Horror Writers Speak: Crystal Connor & Lori Titus

By Crystal Connor (@FromTheAuthor)

Author Crystal Connor, who "writes straight up horror with a service of science fiction and dark fantasy on the side" discusses her novel collaboration with Lori Titus on their science fiction/fantasy/horror opus, In The Foothills of Mt. Empyreal: The End is Now

An entire year ago, I swore an oath of secrecy when I agreed to co-write a book with paranormal-romance author Lori Titus under the pen name of Connor Titus. The reason, in the beginning, for the vow of silence was simply for the sake of peace.

Now this is in no way meant to be a complaint, but my fans take their jobs seriously. It takes about a year for me to write a book, but just a month or two after announcing a new WIP (Work In Progress) that’s all my fans talk to me about, and writing is all they want me to do. 

Two weeks after the release of Book II: Artificial Light, I was standing in line in Walgreens and asked the woman in front of me where she got her drop dead gorgeous shoes. When she turned to tell me, I was recognized and she demanded to know why I wasn’t at home writing. Sadly she didn’t tell me where she got her shoes.

If my fans had found out that I had teamed up with Lori, their excitement would have been too much, especially because at the time we where both working on our own books, which of course held more priority than a joint project, so we didn’t even know when this book would be finished.

About a third of the way into the project, the fact that we kept mum became a life saver, because we started to realize that we were going to be writing two books. And at that moment it stopped being about peace and immediately became a trade secret. We co-wrote two stand alone books about the same thing.

We’d never heard of anyone doing that before and because it’s such an insanely original idea or had been done which such infrequency, that the concept isn’t widely known we didn’t want anyone finding out what we were doing and beat us to the punch.

Once the decision was made that this story was going to be told from two different points of views, we also made the decision to not only stop working together, but to also not talk to each other about what was written from that moment forth. We went into complete radio silence. We didn’t even see each other’s cover until they were revealed earlier this month as part of our blog tour. We did this because we didn’t want to influence each other and judging by the reviews, that turned out to be a really good move.

After our books were shipped off to the editor, Lori and I decided to interview each other for our own blogs. Those interviews turned out to be a blast and that’s what I am going to share with you today:

Lori Titus is a life long Southern Californian who relocated to the Central Valley on a whim. She's been chasing ghosts amongst the shadows of the desert and the vineyards ever since. She is the author of The Marradith Ryder Series, a webserial that originally was posted in weekly episodes on Flashes in the Dark. The story has since been adapted into a novel. Other works include two novellas: Lazarus and Hailey's Shadow. A second Marradith novel is in the works, along with a Southern gothic horror story titled The Bell House,  which will be released later this year.

Crystal: As a rising star in paranormal romance, what was it that made you want to be a part of the Mt. Empyreal project?

Lori: I think of dark fiction as being one genre, whether it includes romance or science fiction. I love anything that challenges the characters with something greater than themselves, and that was definitely the obstacle our characters faced in the Keep. Since I’m a huge romantic, something of that always comes through. I couldn’t write you a cookbook without some reference to romance in there.

Crystal: That’s so true! I knew from the beginning that the story would have elements of romance, but you do it really well so I wasn’t worried. That’s one of the things that interested me in co-authoring with you is seeing how we would build off each other’s strength. You also co-authored the novel Harmony’s Prophecy with Angel Brown Kemph which is now out of print. Was it the same kind of writing process or was it totally different and if so why/how?

Lori: The book with Angel was very different. She was the primary author. I worked on editing with her and we had some sessions where we tossed around story building ideas, but it is her book. I was really pleased and surprised that she felt my efforts earned a co-author credit.

Crystal: Dude, how in the hell did we end up co-writing two books? Who does that?

Lori: I think only we do, ha! It was a great idea that you came up with. We both got to have complete creative free reign. Whenever I read about authors who co-wrote together, I always hear about the constrictions placed upon the authors and how one person ends up being the leader with the other being the follower.  We were able to build our foundation for the stories together and then throw the proverbial paint against the wall to see what would stick.

The hardest part was figuring out where we needed to split! I was enjoying watching the story unfold and I was so curious as to where you were going to take it. Once we did split, it took a week for me to get back into the story properly, because I missed being able to see what you had written and talk about our ideas together.

Crystal:  I was the exact same way! I was starting to think that splitting up wasn’t going to be a good idea. Thank god we didn’t chicken out of that decision. Was there anything that worried you about Mt. Empyreal?

Lori: Yes! I was really concerned about which characters were going to make it and who weren’t. With a story like this one, there is a balance between making things so hard that it’s impossible for your characters to triumph and making it too easy.  You don’t want to make it so easy that the readers roll their eyes at how neatly things work out. That’s often a concern I have when I’m writing. Real life is messy, and I tend to like stories that reflect complexities in character and outcome.

Crystal: I know one of the things I was worried about and brought up often was I felt like I had unfairly taken charge and all the ideas were mine. I didn’t mean for it to be that way, I was just having so much fun that my excitement got the best of me. This was my first co-authored book so I guess my question would be, is this just the way things work when co-writing a book or was it really not an issue for you?

Lori: It’s part of the beast – someone has to start and you wrote a beginning that was so unique and chilling that I wanted to let you run with it. Once our start was firmly in place, I was able to see what I wanted to elaborate on and where I wanted things to go. That said, I don’t think that our writing partnership is like anyone else's. While you were in the driver’s seat, I was already planning.

Crystal: Which of the characters that we created together do you think will totally blow my mind?

Lori: I always say Emerson; I love that character in ways that I could never have expected. We have talked about Khrystle before and that she surprised you with some of the things she did in our shared copy of the book(s). Jerrod is also going to be a big surprise to you as well.

Crystal: You have another book coming out soon, can you tell us a little more about that?

Lori: Bell House is a ghost story about a modern southern family with many skeletons in their past. At the forefront of the story are two half-sisters, Jenna and Diana, who share a  contentious relationship. They were raised by different mothers and most of what they believe about each other comes from things that they have been told by others, some of which may not be entirely true. After a tragedy in the family, Diana moves into a house willed to her by her father and all sorts of trouble ensues.

Crystal:  Just for fun. If you got the funding to take a year off to write, where in the world would you live for that year and why?

Lori: It could be Hawaii or Bora Bora. I want to live somewhere on the ocean. I think it would be great to wake up every day with the ocean right outside, take my laptop out onto the patio and write while I enjoyed my coffee. And of course I’d want a great big house where I could invite my friends to come out and stay for as long as they want. That would be great.

Crystal: Dude for as long as they want, by the beach, in Bora Bora? And you expect to actually get any work done? Yeah, okay.

Crystal Connor is a Washington state native who loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys, rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high heel shoes & unreasonably priced hang bags. She is also considering changing her professional title to ‘dramatization specialist’ because its so much more theatrical than being just a mere drama queen (@FromTheAuthor)

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