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The Sirens of Suspense




Charles and Caroline Todd are a mother-and-son writing team who live on the east coast of the United States. Caroline has a BA in English Literature and History, and a Masters in International Relations. Charles has a BA in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Business Management, and a culinary arts degree that means he can boil more than water. Writing together is a challenge, and both enjoy giving the other a hard time. The famous quote is that in revenge, Charles crashes Caroline’s computer, and Caroline crashes his parties. Will they survive to write more novels together? Stay tuned! Their father/husband is holding the bets.


Find Charles Todd on Facebook.



Charles and I had no idea, when we first began writing together, just what collaboration was.

I knew that one well known pair alternated chapters, but that was the nature of the stories that Emma Lathen wrote. She had two points of view running simultaneously, and so it must have been an easy decision to divide the writing along those lines.

P. J. Parrish uses storyboards so that both authors have a visual of characters and settings. Many of these were cut from magazines, which of course we couldn’t do, because our setting and characters came from a hundred years earlier. Those that were printed are hard to find.

Marty and Annette Meyers co-authored their wonderful Maan Meyers series about early New York. They also wrote under their own names and probably found it easier in some ways to collaborate—and in other ways harder, having been used to thinking and working alone.

James Patterson works with an entire stable of collaborators. I find that amazing. But then he’s probably the final arbiter in any argument. Or perhaps he does what we do, he puts the characters and plot ahead of personal conflict.

There are many other examples. Suffice it to say we aren’t the only ones try this system—but perhaps we are unique as mother and son.

So how did we manage when we set out? It was quite a learning curve. We worked in different states, by e-mail and messages and even phone calls when things were confused or dire. People are always asking who came up with Rutledge or Bess? Who writes the battle scenes? Does one of us speak for Bess and the other for Rutledge?

As a matter of fact, we both do. All of the above. We talked about our characters, we talked about the setting—in fact, we actually spent time in the village, looking for the past in the modern streets that exist today.

We’re often asked, do gender differences or generational differences come into play?

No, for the simple reason that we were both writing about a time we hadn’t lived through, a place we didn’t call home. We were both starting from scratch, so to speak. Neither of us could pull rank because we hadn’t been there. And so, for both of us, it was necessary to talk over everything we wanted to do. Soon enough we realized that we’d stumbled on the method that worked best for us. Talk it over, work it out together, test some paragraphs/dialog for every scene, and once you are satisfied with that, move on to the next scene.

Since we don’t outline, this turned out to be an even better way to work together, each of us contributing what we’d researched, how we saw the characters, how we expected each scene to foreshadow the next.

It’s not an easy experience unless you are willing to let go of your own identity. No room here for defending turf. The interesting thing is that we began to like it even better with each book, both of us deeply involved in what was happening and what was going to happen.

In fact, it worked so well that we can’t write in the same room! We talk too much about other things and get absolutely nothing done.

One warning, if you consider writing with someone, husband, wife, brother, daughter, son, draw up a legal document FIRST. Why? During the writing or even as the book is being published, arguments can get nasty enough about credit and income and who did what. Nip in in the bud, get your agreement down on paper first, then work. You’ll have ways of resolving problems instead of trying to cope with them after the fact. We have been lucky, Charles and I, we have found our way through the possible quagmires. But it doesn’t always go smoothly for everyone. On the other hand enough people do collaborate that it’s smooth for some folks.

Looking back, would we change anything, Charles and I? I don’t think so. For one thing the books appear to be seamless, because it’s such a combined process. And we feel closer to the characters because we work with all of them, not just his and hers. We have different life experiences, we have different backgrounds, and yet we have found a way to bring them to the table as a part of the book, a part of the characters, and not as Caroline and Charles. Would the writing go faster if it was one person? Possibly. It takes time to work out each scene. But I don’t think either of us is interested right now in going our separate ways. We have come to care so much for Rutledge and Bess Crawford that it would be hard to leave them behind.

One final note—if this is such a successful collaboration, why does only one name appear on the book.

Both names take up too much space. It’s why so many collaborations use a single name. And as Charles is shorter than Caroline, it fits better on the page with Todd.

An artistic and marketing choice that has nothing to do with who we are. After all, I sign as Charles Todd, because as far as the books are concerned, either one of us and both of us are “Charles Todd.”

And they take up so much of our professional and personal lives that I’m not sure either of us has the energy left over to write his, hers, and ours.




WHAT IS THE BEST (OR WORST) COLLABORATION YOU'VE EVER BEEN A PART OF? TELL US or leave a comment on the blog below or on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a copy of NO SHRED OF EVIDENCE! (US entrants only, please.)



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