Scandal at the Midsummer Ball had its genesis when we received a house party invitation from Harlequin. The details were sketchy, we were provided with a picture of the venue, the name of our host, some suggested dates, and a mood board. We share an Editor and we’d worked together previously on the Castonbury Park series, but we’d never actually spoken, far less met, and we live on different continents and inhabit different time zones. But right from the start, the idea of jointly creating a Regency house party that was scandalous, romantic and sexy, really appealed to both of us. We wanted our stories to be fun, and we were also determined to have fun writing them.
And boy, did we! Our duet would share a common cast of colourful characters and span a week-long series of sumptuous events. Two distinctly separate romances would be played out, but we wanted our characters to meet, converse together, socialise, and be free to wander in and out of each other’s stories.
We started with the illustrious hosts, the Duke and Duchess of Brockmore, a powerful couple with, we decided, a hidden agenda: a Regency Gatsby and his consort, brokering all kinds of matches, be they political, commercial or dynastic. In our minds eye they were Blake and Krystle Carrington from Dynasty (ouch, talk about showing your age!).
Of course, our heroes and heroines were always going to drive a figurative coach and horses through the duke’s carefully-laid plans, but we decided to spice the party up even more by including a few other guests who wouldn’t be too compliant either. We created eight guests each, swapped names and characters using the shared drive we set up, and used Pinterest to post images of the people who inspired them.
The next big decision was how best to structure our stories. The conventional approach would have been to run them in parallel across a common set of events but we wanted to truly intertwine them. So we decided to split the events and cover alternate days. One of us got to plan the activities for Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and the other planned Monday, Wednesday, Friday and the original arrival Saturday. We spent a lot of time up front on this, setting out a full agenda of activities for each day. Though we didn’t necessarily use them all, it meant we were both writing our stories using the same base foundations, and any issues could be resolved by the day’s ‘owner’. This also removed any possibility of ‘creative differences’ rearing their ugly head, and it worked a treat. We didn’t have to call in our lawyers once!
Our joint Pinterest board was a real life-saver for this project. We used it to post images of costumes, props (including a Regency vaulting horse which I bet has got you thinking), the grand rooms, the extensive grounds – which included a boating pavilion and several botanical hot houses, all used at various points for romantic trysts. We had a maze too, which our characters were very fond of – so fond that the duke should probably installed a revolving door! But though Pinterest was a great help with visualisation, when it came to our characters’ interaction, there was nothing for it but to check and check and check again. A key scene in both stories is the opening, where all of the characters meet in the drawing room on the first day of the party. You’ve no idea how tangled up you can get trying to work out who is standing where with whom when such-and-such happens or so-and-so enters the room. And just as importantly, who was wearing what. One of our character’s dress changed colours several times as we both worked on that opening scene.
Another key to making this collaboration pain-free was writing our stories at the same time. This meant we could swap our chapters over as we wrote them to check for continuity errors and inconsistencies, something which saved a lot of painful re-writing, had we waited to do any checking until the end. Writing is, by definition, a solitary profession but working closely with someone, having someone to brainstorm with, to kick over ideas with, and to help solve problems, was both refreshing and one of the best aspects about this project. Any time we’d get stuck or have a question about a scene we’d just send the day’s work over to the other person and ask them if it was working, or suggest ways it could be improved. Two heads are definitely better than one. The outcome of the Midsummer Ride at the end of the party, for example, changed several times before we agreed which of our hero’s should win the race. A difficult choice since both are, as you would expect, fiercely competitive and highly accomplished horsemen. You’ll have to read the book to find out who prevailed.
And when it came to match-making and pairing off our cast, we had a ball – literally! Although the Duke and Duchess of Brockmore would be less than pleased that all their careful planning had been subverted by two authors from the future. Like the Carringtons who inspired them, the duke and duchess are made of stern stuff and not easily dissuaded, so we wouldn’t be at all surprised if they arranged another prestigious event. Christmas at Brockmore has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? We wouldn’t be surprised if plans were already afoot. You heard it here first!
We hope you enjoy attending the Brockmore Midsummer Party as much as we thoroughly enjoyed collaborating to write it together.
Bronwyn and Marguerite
Bronwyn and Marguerite are giving away a signed copy of the book. Make a comment below to be entered in this drawing.