Coffee with Barb and Tempeste Blake
Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God? —Oath of the British Detection Club, 1930
Seriously? Jiggery-pokery? Is that even a thing?
In 1930, a group of British mystery writers formed a club and elected G.K. Chesterton as their first president. Members—who included Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ronald Knox, Anthony Berkeley, Freeman Wills Crofts, Arthur Morrison, John Rhode, Jessie Rickard, Baroness Emma Orczy, R. Austin Freeman, G. D. H. Cole, Margaret Cole, E. C. Bentley, Henry Wade, and H. C. Bailey—took the above oath, which most (if not all) of them proceeded to violate with some regularity.
Their aims were further codified by Ronald Knox, a clergyman who produced ‘Father Knox’s Decalogue: The Ten Rules of (Golden Age) Detective Fiction’ (Preface, Best Detective Stories of 1928-29, edited by Knox)
- The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.
- All supernaural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
- Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
- No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
- No Chinaman must figure in the story.
- No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
- The detective must not himself commit the crime.
- The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.
- The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
- Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.
[In the “If it didn’t happen, it should have” department, there is a story that Agatha Christie was about to be chucked out of the club for breaking…well, basically ALL of the above rules… but she was saved when then-president Dorothy L. Sayers intervened.]
My guests today have co-authored a new mystery, Chasing Symmetry, under the name Tempeste Blake. I was curious about their approach to writing together, the mystery genre, and life, so I invited them to join us for coffee and a chat.
So please pull up a seat and have a cup of coffee. For those in the US suffering from that heatwave, we have iced coffee or tea. For those who (like me) are in Scotland preparing for a blistering high today of 56F/13C—I’ve saved you a place over here by the fire. (I have blankets and hot coffee in the thermos.)
And please be sure to come back tomorrow for my review of their thrilling new release, Chasing Symmetry. I wonder how many commandments they’ll break? And I’m afraid to even ask about the jiggery-pokery…
LUCK PLUS PLUCK EQUALS ONE GREAT COLLABORATION
By Nancy Smith and Catherine Trizzino,
Writing as Tempeste Blake
Neither of us was looking for a writing partner. We were both happily skipping down our own paths, writing in different genres when we decided to join a group focused on craft and before we knew it, we were co-authoring a novel together. Divine intervention, the stars aligning, serendipity. Call it what you will, but we feel fortunate to have found each other.
Six-years, two books, and gallons of coffee later, we’re still going strong. Aside from the caffeine buzz, how do we keep it going? Confidence in ourselves, each other, and the process certainly helps. These three components form a strong braid that pulls us along on an amazing journey.
A shared vision is also integral. We’re both drawn to strong, sometimes quirky characters and organically evolved plotting that involves a twist or two. Or three or four. Our writing styles are similar enough to mesh, yet different enough to add that extra umph that is Tempeste Blake.
Do we always agree? If we did, one of us would be unnecessary. A collaboration means a lot of give and take as ideas are tossed around and each chapter, sentence, and word is put on trial. Usually we can chisel our way to an agreement, but sometimes it’s necessary for one to “gift” the decision to the other, knowing the next one is “theirs.” But in the end there really is no “mine” or “yours.” By the time we’ve crossed the last T, we often can’t remember who initially wrote what because the words have been shaken, flipped, and massaged through rigorous revision.
One of the greatest benefits is continuous feedback. Your partner is right there to let you know if you’re on the right track or way off. Checks and balances, feedback, and accountability make for stronger prose. Perhaps there is some truth to the old adage, two heads are better than one. With two, we have double ideas and possibilities. And everything, from the characters’ wardrobes to what they eat and drink, to their dialogue and internal thoughts, makes for a richer novel with two people at the helm.
Over 600 miles separates us — in fact we haven’t actually met in person— but that doesn’t hinder productivity. We are both task oriented, and we break the writing and editing into small chunks in order to work at the same time. Sometimes those chunks are full chapters, other times a scene or an in-depth character study or a side story that adds background layers. On any given day, we pretty much burn up the cyber highway. Emails and shared documents fly. Phone calls. Text messages. Skype or face time, (provided we’ve both washed our hair). Even snail mail. We use it all.
However, like anything in life, collaboration has its challenges. At times we are out of sync. One of us is eager to move forward and the other may be in a country with a poor internet connection. But those times turn into “soft writing” opportunities where we both eavesdrop and snoop our way through the downtime to gather new material. We’re both addicted committed enough that we never stop “working.” Our own experiences help us flesh out our characters. And speaking of characters, naming them can be . . . a dilemma. “That’s my neighbor’s ferret’s name.” “We can’t give a murderer the same name as my great aunt.” Well, you get the picture.
And then there are those times when you think that epiphany you had in the shower cleverly solves a plot conundrum and your partner politely points out the flaw in your solution only to provide something better. Ouch! But that’s when the give and take gets very real and you’re grateful you teamed up with this person who bests you now and again. After all, everything goes into the hopper and whatever comes out belongs to both of you.
Any author knows that writing “the end” is only the beginning. Finding an editor, designing the interior and cover of the book as well as marketing strategies are only a few of the details that need attention, but two people means more author-power to promote the book, to cover more physical and virtual ground. And perhaps most important of all, a partner shares the highs and lows, understanding how rocky the writing and publishing road can be—and how glorious.
We got lucky.
Thanks so much Nancy and Catherine, the voices of Tempeste Blake! The results in Chasing Symmetry speak for themselves. I hope all will join me tomorrow for my review. No jiggery-pokery!
Chasing Symmetry by Tempeste Blake
Someone had been trying for the perfect shade of red . . .
When art professor Bianca James tries to save a dying woman, the grudge-holding chief of police is all too quick to catapult her to the top of the suspect list. As if that isn’t enough, her ex-boyfriend’s younger brother, Finn Tierny, is assigned to the case, and she’s faced with a trilogy of dilemmas: go head to head with the chief, stop a cold-blooded killer on her own, or trust another Tierny.
Finn’s return to Riley’s Peak is bittersweet. He’s flooded with memories, both good and bad, as he battles doubts about being a cop, a cantankerous father, a jealous brother, and a drug dealer with a rap-sheet longer than the list of addicts he’s been supplying.
Threats escalate, the suspect list grows, and it becomes clear—the murderer’s resolve to kill Bianca is almost as strong as Finn’s desire to keep her alive.
Book Title: Chasing Symmetry
Author: Tempeste Blake
Genre: Contemporary Mystery/Romance
Publisher: Pocket Acorn Press
Length: 336 pages
Release Date: 25 May, 2016
more info about Tempeste Blake: