Many writers enjoy working on two (or even more) stories at the same time. But what about writing stories that link and happen at exactly the same time? Now there’s a challenge. And quite a bit of fun too!
I had some experience of writing stories that meshed with other plots unfolding in the same time frame. It happened while writing books as part of multi-author continuities, where characters appeared in several different stories and their romance was going on at the same time, or nearly at the same time. That meant lots of close cooperation with the authors writing those other books, plus agreeing some specific boundaries about when and where things happen.
Recently I tried something different. I wrote stories about two sisters, each wrapped up in their own romance, with each story occurring at the same time as the other. I was thrilled and a little nervous about this project (since named The Princess Seductions duet) but the story lines and characters were so exciting I couldn’t resist.
The premise was this: Amelie is a princess, now guardian for her recently orphaned little nephew, whose father was king. With the future of the kingdom at stake, and her nephew traumatised by witnessing the accident that killed his parents, she disappears with him. The official line is that the pair are in seclusion after the tragic loss. Where they go, or more precisely, whom they go to, is the basis of their story. Meanwhile, it’s imperative that no-one knows she’s gone, so a body double is brought in to attend a function in Amelie’s place. The double is actually Amelie’s secret half-sister Cat, who doesn’t want the job but feels she can’t resist (for reasons that become obvious in the story). Her masquerade becomes complicated when King Alex arrives unexpectedly, as a potential suitor for Princess Amelie in an arranged marriage. And even more complicated when Cat falls for him! Meanwhile, Amelie has her own troubles, facing the man who’d broken her heart.
The two love stories are intertwined, and timing was absolutely crucial. So, what did I learn? Lots! Here are a few of the lessons that I’ll take into writing any future simultaneous stories:
It’s not always easy to decide which book comes first so take your time and get it right.
In my case it transpired that the happy ever after for one book could clearly come sooner, while the second sister was still trying to work out her love life. Think too about which story has more secrets or revelations that make it ideal for a second rather than a first instalment. In this case, Amelie’s story lent itself to being published second since there was so much mystery about where she’d gone. I could resolve Cat’s story and still have unanswered questions about Amelie. In retrospect all that seems obvious but it took some time to make the final decision.
Consider your timeline, map it out then check it again and again and again.
I thought I knew the general timeline, but when it came to the crunch I found myself reconsidering. How long it would take an estranged couple to break through the ice separating them, and rekindle their passion? How long would it take to fly from Greece to an island off the south of France? How long to make certain legal changes? Fine tuning happened only as I wrote the second book, but I needed to have enough latitude to make both stories workable at the same time. Keeping a timeline – or two parallel timelines that you can see at a glance is a definite bonus. I wish I’d done it before I started, even though it probably would have changed.
Decide what you’re going to reveal about the characters/circumstances from the other book and make sure they work.
Sometimes a story will require you to divulge a past event or current issue. But, if you reveal that major issue/event, how will it impact on the other story you’re yet to write. Again, thinking time is necessary to set the parameters. There are good reasons why Amelie doesn’t know about Cat and the fact they’re sisters. The revelation of Cat’s true identity had to be handled in the first book in such a way that it didn’t destroy the storyline in book 2.
Include real time links between the stories.
I suppose I could have managed to write Cat’s story as totally separate to Amelie’s but where is the fun in that? Besides, making contact with the sister she’s never known is a huge part of Cat’s emotional journey. Rather than include that off the page, I have Cat and Amelie interacting, which also (I hope) creates more interest in Amelie so readers might want to read her story too.
One scene used twice.
One of the ways I brought the two sisters, and the two stories, together was to have a scene between them included in both books, though from different points of view. The scene was necessary for both stories, but it had the bonus of providing emotional insights into both characters. Apart from that, it was lots of fun to have the same scene with the identical dialogue, viewed from the point of view of two different characters. This was a phone conversation so neither sister could see what was going on around her sibling as she spoke. In both books that conversation was pivotal to what happened next.
My simultaneous stories are ‘His Majesty’s Temporary Bride’ (Harlequin Oct 17) and ‘The Greek’s Forbidden Princess’ (Harlequin Nov 17). Here’s the back cover copy.
Out of the shadows…
As the illegitimate secret daughter of royalty, Cat’s life has been far from luxurious. After years of bullying, she’s set against a return to her childhood home. But her princess half sister has mysteriously disappeared ahead of her engagement to charismatic King Alexander.
…into the bed of the king!
Cat agrees to stand in for her—but she didn’t agree to the electric attraction between her and Alex! He might have no idea who she really is—but when their insatiable desire threatens to strip away every boundary between them, Cat cannot hold back from the temptation of Alex’s caress…
Illicit nights with the billionaire…
News of a tragic accident plunges Princess Amelie’s life into turmoil. To escape the swarming press, she takes her newly orphaned nephew and runs, seeking the protection of one man.
Lambis Evangelos desires Amelie beyond all reckoning, but refuses to taint her radiant beauty with the guilt of his past. For years he’s resisted his longing for her luscious body—until Amelie’s arrival at his doorstep draws him too close to her forbidden temptation…
His secluded Greek island is a refuge from the world. There, Amelie and Lambis have no choice—they must yield to their fiery, uncontrollable passion!
First published on Kelly Steel Writer’s blog.