Friends who write together, stay together. That’s pretty much been our motto for over 20 years, since we first met at a small town newspaper office.
Annette had just moved to Missouri, had two small children, and was looking for free-lance journalistic work to get her out of the house once in a while. Danette was and still is the editor of a St. Louis-based weekly paper. When Annette applied for the job with Danette, Danette wasn’t too impressed. She later told Annette she thought she was a froufrou sort of cheerleader type. But she tried Annette out and found out she could write.
So, Danette having a keen sense of humor, sent Annette out on all of the worst story jobs, for example, chasing Haley’s comet enthusiasts through a waist-high grass field in the middle of nowhere at 4 a.m. Danette knew Annette had two small kids and found it amusing as to how Annette would get out in the middle of the night to go interview comet watchers. Annette packed husband and kids and telescope in the car and drove right smack into the middle of the field. While she did interviews with other crazy astronomy addicts, the kids and dad had a once-in-a-lifetime experience viewing the comet.
Danette then sent Annette out into the woods on an “Owl Prowl” to interview people who talk to owls in the woods at midnight. Again, dad and the kids tagged along, learning how to do owl calls while Annette interviewed owl prowlers. These lovely assignments continued and slowly Danette began to gain a grudging respect for Annette’s tenacity and work. Much later Danette would confess to the hidden humor she found in choosing just the right assignments for Annette.
Annette, however, actually enjoyed the outdoors, oddball stories and the people she met. She used to drag her kids along on many of the interviews because she knew they’d learn a thing or two about the natural world. She also dragged her kids and their homemade play dough into Danette’s office to write her stories up on a now ancient word processor. The kids left remains of their play dough art in the carpet in Danette’s office. Later, Annette also confessed that was a bit of revenge on her part.
As our quirky friendship began to unfold and develop, we found we shared similar frustrations in terms of their writing. We both wanted to write fiction; neither had time to devote to the task. So, between chasing ambulances, talking to wolves, trying to stay awake to cover city council meetings and sharing lunch and counting calories together, we began to reveal more and more about a shared fiction-writing dream.
Finally, one night, we decided to go out to dinner. After a huge meal of Japanese food and too much sake, we went back to Annette’s house and began regaling each other with beginning “what if” ideas for a novel. We both loved romance, reading it, watching moves about it, listening to mushy romantic music and so on. So, we decided we wanted to write a romance novel. Both being of a rather dramatic, intense vent, we agreed a gothic romance would suit our literary mode. Lying on the floor of Annette’s living room, a bit tipsy, we stared at the ceiling and outlined our first novel.
The next morning, amazingly, the idea still sounded great. So, we began to divide the book in to chapters, and wrote outlines for the first and second chapters. From then on, we alternated chapters, editing over each other’s work as we went. As we worked, more and more ideas sprung up and the book grew—to about 700 hundred pages. But back then, that wasn’t too far off for what we were writing. Their first novel actually made it to a New York publisher, who, after expressing initial interest, found that as the book progressed, the writing regressed. We had no idea what we were doing. By the time we’d turned the book in, we sort of already realized that. So, we were hardly devastated when the first rejection slip came along.
We continued to work on another book, which, after joining a local writers group and learning about an agent that lived in St. Louis, we submitted to this person. She didn’t buy that book but instead offered us a contract on another book, an antebellum historical. We knew less than nothing about the antebellum South, but agreed enthusiastically to write the book. Cramming research day and night we launched into ALABABMA TWILIGHT, our first published historical romance.
A few books later, we were delighted to join Harlequin where we were able to write about the place we love most. Both born in the Southwest, writing about cowboys, rattlesnakes and ranches are where we feel most comfortable. We love the Southwest and are thrilled to be working on our seven book series titled THE BROTHERS OF RANCHO PINTADA for Silhouette Special Edition.
In terms of writing, we look forward to starting a new series, also set in the Southwest, next year. Who knows what the future holds for us beyond our writing career?
All we do know is that to this point, we’ve been through moves, graduations, birth, illnesses, marriage, divorce, travels, surgeries, job changes, childrearing, major life and family crises, deadline after deadline, and often simple daily hum drum existence. During these times we never stopped writing and we never stopped being best friends.
When one of us is sick or has a personal crisis, the other is there to pick up the slack. Our work and our friendship have been based on mutual respect, caring and understanding. All of which we hope comes through in the stories we tell of people who like us face new challenges every day.
And, who meet them because those they love give them the courage to do so.
Annette and Dannette are giving away autographed copies of The Cowboy’s Lady and The Bridesmaid’s Turn, one each of two winners! Leave a comment to get your name in the cowboy hat.