USA Today best-selling author Marilyn Brant is here to share the story of the amazing collaboration behind the New Adult anthology All I Ever Wanted.
Last summer, three fellow authors and I began playing around with the concept of writing four interconnected contemporary romance novellas and bundling them into one new-adult anthology. Author and Carina Press editor, Rhonda Helms (http://rhondahelmsbooks.com/), first came up with this brilliant idea. She got New York Times bestseller Lexi Ryan (http://lexiryan.com/) on board who, in turn, suggested bringing in Caisey Quinn (http://www.caiseyquinnwrites.com/) and me (http://marilynbrant.com/) to complete the author quartet. Ever since, it’s been a very unique, thrilling, and often hilarious experience, and it led to the creation of an anthology that we’re all so excited to share with readers!
We started out by brainstorming basic plot ideas via email. At that point, just about everything was open to suggestion. We knew we needed to come up with a premise we felt would be intriguing, a setting we all liked, characters we could get behind, and a reason why they would all be together. Over a period of a few weeks and after much discussion, we decided to set the story in the fictional small town of Abbott Springs, Ohio, in mid-January, during their annual Winterfest celebration weekend. We sent messages (a lot of them!) back and forth about potential relationships between the characters, their ages, their interests, and how they first came to know each other.
My heroine, Sami, for instance, is the sister of Rhonda’s hero, Oliver. Caisey’s heroine, Everly, and Lexi’s heroine, Bree, are very good friends. My hero and Caisey’s hero are musician buddies and fellow guitarists…and, well, there are a lot of other connections between them all. In fact, we needed to set up a shared Google doc so we could have a place where we could store all of the details and attempt to keep them straight. Not only because the characters and their backgrounds were getting complicated but, also, because there were so many events happening in the town during the winter festival. At one point, Lexi wisely suggested that we have an online video chat, just so we could talk out our characters’ motivations and decide who was going to be where that weekend and when!
Then we got back to work and started the actual drafting process, sometimes trading whole chapters with each other as we built our individual stories. In a number of places in the anthology, there are shared scenes between our characters (i.e., at the Opening Ceremony, at the Bake Sale, at the Winterfest Dance, etc.), so we wanted to make sure their dialogue was in sync, even though the scenes would be narrated in different points of view, depending on which novella was being read. It was a truly fascinating writing process, and one that was a pretty unusual experience for most of us.
The culminating event in the drafting portion of our collaboration was a writing retreat we had at the beginning of November. What fun! Because we all live in different states (Indiana, Ohio, Alabama, and Illinois), we each drove to a fairly central location—Louisville, Kentucky—for our weekend getaway. Lexi and I were the only two who’d met in person before this (we were both RWA Golden Heart Finalists together back in 2007), so it was our first time meeting Rhonda and Caisey outside of the virtual world, and the four of us spent a delightful and extremely productive weekend working through plotting details and the shared scenes we had planned for the book. (Not to mention that we devoured sizable quantities of coffee, scones, wine, and gelato!)
We also brainstormed a bunch of marketing ideas and jointly roughed out our back-cover copy for the book, which is below:
Winterfest is heating up in Abbott Springs…
As the town’s yearly festival kicks off, cold days turn into steamy nights, new flames will be ignited, and old romances will be rekindled.
All About Us by Marilyn Brant — All Sami Abbott ever wanted was permission to be herself. At home, she aims to be the perfect daughter but never measures up. At college, she’s the bold girl who had a one-night stand with sexy musician, Alex Hamilton. When he arrives unexpectedly in Abbott Springs, her worlds collide and she must reconcile the girl she tries to be with the person she really is.
All I Need by Caisey Quinn – All pink-haired rocker chick Everly Abbott thought she wanted was acceptance in her straight-laced hometown. But her best friend and bandmate Justin Cohen is about to show her that what she thinks she wants isn’t necessarily what she needs.
All for Love by Rhonda Helms – All Maya Monterey ever wanted was to belong. Happiest with the Abbott family, Maya’s been secretly in love with sexy pastry chef Oliver Abbott for years. With a flirty new look, she’ll pull out all the stops to get him to notice her. And if her plan fails, she’ll walk away from the only home she’s ever known–and Oliver–for good.
All or Nothing by Lexi Ryan — After years of placing the wrong bets, all Aubree Baxter wanted was someone to take a chance on her. Golden boy Kennedy Hale plays it safe in life and love, but to keep Bree in Abbott Springs, he’ll have to go all in.
After we returned to our respective homes, we had our drafts to finish up, then copyediting, proofreading, interior formatting, and cover design to be done, as well as any last tweaks we wanted to make to the stories. The end result is ALL I EVER WANTED, which just came out this week. All of us hope that romance lovers will enjoy reading our collaboration because writing it was truly an amazing experience.