulations again to both of you,

    1. Thank you so much, Kathy! :)

      Yes, co-writing is a lot of fun (sometimes I feel sorry for our characters, we make fun of them quite mercilessly) and it is a huge help when you come across a problem. But naturally, communication is crucial and the whole thing requires a certain amount of coordination.

      And thanks, we did have a lovely night - the awards ceremony was very nice, and we also had our private celebration dinner at a Viking restaurant. :)