We’ve all done it. Found ourselves reading a successful, but dreadfully written book and exclaimed “I can do better!” Well, this was the genesis of Silver Apples of the Moon, the novel co-authored by me and my sister, Felicity Blundon.
In our case, the dreadful book was The Bridges of Madison County. Bad as that book was, it did touch on a couple of important themes. One was the fact that the protagonists were mature, as opposed to twenty-somethings—targeting it to an older demographic was a key ingredient for success given the aging Baby Boomer population. The other was the book’s potent theme of a missed opportunity, or a road not taken, universal feelings everyone shares looking back on life.
There’s definitely a place and market for this kind of easy-to-read book, and well-written ones are few and far between. The best example of this genre in our opinion is Colleen McCoulloch’s The Thorn Birds, a sweeping romantic (as opposed to “Romance”), escapist novel. To write something akin to this became our goal. Not great literature, but an engaging yarn that would, as one of our reviewer’s has said about SAM “tap you on the shoulder, whisper in your ear and tempt you to come along.”
Little did we know when we embarked on SAM back in 1993 that it would take nearly 20 years to complete. (Just to be clear, we were not writing tor two decades straight; there were long stretches of time when the book lay fallow.) After the plot was basically laid down, we added and took away, “murdered our darlings” honed and polished and read the entire work aloud numerous times. Most memorable were those occasions when our lovely mother, who was then descending into dementia, was present. We’d read a passage and all of a sudden she would exclaim from across the room, “That’s ridiculous, no one talks that way!”
We wrote the first version of the book in about a year, passing the sections back and forth like a long, literary version of The Exquisite Corpse. We soon realized that while we were good academic writers, we were lousy at things like dialogue and character development. But we plugged away, eventually hiring two different editors. But the most valuable thing was that we kept writing. And you know what happened during those many years? We put in our 10,000 Malcolm Gladwell hours and became good fiction writers.
We knew in this day and age we had to include sex scenes. We didn’t want to be coy about them and we didn’t want them raunchy à la 50 Shades of Grey. We wanted them real, romantic and tasteful.
Our pseudonym is a combination of our parents’ names, and the book a tribute to them. When we started writing the Internet didn’t exist and we assumed we would publish the book the old fashioned way. It felt safe to have a different persona to hide behind and the pseudonym was important to us as it implies the book was written by one person as fiction works authored by two people are somewhat tricky sells. But publishing has changed so much; now authors, whether traditionally published or e-published, must promote their own books, so we have stepped out from behind Rebecca James’s shelter.
Though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend co-writing a book, my sister and I worked very hard to make SAM a seamless read. I think being sisters and laboring over it as long as we did helped accomplish a unity of voice. And I think if we’d employed the Track Changes tool on our computers, the page would be solidly red what with all the editing and overwriting.
The title is taken from W.B. Yeats’s luminous poem, “The Song of Wandering Aengus,” which ends with the lines:
“…and pluck ‘till time and times are done,
the Silver Apples of the Moon,
the Golden Apples of the Sun.”
which sets us up nicely for the sequel!
Sarah Sargent, an art curator of many years in New York and Charlottesville, lives in central Virginia and writes mostly about contemporary art. Her articles primarily appear in C’ville Weekly, Artillery (Los Angeles) and Virginia Living (Richmond, VA.). Other articles have been published in The New Art Examiner and Art Papers.
Felicity Blundon, also a central Virginia resident, writes poetry, prose, and a blog about family past and present: carouseldetemps.blogspot.com. Felicity’s blog includes excerpts from Silver Apples of the Moon.
Silver Apples of the Moon is available as an e-book, paperback or nook:
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