Friday, 22 April 2011

Killing Cupid by Mark Edwards and Louise Voss

Killing Cupid, co-authored by Mark Edwards and Louise Voss, is a psychological crime novel. (That's them to the left - at a goth party, if you are wondering about Mark's pallor and eye make-up.)

I've read the first chapters, and it's sharply-written and funny, though wimp that I am I'm a little worried the story could all turn very nasty...

When Alex Parkinson joins a creative writing class, he realises immediately that he and his tutor, Siobhan McGowan, are meant to be together. Alex will do anything to be with her...

What particularly interests me is that alternating chapters are related by different narrators, a bit like Replica. With Replica, every time I got on a roll I had to switch povs and start again with a crashing of gears, so I’m envious of Mark and Louise – with each writing a chapter in turn, how much easier it must have been. Mark agreed to write a piece for my blog about the process:

Writing partnerships: why two heads can be better than one.

Unlike songwriting duos, writing partnerships are rare. There's Nicci French, the husband-and-wife team who have been knocking out a thriller a year for the past decade. There are new kids on the block Saffina Desforges, in real life Sarah Griffiths and Mark Williams, who have been sitting at the summit of the UK Kindle chart for months with Sugar & Spice. And of course there is James Patterson and a parade of writers who do all the work in exchange for having their name in tiny letters on the cover of his latest schlockbuster.

Writers are supposed to work in solitude, hunched over a laptop surrounded by half-empty cups of cold coffee while they wrestle with their personal demons and howl into the great void... before going online and checking their Amazon rankings just one more time.

It doesn't have to be like that. My experience of writing with Louise Voss, which has so far led to two books, Killing Cupid (available in one good online bookshop) and Catch Your Death (watch this space).

Back in 2002 I was near the end of phase one of what I grandly think of as my writing life. I had recently been dumped by my agent (by letter; I'm sure these days she would have done it on Facebook) after a series of near misses with publishers. Louise, meanwhile, was halfway through her contract with Transworld/Black Swan. One evening, while gawping at celebs at the Groucho, we came up with the idea of writing a novel together.

I have no recollection of whose idea it was but like all the best brainwaves we were sure it must have been done before: a stalker novel in which the tables turn and the stalker becomes the stalked. We checked Amazon. No, it hadn't been done. We brainstormed a rudimentary plot and started writing.

It was a delightfully straightforward process. I wrote a chapter as the male protaganist, Alex, and emailed it to Louise, along with a few ideas for what happened next. She would edit my chapter then do the same, writing as Siobhan, the female protaganist. The process meant that we were both motivated to write quickly and to a high standard. And we were constantly surprised by what happened next.

Halfway through writing Killing Cupid I moved to Japan to teach English. But I was determined not to let Louise down; besides, this was the most fun I'd ever had writing. I remember my first morning in Tokyo, jetlagged and disoriented, sitting on the tatami mat in an unfurnished boarding house, writing the next chapter of the book on my laptop.

We had already discovered that Transworld were not interested in the book as they didn't want to publish anything that was not in Louise's normal genre of mainstream women's fiction. Her agent wasn't that interested either. However, a meeting with a BBC producer uncovered a big fan of the novel-in-progress. In fact, this producer – who went on to win a BAFTA – loved it so much she optioned it. For the first time I had actually earned a reasonable sum for something I'd written, and we were convinced the option would act as juicy bait for hungry publishers.

When we finished Killing Cupid – the final third of the book flowed as easily as water from a tap – we were sure we were going to be the next Nicci French. But the book commits that unforgiveable crime of not fitting neatly into one genre. It's half thriller, half comedy. We couldn't find a publisher. Then the TV adaptation went into development hell. I came back from Japan and life as an unpublished writer went on.

The experience of writing together, though, had been such good fun that we decided to give it another go. This time we would write something that fitted into a genre. It was shortly after the SARS outbreak and just before bird flu became big news. And The Da Vinci Code was massive. Louise had been thinking about setting a novel in an interesting setting: a closed-down common cold research centre near her hometown of Salisbury where, in the eighties, volunteers could spend a week blowing their nose and doing a lot of good for science. This all came together into Catch Your Death, a fast-paced conspiracy thriller.

But this time we hardly made an effort to find a publisher. We finished the book the same week my first daughter was born. Our own personal lives were chaotic. Real life got in the way. The book, although rather brilliant if I do say so myself, went on the shelf.

Skip forward a few years and the Kindle arrived. I persuaded Louise that we should publish the books ourselves. We re-wrote them, updating all the creaky technological references and lypo-suctioning the fat. This February, we published Killing Cupid. It has so far sold around 400 copies, attracted some great reviews and, excitingly, the BBC producer who liked the book the first time around has since set up her own film production company and wants to option it. Catch Your Death will hit Amazon in May.

And the rest is the future.

Mark Edwards' blog
Buy Killing Cupid for £0.70 on Amazon
Buy Killing Cupid for $0.99 on

Thanks, Mark - I feel sure it is only a matter of time till Killing Cupid reaches the Amazon Kindle top 100.


  1. Lexi, thanks so much for featuring us.

    I would like to point out to your readers that I do not always look that pale. It was my 40th birthday party last year, at which I was recapturing my youth.


  2. A pleasure, Mark - and I should add for the benefit of potential readers, that Mark has reassured me that Killing Cupid doesn't turn very nasty as I feared it might. The plot has unexpected twists, and is more of a dark comedy.

  3. Super stuff, Mark, Louise and Lexi. There is a great history of crime-writing double acts that goes back to Ellery Queen and beyond - I have a feeling there is something about crime that makes collaboration work that other genres don't have. All the very best and fingers crossed our books end up nestled together in the top 100!

  4. erm, I should point out that's me, Dan (Aggie's Shoes - I was logged in with the wrong gmail account!)

  5. Yo, Dan - nice to see you here under any name :o)

    Yes, I bet with two writers a novel ends up with twice the twists and surprises as two minds play off against each other.

  6. Thanks, Lexi, for letting Mark's blatant plug for Sugar & Spice stay in there! (We'll slip you that fiver next time we see you, Mark).

    Mark, you're absolutely right, two heads can be better than one in so many ways. But obviously finding the right writing partner is the key.

    Cannot for one second imagine how the Nicci French team survive together. Saffi and I have to live on different continents to ensure we don't throttle one another!

    But I wonder if there are other partnerships or team writers out there who use just the one name? We chose Saffina Desforges as a brand (unique to google), and Sarah to front it as I'm rarely in the UK.

    Were it not for the double-exposure our joint promo efforts give us, we could quite easily have left Saffi as the sole name involved.

    As for James Patterson using his name to sell other writer's work... That's not a bad idea!

  7. Mark (and Mark) Ellery Queen and Emma Latham are the two that came to my mind using just the one name.

    You may remember Steevang from Youwriteon, who was part of a double-named collabroation, as - for Authonomites - are Jason Quinn and Johnny Magnanti. Emlyn Rees and Josie Lloyd also come to mind, but "coming Together" and "Come Again" were very particular projects.

    I love collaborative work - this summer I'm running a show at several festivals and fringes (the biggest one'll be at Stoke Newington Literary Festival on June 4th - I'd love to see some of you London people there) that has 12 different writers, but that's as close as I'd want to get to working with someone else - I'm too stubborn by far :))

  8. As a man writing fiction, I always find it particularly difficult to work my way into a woman's mind and emotions, to see the world as a woman. Likewise I'm pretty sure that Women writers face similar problems, particularly when weaving a romantic thread into the plot.

    This situation could be solved, in principle, by a man and a woman author collaborating. Trouble is that the voices need to blend and authors have to agree all the time. I suspect that the divorce rate amongst authors attempting this union may be much higher than for conventional marriage, which may explain the scarcity of examples. :lol:

    Its a little like the anthropic principle in science. The fundamental constants and laws have to be finely tuned to allow us to exist. It would seem that two authors working together will need to 'mind meld' to an extraordinary degree for the necessary harmony to persist.To achieve complementary perspectives without clashing.

    Mark and Louisse wrote alternate chapters serially, reading each others contributions and editing, which I can see would work for certain types of plot. For more complex situations though, it might be necessary to collaborate closely on individual scenes involving interacting characters, which might be much more difficult.

    Lexi, I thought you managed the switch between the two 'replica' POVs extremely well. Its probably just a matter of practice to avoid crashing gears ... just like learning to drive! *grin*

  9. Q, on my good days I don't think there is that much difference between men and women - though given a choice, I'll be a man next time.

    I've looked up anthropic principle and do not have the sort of mind to understand it. (My mind is good in its own way, but fuzzy and with a slow drop on occasion.)

    Ah yes, practice makes perfect. Though I've now forgotten how to change gear; I've driven an automatic for twenty years :o)

  10. My mind is good in its own way, but fuzzy and with a slow drop on occasion.

    Lexi, you make my point beautifully. How can I possibly use words to capture that lovely fuzzy intuition. The softer optimistically feminine view of the world. When armed only with a mathematically trained mind?

    I tried using fuzzy sets, but it didn't work!

    I think perhaps I need poetry *smile*

  11. But Q, my daughter has a degree in maths AND all the artistic and intuitive stuff too. (Plus her spatial awareness is off the scale.)

    I think much of the difference between the sexes is cultural. Don't get me started on pink.

  12. Thank you for a very interesting posting. I shall check the book out.

  13. This sounds like the nature versus nurture debate!

    I'm no expert on this but I believe that biologists now widely accept that there are appreciable differences between the brains and therefore the minds of men and women... see for example Doreen Kimura, 'Sex Differences in the Brain' Scientific American (1999).

    The differences are caused by hormonal influences during early development, before environmental influences become effective.

    Your daughter does sounds very interesting though, in having mastered both the maths and arts aspects of culture.
    I can think of some very eminent female mathematicians and scientists. Emy Noether for example. *smile*

    Our skills in fact follow a statistical distribution and the weighting is different in men and women. So we all have some mathematical and artistic skill but the probabilities of these abilities occurring in a pronounced manner differs between men and women.

    Having said all that though, I have to agree with you that nurture or cultural influence also plays a role.

    My conclusion: Don't argue with a woman author! LOL

  14. Hi Jarmara!

    Q, I may dispute some of your points, but there is no arguing with your conclusion :o)

  15. Very interesting account of how the novel germinated. But no e in unforgivable!!