Linnie Aikens Arts and Letters • HeART Haven Studios

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We met through our love of writing, Garry and I.  No that’s a fib.  We met through Match.com.  We became friends through our love of writing.  He was writing a novel, The Last Black Man--the last black man in Vietnam on the eve of the Fall of Saigon.  I read his first chapter and took a figurative step back.  Pretty raw manly-speak!  Mind you, I don’t think I’d ever said the word f - - -  out loud in my whole life.  When I started reading, it was raw, both in terms of content and writing style.  As I delved into it the text, I found myself privy to some secret world.  Who needs Men Are From Mars when you’ve got Arthur Baltimore introducing you to what really goes through the mind of a man!  It was like therapy by someone who had Turrets.   

 

Despite my better judgement (I thought at the time), I became spellbound, mostly because it was hard to imagine any man as devoid of a moral compass as was this character; I kept praying for a miracle.   (Actually, what I really hoped was that the character wasn’t autobiographical!) I began offering my thoughts and “wouldn’t it be cool if .......”  I worked as his editor, but correcting mechanics and grammar was only a part of it.  I enjoyed asking questions, posing possibilities, providing Spanish translations and creating and reshaping certain characters and their history as he went along.   Between the two of us, we reshaped Arthur into a man that men and women both love and hate at once.  It was great fun! Garry had no intention to write a sequel, but I encouraged, okay, sort of pushed him to do so.  Arthur was what amounted to, a billionaire thief, and he had seven daughters.  There had to be a story there!  

 

In the second book, Honeypot, I’d created the character, Mireya, and her story.  She was one of Arthur Baltimore’s daughters.  I carried on as Editor to the end.  When we finished that book, Garry insisted that I write a third in the series.  Me?  I panicked.  Fear and self-doubt assailed me like hail.  There was no way I could write as well as Garry, I thought.  His words still hung in my ears from the time he read the book I had begun of my own so long ago... “ponderous., overwrought, overwritten” (like this blog post!) I’d seen him grow immensely as a writer over the course of 18 months and two books.  He had a true knack for historical fiction and plot line, and I wasn’t sure I could do it.  He assured me that I had what it took.  

 

Code-Switch was my book, but I convinced Garry to write it with me.  Call me chicken.  Yes, I know.  I named it, wrote the first 7 chapters entirely on my own, created the main characters and developed their stories.  I came up with the main premise/plot for the story and a few of the sub plots.  Then Garry jumped in.  Back and forth we went.  When I was on, he was off and vice versa.  What I wrote, he edited; what he wrote I edited.  Arguing and laughing good naturedly back and forth, 3-4-5 phone calls a day discussing excerpts we’d sent through email. 

 

In some ways, it reminds me of a summer camping activity we used to do as a family.  After the campfire was doused we’d lay out our six sleeping bags in a wagon wheel shape, heads in the middle.  Mom would start the story.  Once there was a baby elephant.  Now you’d think this little elephant would had much to be sad about because he had two short legs on one side.  For that reason, he lived on a hill and could only walk in one direction--with his two short legs on higher elevation and the two longer ones on lower elevation.  The baby elephant was a positive creature though, and he always saw the good in each situation......from there, each of my three sisters would add in their own piece to the story, building off of what lay before it.  Then it would come to Dad.  When he got done, the poor baby elephant was mounted on the wall of the hunting lodge, right next to the hunters’ most recent acquisition...Raquel Welch also mounted on the wall...from the waist up of course.   That was predictably met with, “Eeewww, gross, Daddy,” from the girls and “Geez, Ron, was that necessary?” from Mom.  Then I’d have the impossible task to finish the story to the satisfaction of everyone in the family. TRUE STORY.  Co-Authoring with Garry is often much like this!

 

It turns out that we’re a good writing team.  He’s the plot guy and I’m the character and setting developer.  He provides the testosterone to the story, and I the estrogen.  He adds in all the political, economic, and war history, and I the art and cultural history and try to bring it all to life.    It’s been a remarkable, rewarding journey so far.

 

 

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