Today I’m talking to writing duo Stephanie C. Lyons-Keeley and Wayne J. Keeley, authors of Going All In, published by Melange Books.
Tell us a little about your writing to date.
Wayne: I am the published author of the legal thriller “Mahogany Row,” but honestly began writing short stories, poetry, and other works in childhood. Pursuing a legal career left my writing to something more of a hobby and a catharsis for other things going on in my life. I penned numerous works including stage and screenplays which sat on shelves and in computer files until I met my muse, Stephanie.
Stephanie and Wayne: It was then that the dam opened and that we began writing together – some old works Stephanie retooled, updated, and put her spin on; some new works that we completely created together.
Stephanie: I began my career as a psychotherapist but when I steered over to the “mommy track,” I wanted to take time to be home with my children. Writing became something I could do while raising a family. I freelanced as a journalist and feature writer for some local newspapers and magazines, which is actually how I met Wayne, who had just completed a public service campaign for muscular dystrophy which featured Olympia Dukakis – I was assigned his story.
What are the positives and difficulties of writing collaboratively?
Stephanie and Wayne: To be honest, we find very few difficulties. Sometimes, as would be expected, we butt heads but we always come to some common ground. We each put our yin and yang into the pieces – like our blog, it is “he said/she said” – we feel that the works get both the male and female points of view but also our personal and individual points of view and life experiences. In some cases Wayne starts something, and sometimes Stephanie. Sometimes one of us tosses out a seed and then we talk it out, in many cases nearly “writing” an entire piece verbally, before putting it to paper. In fact, we’ve “written” another book and a screenplay recently that are out in the ether at the moment – we just need the time to get them down onto the computer!
Did you plan out the entire plot for Going All In before you began writing, or did the story evolve as you wrote?
Stephanie and Wayne: The unique thing about Going All In is that it began as a screenplay, so you could sort of see it as having been an outline for the book. As we wrote it, we sat side-by-side at the dining room table with our kids and pets all around us (we have 7 children between us!). Some chapters Stephanie wrote and some Wayne wrote. Others Wayne began and handed over to Stephanie to finish or vice versa. Then Stephanie edited the whole thing (multiple times) – she calls herself “the cleaner”!
What advice would you give to someone embarking on their first novel?
Stephanie and Wayne: Keep at it. Read it, revise it, have others read it for you. Listen to people’s constructive advice. If something doesn’t work, change it. But also, stick to your guns when necessary. There was one editor who had a problem with the choice we made to speak in many voices in Going All In – but we felt it was important to convey the feeling that the six characters were so intimately intertwined and we refused to change it. NO ONE has complained and we’re so pleased with the response this book is getting! Also, be patient. Nothing happens overnight. If you’re committed to your work, know that it’s going to take a lot of pounding the pavement to both find a publisher as well as the marketing that comes later.
Personal writing choice: pen or keyboard?
Wayne: I do both. The real meat and potatoes often comes at the computer, but I still do love to write longhand which I do from time to time.
Stephanie: I only write via keyboard. My thoughts just flow from my brain to my fingers as I type. I may, out of desperation, make a few notes if I think of something when not at my computer, but I won’t get anything real accomplished unless I have the glow of the screen on my face.
What is the best part of being an author? And the worst?
Stephanie: The best – Seeing your work come to life. Touching people. Allowing the creative juices to flow. Talking about your ideas with others after they’ve been written. The worst – pounding that pavement. The inevitable rejection by some, which is expected but frustrating. And while marketing can be fun, it is a lot of work – in truth, it’s like a full-time job, even with a publisher and agent behind you. In today’s world you have to have a social media following and you’re relied upon to use your own fan base.
Wayne: Ditto to Stephanie.
Who are your writing heroes?
Stephanie: J. K. Rowling is a true hero as a writer as well as a human – I want to be her! Otherwise, I like many genres of writing both in terms of books as well as stage or screen. As for books, I love some of the works of recent authors such as Mary Kubica, Gillian Flynn, and Liane Moriarty. I also love children’s book writers as I am amazed at how adults are capable of creating things that capture the imaginations of young people. (Laughs) Wayne will have a better, more nuanced answer…
Wayne: Traditionally, I love Faulkner. Classically, I love Anthony Trollope and Charles Dickens. In modern genres, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and King’s son, Joe Hill.
If you had to be stranded on a desert island with three fictional characters, who would you choose, and why?
Wayne: Harry Potter because he’s resourceful. (Stephanie – and he’s magical!) Sherlock Holmes because he can figure out anything! And Tarzan who could assist us in living in nature on that island. (Stephanie: Wayne isn’t very handy, LOL!)
Stephanie: OK! I’ll take those answers!
Wine gums or chocolate as your preferred snack of choice when immersed in writing?
Stephanie: (Laughs) I had to look up “wine gums,” as we don’t call them that in the US! I love anything sweet! I love both, but I’d have to say while writing, I’d likely mindlessly engage in feeding my face full of wine gums!
Wayne: For me, neither. Potato chips – Lays to be exact. (Stephanie: He can eat the whole bag in one sitting!)
Stephanie and Wayne: We honestly have so many projects – countless of them – in various stages of development. We’re working with an executive producer on getting some screenplays in front of some major studios, including the screenplay for Going All In which has won many contests through the years. We have a new novel, as we mentioned before, that we’ve already “air penned” and we need to get that to paper. Then there’s the other screenplay – a family comedy we need to get down. We have several stage plays, one of which we’ve asked a few people to read for us, too. Plus, we’re constantly re-tweaking the works we’ve already done and thinking of other things – our minds never stop. Lastly, we have a four-part horror novel, Deadraiser, that we’re really proud of. The first part of Deadraiser we initially published under our production company name on Amazon in 2016. Unfortunately, we soon found it hacked and essentially bootlegged for free all over the internet so we elected not to publish the other three parts until we find it a home with a traditional publisher.
Good luck with all your plans! Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions!
Thank you, Emma! We look very forward to seeing this out there!
Stephanie and Wayne are award-winning writers, directors, and producers as well as bloggers, who have other “day jobs” as well. Stephanie has an MA in counseling psychology and is a psychotherapist and professor of psychology. In addition to being a four-time Emmy-nominated and two-time winning writer and producer, who also is the author of the legal thriller Mahogany Row, Wayne is a media attorney and a part-time professor of communications.
Together the married duo (who are parents to a blended brood of seven children, two dogs, and three ferrets) pen “he-said/she-said” entertainment reviews and conduct interviews on their website, Pillow Talking.
Stephanie and Wayne have combined their creative talents on myriad works for film, theatre, and TV which are in various stages of development.