Do they really listen to music while they write? Why did they choose to include the Boston Molasses Flood of 1919? How did they go about developing the wide array of characters in the book? How do they manage to keep all the different storylines straight?
Before each episode of your book, you named a group and several of their songs that were listened to while you wrote that episode. How does listening to music while you write add to your stories? Some authors need complete quiet while writing. Have you always written with music playing? Do you feel your stories wouldn’t be as good if you wrote them in silence?
First, yes—we really do listen to music while we’re writing. 90% of the time it’s Richard’s choice, as he has the responsibility of banging out the first rough draft. The reason is primarily due to our love of movies and TV serials, which make great use of music soundtracks to create a mood for the audience. So we thought: Why not write while listing to music as well?
Now, does listening to music as we write influence the writing itself? We think so. It certainly affects our mood, and that must in some way impact the words that make their way to the page. Is it noticeable to the reader? Probably not—not consciously, at least. In any case, it makes the writing process more fun for us.
Regarding the need for silence: We imagine there are many writers (most, in fact) who require silence when they write. And we find the need to turn down the volume (or turn the music off entirely) when writing some of the most critical scenes. Especially when we’re killing off a character we love.
You chose to use the Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 as a historical event in this book. I had just learned about it and other unusual floods recently. Were there other historical disasters that took place in Boston at this time that you considered using? Did you consider making up an event to suit your purposes?
While there are times when we find it necessary to make up events (to fit our story and/or period timelines), we always opt to use real events whenever possible. As far as how we choose one event over another, we’ll usually go with the event we find to be the most interesting or unique. Let’s face it: 21 people swept away by a wave of molasses is a lot more interesting than some run-of-the-mill gas explosion.
There are a wide variety of characters in Onyx Webb. Are any of the characters based on real people? How did you develop each of them?
Yes, several of the characters are real. Robyn (the bartender) is a real person (and good friend) who was tending bar at Kres Chophouse, in downtown Orlando, at the time we were writing the few books of the series. Also, every now and then we’ll throw in a well-known/famous celebrity or two but the vast majority of our characters are fictional (though, as you know, they tend to become very real inside the mind of the person writing them!)
As far as character development goes, we went pretty deep outlining the backgrounds and motivations of every important character in the series. Age, sex, height, weight, hair/eye color, place of birth, scars and birthmarks, likes and dislikes (food, drinks, music, etc.) are identified before the first word ever hits the page. This doesn’t mean there aren’t a few changes along the way—sometimes there are. But, generally speaking, we know our characters very, very well (even though the majority of this information will never make it to the page itself.)
More than anything, however, is knowing what each character wants.
The third rule in Kurt Vonnegut’s famous “Eight Rules for Writers” states: Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water. We cannot overstate how much this advice has impacted our writing! And we answer it for everyone. Onyx wants to live again. Catfish wants to protect his daughter from harm. Koda wants his father’s love. Quinn wants to go change the past, though he knows he never can. Everyone in the world wants something—and so should everyone in a good story.
As the stories progress, these storylines begin to merge. I know they are all connected in some way. Do you have outlines to keep from giving away too much too soon? How do you manage to keep all the different storylines straight? Notes?
Outlines? We’ve got outlines, notes, and walls holding 10+ storyboards filled with hundreds and hundreds of Post-it notes. But that’s only because we like to keep things simple.
The complete Onyx Webb series—when all ten books are finished—will include 30+ main characters, 40 secondary characters, and a variety of role players. And, yes, they will all be connected in some way, even if just for a few minutes.
But we know how important it is to make sure readers never feel lost. Uncertain? Sure. Baffled? Okay. Nervous? That’s fine, too. But lost? Never. So the first step for us is to make sure that WE are never lost! But, we readily admit, the people who seem to enjoy the Onyx Webb series most are patient readers who don’t mind getting pieces to the puzzle that don’t connect yet—knowing those puzzle pieces will fit eventually. After all, life is complicated. Dumbing down a story about life (and death) would be disingenuous, and we respect our readers too much to ever do that.