Five Questions with Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

I'm pleased to welcome to the blog today coauthors, bloggers, and besties Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke. Below they reveal the secrets of cowriting, coping with rejection, and community-building. Enjoy!

Together the two of you coauthored Your Perfect Life and two other upcoming novels from Simon & Schuster. In addition to being writing partners, you’ve been best friends for many years. What’s it like to be on this journey together?

If we say surreal that will sound canned, right? But it really is the only word that summarizes this experience. To know someone when you are fourteen, when your biggest worry is whether your shoulder pads are too big, and then to coauthor a book with them when you are thirtyish, when you wish your biggest problem involved shoulder pads, is hard to describe. It’s like a marriage, a sisterhood, a partnership, all rolled into one. We’ve grown up together, so it’s years of memories, of milestones, of once-in-a-lifetime moments that all lead up to the instant we became published. And we wouldn’t want to be riding this roller coaster with anyone else.

Your blog was originally called Chick Lit Is Not Dead. Can you explain where that comes from? What is your advice to authors who get feedback that their writing is not on-trend?

It was exactly that, as a result of getting feedback that our writing wasn’t “on-trend,” that made us decide to start our blog. We wanted to create a platform where all types of books were celebrated. We wanted to champion authors that had written anything from a memoir to chick lit. To us, it didn’t matter what the genre, as long as the book was good.

As for our advice if you get feedback that your book is not on-trend, we say you have to keep writing what you want to write, what you love, and that book will find an audience if you do. You can’t write what the market wants. You have to write what you want.

How does your collaborative process work? Do you pass drafts back and forth to each other? Assign chapters? What are some of the benefits to writing in a pair, and what is most challenging about it?

Because Your Perfect Life was a dual narrative, we each wrote a character. But when we finished that character’s chapter, we would pass it to the other person, who would then edit it and pass it back. We don’t move forward to the next chapter until we are both satisfied. In the end, we have no idea who has written what! The benefits to writing in a pair are innumerable. It’s faster! We’ve known each other for over two decades (almost three!), so our brains are basically the same and our voices are nearly identical. We often have a similar idea about where to take the story before we’ve ever talked about it. Also, we are very good at taking constructive criticism from our agent and editor because we’ve had years of taking it from each other. You have to develop a thick skin, fast, if you want to work as a team! As for the challenges, while we are “used” to being edited by each other it can be hard to receive your chapter back and see a lot of red ink. Sometimes you write something and feel really good about it, but your partner doesn’t. You have to be able to step back and be objective. And ultimately we usually end up agreeing with the other person.

You have an excellent blog, lizandlisa.com, where you feature author interviews, book reviews, giveaways, and all kinds of other bookish goodness. Can you talk a little about why community matters in writing? What are the best ways for authors to support each other?

Thank you! Community is HUGE in writing. We learned that very early on when we started the blog (almost six years ago) and met some amazing author friends who are still a part of our internal support system today, whom we can still call or e-mail when we’re struggling or when we’re celebrating. It’s important to support each other because that only strengthens the writing community. Everyone should want everyone to succeed, to hit the NYT bestseller list, to end up on the Today Show, to get his or her novel adapted into a screenplay and made into a movie. Because that only opens the door for more authors to get that chance.

What’s up next for you?

We’re very excited about our next novel, The Status of All Things, out in June of 2015. It’s the story of a social-media-obsessed woman who, after her fiancé leaves her at their rehearsal dinner, realizes she can change her entire life by what she writes in her Facebook status. We address several themes in this book—the need to make our lives seem perfect on social media, the idea of tampering with fate, and the innate desire in so many of us to question the status of our lives, to wonder, what if?