Archie Fusillo and Josie Montano are two fabulous Italian-Australian authors of books for children and young adults. Separately, they’ve published many great books, but very recently they teamed up on a collaborative YA novel, Veiled Secrets. I met these two lively and engaging authors at the 2015 Story Arts festival in Ipswich, Queensland last month, and later asked them for an interview on the subject of their collaboration. Here it is–enjoy!
You’ve recently collaborated on a novel, Veiled Secrets, which tells the story of two Italian-Australian teenagers from two different families, Nick and Lia, who on a trip back to Italy with their grandparents, meet each other and discover they have a lot more in common than they could have imagined. How did you come up with the idea for the book?
When we first met we discovered that our families come from villages in Italy 10 kilometres apart, we grew up with similar traditions, culture, dialect and life-styles as first generation Aussies. We had a brainstorming session and strangely came up with the same idea! A story about teens going back to Italy with their grandparents. We knew we had a story to tell! One that no other writer in Australia has told, one that our 1st generation of Italian migrants needed to share.
How did two authors who describe themselves as fiercely independent manage to work together with the harmony required for successful story-telling?
We just found that from the very beginning we meshed quite well. Actually the ‘fiercely independent’ writing styles came in handy as we took on a character each and were able to write independently as our own character and their world.
Tell us about the process of constructing your novel. Did you plan it carefully beforehand, or was it more organic?
Although Josie is an over-planner and Archie just get’s into it and writes, we were still able to put together an initial plot line and main characters (to keep Josie happy!) Archie started as his character in chapter 1, emailed to Josie and Josie wrote chapter 2, etc. It was like one of those patchwork quilts where various people work on it, but the end result is a beautiful creation. The story did progress organically but also strangely in a way that both of us had with plot ideas and scenarios in our minds.
What were the challenges, and the pleasures, of joint creation? Did your find your writing voice was different in this to that in your own sole-authored books?
The only challenge we may have had was getting it published in the Australian market. One of the major publishers was very keen, we were wined and dined by their editor but in the end marketing felt it wasn’t the right time. So Josie sent it to her US fiction publishers and the next day a contract was emailed!
Re voice, actually a few times it happened that we would write something about each other’s characters that would spin the other off into revenge writing where eg: Archie wrote that Josie’s character had dimples and Josie was like ‘oh does she now!?’ and then she wrote that Archie’s character had a big nose! It was great having someone else to share the experience with and to cast a different editing eye over the manuscript.
Josie has co-written fiction and non-fiction with other authors but admits this was the easiest collaboration thus far. As writing can be a lonely occupation, co-writing can at times bring a shared experience allowing for learnings and growth. And we are chatting about possible future collaborations on other projects!