Nell Stark & Trinity Tam, Interviewed

October 30, 2009 by Editor 

It’s my delight this month to be able to bring you the KBV interview with the writing team of veteran, Nell Stark, and her cohort in love as well as writing, Trinity Tam. Who, herself, is no stranger to writing; an award-winning writer-producer of movies and television.

KBV: First of all would you like to tell our readers a little bit about yourselves?

Nell: I’m a graduate student of English literature, specializing in the early medieval period, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Aside from everafter, I’ve written two other books, Running With the Wind and Homecoming, as well as several short stories.

Trin: I live in New York City and work in the music industry. everafter is my first novel, but I co-produced the award-winning, independent film Red Doors, and have also written for television.

KBV: What was it that brought you together, to write as a team?

Trin: Nell and I never expected our romantic partnership to evolve into a writing one. One day, I was sharing an idea with her and she strongly encouraged me to write it. When I pointed out that I had never written anything longer than a short story by myself, she offered to lend her novel writing experience and co-author with me.

KBV: Of course, we’d all love to know how it is you came up with your first novel, everafter? Why the supernatural?

Trin: The preliminary concept for everafter came to me one afternoon as a reimagining of my relationship with Nell.

Nell: Yes, she posed the question like this: “What if you were a vampire and I was the one thing preventing you from losing your soul?” And it took off from there.

Trin: It’s a story about soulmates who have to go through hell to be together. Very romantic, very dark. The supernatural elements were a thematic fit.

Nell: I enjoy writing speculative fiction not only for the imaginative elements, but also because taking a step back from the rules of “reality” is a way for me to comment on the nature of that reality.

KBV: Can you tell us about the characters and how you see the series progressing, without giving too much away?

Nell: everafter is introduces readers to a world in which vampires and were-shifters are hiding in plain sight. As the series unfolds, it becomes clear that the supernatural community is split into two factions: one that very much wants to “come out” and live in the open, forcing humanity to acknowledge and accept their existence; and another that wants to continue to live in secrecy and in hiding. As our protagonists Valentine and Alexa are integrated into this community, they have to choose sides in the war that is brewing.

Trin: Oh, we should also mention that we have, and will continue to, build the everafter universe through short stories. We had a short story published in Romantic Interludes 2: Secrets called “Tenebrosidad.” It’s a prequel that takes place one hundred years prior to the events of everafter. It tells the story of Helen Lambros, who will play an increasing role as the series progresses. We have another short story coming out in Best Lesbian Romance 2010.

KBV: Can I ask you Nell; did your love of cooking become a part of Valentine intentionally? And Trinity, what is there, if anything, of you in either of the main characters?

Nell: Alexa and Valentine have evolved over time, but fundamentally, each of them is very much a synthesis of both Trin and me. For example: Val shares my love of cooking and my taste in music, but her past as a bartender comes from Trin’s interests. And I attribute Alexa’s sophistication and sensual ferocity to Trin, but her Wisconsin roots were inspired by my current geographical location.

Trin: The book is written in two parts. Part one is written from Valentine’s POV and part two is written from Alexa’s. We started out with Nell writing part one while I skipped ahead and wrote part two. As a result, I think Val wears a mantle of Nell’s emotions and Alexa adopts some of my take-charge nature.

KBV: What would you say were the essential ingredients to making a series like this one, work?

Trin: Having the entire story arc fleshed out across all four books is particularly important, so that seeds of future plot points can be planted in the first book. Figuring out the mythology of the universe—what it means to be a vampire and a were-shifter—is also crucial. As is having a well-rounded cast of secondary characters.

KBV: As a team, did one of you take the lead in this project, or were you very collaborative in your approach?

Nell: Trin tends to operate at a more conceptual level, and is excellent at working out the cosmogony and mapping out plot points. I’m much better at doing the actual, day-to-day writing. We’re perfect complements in that way.

Trin: I insisted on creating a very detailed outline before we started. We had each chapter mapped out very precisely. That’s not the way Nell usually writes. She has a sense of key plot points before she begins, but she usually starts writing as soon as she has a workable premise. Once she starts writing, though, she’s a very dependable 1000 words a day kind of writer. I’m much more streaky. I could go days without writing and then sit down and write a whole chapter in one sitting.

KBV: Again, writing as a team, does one of you write a particular scene and then, the other edits it before writing another one?

Nell: Our detailed outline allows us to skip around chronologically and write different chapters simultaneously. As soon as one of us has completed a chapter, we share it with the other—but we don’t go back and edit anything until we have a complete first draft.

KBV: What would you say is the hardest thing for each of you, about writing together? Physical distance, for one, comes to mind.

Trin: Physical distance isn’t actually all that problematic when it comes to our writing, since it’s easy to exchange drafts via email. I even remember writing a few scenes over AOL instant messenger. I’ve done most of my TV writing collaboratively, so working that way comes very naturally to me.

Nell: It’s been a huge treat to write with Trin. The only difficult aspect has been the rare time when we’ve disagreed about a plot point, but we always manage to arrive at a compromise.

Trin: Yeah, Nell kept begging for our vampires to have more superpowers and I insisted on rooting them strongly in their frail humanity. Eventually we compromised. You won’t see Herculean, invincible, mind-reading vampires in our books but hopefully they are more interesting and relatable because of their limitations.

KBV: And finally, what’s your favorite thing about writing as a team? And what, for you, totally sucks about it?

Trin: Having accountability is excellent—we both keep each other on-task. The instantaneous feedback is very gratifying, as is the ability to brainstorm with someone else at any moment.

Nell: I love that getting writer’s block isn’t nearly as debilitating as it can be when I’m writing solo. If I get stuck, all I need to do is talk with Trin to work through whatever I’m having trouble with. I can’t think of anything that sucks about writing as a team!

KBV: Of course we can’t go without asking, looking into that supernatural crystal ball, what does the future hold for you both?

Nell: I’m going to turn thirty, finish my dissertation, find a job in or near NYC, and move there this summer. So, it’s a big year for me.

Trin: Well, we have three more books to write, so we’ll be working on the rest of the series for the foreseeable future. And Nell’s coming to New York to be with me!


Our thanks to Nell Stark & Trinity Tam for taking the time to answer these questions, and in introducing us to not only their good selves, but their up and coming new series, starting with everafter.


Author Profiles:

Nell Stark grew up predominately on the east coast of the USA, attended Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, and is now pursuing a doctorate in medieval English literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. When she is not teaching, writing, or teaching in the university’s Writing Center, she enjoys cooking, sailing, reading, and any sport that involves running around maniacally.

Trinity Tam is an award-winning writer-producer of movies and television. Her favorite job was in video games. Her least favorite, in mutual funds. Everything in between ended in dotcom. In 1996, she graduated cum laude with a BA in East Asian Studies. She giggles whenever someone says cum laude but she doesn’t blush. She thinks twelve years living in Manhattan makes her a New Yorker but concedes that loathing the Yankees makes her a bad one.

QUOTE
Nell and Trinity would like to blame Radclyffe for infecting them with vampirism. Spread the infection: www.everafterseries.com

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