Hi Madeleine and Abigail. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed once more on the site – this time for the launch of the third book in the series which started with Cut & Run – Fish & Chips. When last you were here it was almost a year ago, in January, and at that time you had just released Sticks & Stones a wonderful adventure with all the thrills and chills that we have come to expect from you..
Before we start into the interview and talk about Fish & Chips there’s a question that won’t go away and that is, will you ever write a sequel to Caught Running. As many as half of your readers want to know what your plans are for Jake and Brandon because they feel that their story is unfinished or maybe they can’t get enough of them. I think it’s the latter. 🙂 You probably answered this question many times but could you please do so once again and put it to bed?
Patty joins the loud chorus of voices who love Caught Running. While she would enjoy reading more about Brandon and Jake (Do they end up in California? Does Jake kick his pain med habit, and how does he deal with his pain after that?) She would like to know more about Troy. Jake makes a joke about Troy being a “closet queer.” Troy seems to really care about Jake and she wonders just how deep those feelings run. Is Troy gay? Is there a possibility of a story featuring Troy? She would also like to thank you for your wonderful stories.
Madeleine: It’s a great compliment to be asked for more. Thank you all.
Your fans won’t shut up with the Ty & Zane questions either:
DianeS would like to know if there will be more Ty and Zane books?
Abigail: I have a feeling we’ll be writing Ty and Zane until we run out of ideas or until people stop reading the books!
Madeleine: It’s more a case of Ty & Zane writing themselves, really. They won’t shut up! So I think there are plenty of stories to tell about them.
AndyB says “I love these guys and their story, so thank you, Abigail and Madeleine, for writing such absorbing characters that readers like myself can’t help getting invested in. I would like to know more about Zane’s backstory. We know he was married and very much in love with his wife, but was he always bisexual? Since he’s the more angsty personality of the pair, did he ever have issues with his attraction to men as well as women?
Sunshine has a number of questions for you. (Sunshine probably needs to interview you herself) :). She wonders why Zane and his wife never had any children? She would also like to know what made Zane decide to become an FBI agent? He was apparently not physically strong but excelled in academics and it seemed like a weird choice to make unless it was something he really wanted.
She goes on to say “We learn pretty early that Ty has been attracted to both men and women since before he joined the army but nothing is really mentioned about Zane. He’s obviously been with men before Ty and seems to prefer them post-wife, but when and what were his first experiences with men? Had he always been drawn to men as well as women?”
“Will we ever find out why Zane is so alienated from his family (he hinted his mom hates him?) and why he didn’t turn to them when he was having addiction trouble?”
Abigail: These questions are the same ones you’ll find Ty and Zane asking about each other. In future books you’ll get the answers to these and more as the two men uncover secrets about each other.
Sunshine is giving you a workout: “Also, I find Zane’s character really hard to pin down. Is that on purpose? He started out as very moody in book 1 but seemed almost solid (dependable) in book2. He is sometimes emotionally very mature and sometimes like a scared rabbit. Sometimes he seems like a very dull and secure guy and next time he is a daredevil?”
Abigail: A lot of Zane is brought out by the situation. If Ty needs him to be strong, he’s a rock, but we also see him very vulnerable and confused. Ty calls him Jekyll and Hyde in the first book, and with good reason.
Madeleine: As the readers already know, Zane’s had a hell of a lot of ups and downs in just the past six years, from being a stable, happily married man to becoming a (in Zane’s words from Cut & Run) “widower, alcoholic, addict, all-around asshole turned squeaky clean by force of will, threat of jail, and sheer terror.” That would be difficult for anyone to deal with. I think it was pretty well established in Sticks & Stones that Ty gives Zane focus. Away from Ty, all bets are off.
“Why are Zane and Ty always stuck working undercover? They’ve got some impressive credentials – bilingual, Zane is supposedly very strong with numbers and logic (not that we’ve seen much of it), Ty can do profiling, both have experience from working undercover in different environments and organisations, Zane must also know a bit about computers. Why would their employer not use these talents better and maybe put them on more investigating assignments?”
Abigail: The main reason they’re used undercover is because that’s where they want to be. Dick Burns thinks it in the second book; they’d both go crazy if they had to play by the rules. But we will begin to see in future books other ways in which they are used within the Bureau. In fact, the next book will deal mostly with them being forced to do a PR stunt for the FBI, which you can imagine will get interesting considering how much both men like to get into trouble!
Madeleine: There’s a lot to be said for experience, and Ty and Zane both have a lot working undercover. Yes, they have other important skills, and we’ll see more of those as time goes on. They may be tracking smugglers on this case, but Ty’s still a Marine and Zane’s still a detail-oriented whiz with statistics.
Ann has a couple of questions. Ty’s brother Deuce was a fun addition to Sticks & Stones. Will he have a recurring role in future books?
Abigail: Most definitely. He’s Ty’s brother, and a very big part of both Ty’s and Zane’s lives. We’ll be seeing quite a lot of him, both in the role of advisor to Ty and Zane when they’re being idiots, and him coming to them for help.
When you start a story do you generally have an idea of the outcome of the story? Do you let the story evolve as you write it or do you try and stick to a defined outline?
Abigail: I have learned not to stick to anything. I like to have a general idea of where I want to go, but I have never finished a book exactly the way I thought I would. I think I’m probably the more likely of the two of us to say, you know what, we need to scrap this or that and go in this other direction.
Madeleine: Cut & Run wrote itself pretty much beginning to end—but we had no idea how it would end. Since then, we write more in chunks of events and then fit them together like a puzzle. We start with a general idea. Sometimes. Lately it’s morphing more into a huge master arc and we’re writing scenes and saying, “Oops, that belongs, oh, two books down the road.” It’s very frustrating, but we’re determined to do this right.
Will we meet Zane’s family?
Madeleine: But not right away.
Buda says ……and of Fish & Chips finally being published, all I can say is, “It’s about bloody time!” Thanks for creating such engaging and memorable characters, ladies!
TJ – Your characters are such wonderfully realistic men. To what do you attribute your ability to get inside the male psyche?
Abigail: I think we’ve all got a little bit of the male/female psyche in us. On the whole I don’t think there’s a lot of difference between the inner workings of a manly man and a tomboy, or an effeminate guy and a girly girl. I watch football every Sunday, I shoot a snub-nosed .38 Smith & Wesson with a fair amount of accuracy, and I like to order hot wings and at least half a dozen mango martinis when I go to Applebee’s. I hate the taste of beer, but I do love the smell of it on someone’s breath. I like shiny things, I respect someone who looks me in the eye when I speak to him or her, I’ve had my shoulder reconstructed due to a sports injury, and my ass looks great in a pair of high heels. Are those feminine or masculine attributes? For myself, I take the interesting pieces of people I know or imagine and I try to build them into a person I’d like to hang out with. Whether they make a male psyche or a female one in the end is anyone’s guess!
Madeleine: I don’t sit and try to think: “What would a man do?” I sit and think: “What would Zane do?” And it’s worked. I don’t think of myself as a girly-girl at all, so maybe that helps. I do talk to my husband a lot about ideas and reactions.
(Me: “So if Zane’s going to shoot this guy on instinct after snatching the gun out of the dirt, what would his shots be?”
Husband: “Two to the chest, one to the head.”
Me: “Seems a bit much to put one in the head. Zane’s an excellent shot, yes, but he wasn’t trained like Ty was.”
Husband: Three to the chest, well-grouped, then. Although in my opinion, Zane would put all three in the asshole’s head if the guy’s going to shoot Ty in the back.”
He’s a former Marine and a present-day Soldier, so that gives me a lot of insight into how Zane deals with Ty and his military past and habits. But for the most part, I just let Zane be Zane. He’s erratic, swinging in more ways than one, and really that makes it more difficult to write him than you’d think.
HOPE is also curious about Deuce and would like to know if we will be seeing more of him in future books. She certainly hopes so and she thinks he’s as funny as Ty. She also wants to know whether Deuce is gay?
Abigail: No he’s not, but one of the future books will focus on his love life.
Her other question is about continuing the series. “Madeleine mentioned on her site that you two would love to do several more books on Ty and Zane. It looks like you are taking them out of their comfort zone in book 3. Is this your way of keeping the storyline fresh and exciting? “
Abigail: I think we’d do just about anything to keep the series fresh and exciting so we can keep writing them. I can assure you no one jumps a shark in this story. Taking them out of their comfort zone is a way to jog them into the next step in their evolution, as well as that of the series.
Madeleine: Anyone’s life is a series of experiences, and Ty and Zane are no exception. They grow, and their relationship grows with them. Life will always be exciting in some way, because the two of them wouldn’t have it any other way.
KirstenK is curious how your writing process goes– does one person write one character and another, the other character? One does dialogue, the other description? One rough draft, one polishes?
Abigail: We each take one of the major characters. In this series Madeleine writes Zane, I write Ty. It often depends on the situation or the supporting characters as to which one of us writes them.
Madeleine: Also, though we both contribute and polish, Abigail is definitely the twisty-turny master plotter, where I spend more time with ambience, surroundings, back story, and emotions. In Fish & Chips, Ty thinks about how he approaches a situation as compared to Zane. Abigail and I work much in the same way, which makes sense, considering which characters we write.
Whitney wants to know if there’s going to be a sequel to The Archer? She feels that the ending was abrupt although she loved it and it kept her on the edge of her seat.
Abigail: There will eventually be a sequel. I’m still working on a plot worthy of it. There will likely be a prequel as well if I can ever find the time to finish it up!
She can’t wait for Fish & Chips and wants to know how do you get the ideas for your characters? Is it something that just comes (i.e. he’s going to be this type of person and look like this…) or is it more methodical?
Abigail: Some characters go through evolutions, and some just pop onto the page. Ty literally popped up and said ‘write me’. But after the initial creation, I gave him a background and a past and a circle of family and friends even if those facts never reach the page, because those things go into making a character what he or she is. For instance, I created a background for Ty that is mentioned in passing, but after a deeper look into the assignments I had given him we discovered that he not only would have been in New York City during the attacks of 9/11, but also in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. Events like that are never mentioned in the first three books, but they make Ty who he is and they’ll come up later.
Madeleine: It’s also situational. As we build those backgrounds, we discover characters who contributed to who Ty and Zane are—that’s how Deuce came about, and you’ll start to see there are people like that in Zane’s life too. Zane’s wife Becky, for example. Zane’s life is what it is now because he lost her. If Becky hadn’t have died, events would never have led him to Ty. So that makes her a character who looms large in Zane’s consciousness, even if she never speaks a word.
She would like to know what you both like to read. Also, how does your writing process work? Is one of you better at writing certain things than the other?
Abigail: An unfortunate side-effect of being a writer is that you lose a lot of your personal reading time! I’ll probably catch crap for admitting it, but I mostly like my fiction mindless and fun. I stay away from heavy topics, politics, religion, and the designated hitter. My favorite authors include Elizabeth Peters, Clive Cussler, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child together or solo, Alexandre Dumas, and Louis L’Amour. I love a good mystery, especially if it can fool me, and I enjoy action-adventure or mystery novels that incorporate history into their plots. They’ve become very popular lately so they’re easy to find! Steve Berry and James Rollins are two that I like to take on vacation with me.
We both have our strengths and weaknesses. Madeleine is more detail-oriented than I am and more aware of the ‘space’ around the characters. I’m the plotter.
Madeleine: I don’t read much, either. But when I need a break, I usually go looking for some escapist fan fiction based on a TV show or movie I particularly like. I’ve read a huge range of fandoms, so I can usually find something to fit my mood. Mainstream, on my bookshelf I’ve got Janet Evanovich’s entertaining Numbers series, Laurell K. Hamilton’s soft porn, David Weber’s Honor Harrington space opera, and a huge library of pretty much every vampire thing ever written. Yes, even Twilight.
What are some possible story ideas floating in your head(s) right now?
Abigail: Oh goodness. That would take way too long for me to answer! Without going into too much I have a running tally of stories and ideas that I keep around for the time when I might be able to write them. I have a folder of mostly written stories that include a baseball story, a treasure hunt, a few detective stories, a straight up sweet romance, and two ghost stories. I just finished up a western, and I’ve got several more western ideas floating.
None of that includes the plots Madeleine and I have concocted together!
She ends by saying that you guys are the best writing duo ever.
Abigail: I can’t tell you how flattering that is. Thank you.
Madeleine: That means so much to me. Thank you.
KellyD is excited about Fish & Chips, and counting down the days. She loves the characters and their adventures and thinks that Ty and Zane make a great pair. Like Sunshine, she’s curious about Zane and his background (he’s obviously very intelligent, and in his 40’s, and has apparently been successful in the FBI). Although the mystery is part of Zane’s complexity–so maybe she really wouldn’t want everything revealed. She would like to know what prompted Dick Burns to pair the two together? There must be enough similarities in their experiences that he thought they’d work well together.
Abigail: Dick Burns saw the extremes in both men and hoped they would temper each other. He had no idea what sort of monster he would create!
Madeleine: Zane’s been asking that same question for a while now….
She loves the books which she thinks are great and hopes to see even more of them.
Jen would like to know: “If you could pick any actor to play Ty and Zane who would you choose?”
Abigail: I love this question! I’ve had a few readers give me their actors and I’d be really interested in finding out who your readers see when they read the books. For my part, for Ty I’ve always pictured Karl Urban, probably best known from Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and Red. Jensen Ackles from Supernatural comes a close second; he’s got the right attitude and that man can go shirtless any time he wants. And my Zane will forever be Eric Bana from Munich, Star Trek, and Black Hawk Down.
Madeleine: Gee. You think I agree with Karl Urban as Ty? Hmmmm. Hell yes! LOL—and I’m definitely on board with Eric Bana as Zane, although he’s sort of wavered into a bit of Ed Quinn from Eureka from time to time, usually when he’s being all brainiac and sarcastic
FISH & CHIPS
I wonder if you would mind answering a few additional questions, this time about Fish & Chips
Having just finished reading this book I think the fans of the series will absolutely love it, fans looking for a romance for the ages as well as those who love incredible action/adventure books. I must admit I was blown away by Fish & Chips because it was so much more than I expected. What I loved most about this book was the vulnerability of both protagonists. That was an inspired move on your part to write both characters the way you did – some scenes gave me goose bumps. 🙂
Abigail: Please allow me a moment to gloat quietly to myself.
Madeleine: Thank you. We do love our boys, and I’m so glad readers do too. To me, Ty and Zane will always have a romantic love affair, although it will never be red roses and opera.
Why did you decide on a change in direction in this book – well maybe not a change – but certainly more openness between Ty and Zane in their personal relationship?
Abigail: It was time. One of the things that marked the start of the Ty and Zane partnership and their romantic relationship was their mutual desire to keep each other at arm’s length. They didn’t want to ask too many questions, and though they were curious about each other, they weren’t curious enough to dig and cause problems. That had to change eventually or they would have drifted apart, so this book really marks a deepening of their relationship. They care enough to ask some probing questions that might cause an argument. They’re more open with their feelings and honest with each other, because deep down they both know it’s either that or risk losing what they have. They still have secrets, and they still have issues, but they’re slowly becoming more of a team and a true partnership. They’re committed to each other, whether they like it or not.
From a stylistic standpoint, it was time as well. The characters had to take that next step in order to let the reader into their hearts and minds, and we definitely wanted to go there.
Madeleine: There’s no hop, skip, and jump into happily ever after life together for these two. Both Ty and Zane had revelations at the end of Sticks & Stones, and it’s put them together for the long haul, though they haven’t really let themselves think about what that means beyond the immediate and obvious. So they have to start sharing more with each other as they explore that, and that really begins to happen in Fish & Chips.
It’s no secret that fans have long been asking for more information about Zane because his past is shrouded in secrecy. As more information is revealed and we’re getting to know both protagonists even better than I thought possible, I’m beginning to understand Zane in particular and what makes him tick. Why did you decide to focus on his battles with addiction, in particular his alcohol addiction in F & C?
Abigail: The addiction is something that really drives who Zane is. Sometimes he hides it well, and sometimes it’s not at the forefront of what’s going on in his life, but he is an addict and there’s no changing that. Several times he’s thought of Ty as simply another thing to be addicted to, and because Ty is more insightful than even Zane gives him credit for, Ty has figured that out. So Zane’s addictions not only mark the way Zane treats Ty, but the way Ty treats Zane. That becomes more evident than ever in this book.
As far as why we made him deal with the problem in this book, he’s going to have to face that part of himself before he can truly move on and become the kind of man he has the ability to be. We put them in a situation, literally on a floating prison, where neither he nor Ty could run from it. They either deal with it or go down with the ship.
Madeleine: It’s going to be painful as hell (for them both), because his addictions aren’t something that can just go away—they’re a big part of who he is now, for better and for worse. But he can have reasons for resisting them, and Ty is a very compelling one.
Zane & Ty are complicated individuals who have really not had an easy relationship and I’m wondering how the new personal dynamics in this book will affect them in future. They are both competitive – do you see them still battling for supremacy as usual now that they have something more personal at stake? I would hate for some things to change and their competitiveness is one of those elements which I love best.
Abigail: Ty and Zane are both competitive in nature, so I don’t see that changing much. What began as spiteful squabbling has morphed into something more playful, and at times one of them will pick a fight just to get the other worked up because they enjoy the game. They’re learning how to deal with each other in ways that cause less emotional bruising but still keep things interesting. As for the more personal something at stake when the novel ends, that will be one of the roads they’ll have to navigate in the next few books, and knowing them they will take all the wrong turns! But they’ll still have that push and pull power struggle on a daily basis, both physically and intellectually. Neither of them would have it any other way, nor would the readers.
Madeleine: I think that once Ty & Zane realize just what’s at stake and how important it is, they’ll both move heaven and earth to make it happen. Deuce summed it up so well at the end of Sticks & Stones: “As a unit, they are largely uncooperative, unorganized, antagonistic toward each other, stubborn when problems arise, and they conceal their weaknesses from each other and sometimes from themselves. But somehow, it works for them. They trust each other. They’re fiercely loyal to each other, as well. When there’s an outside force working against them, they pull it together in one way or another and defend one another. Viciously, if need be.” I think that applies to their hearts, as well.
F & C took a while to get going because of all the prep work beforehand and establishing their identities so I thought that all bases had been covered, but I must admit that the need to be fluent in Italian was a real kicker. Whose idea was that?
Abigail: If I remember correctly, I think it was mine but I might be taking credit where I don’t deserve it! We started the idea of the story as being a comedy of errors, but the more we wrote on it the less funny it was. It became very dark at one point, with some serious issues and events being addressed, and we stopped. Just flat out stopped writing and let it sit. When we went back to it, we changed some things, took out two or three scenes that just hadn’t fit in, and suddenly the whole thing brightened. But it still wasn’t all that funny. We didn’t want to make it goofy, but we did want a more humorous feel to it. We wanted to throw them some curveballs stemming from the fact that they were shoved into this case at the eleventh hour and would undoubtedly be missing information, and the Italian thing was just one of those we lobbed at them.
Madeleine: Abigail came up with the situation with Italian fluency once we had chosen some Italian characters. And humor aside, it made sense for Ty & Zane to not know Italian; if you’ve read previous books, you already know Zane is fluent in Spanish, and you find out in Fish & Chips that Ty speaks French as well as Farsi (which we learned in Cut & Run). To just handily say, “Yeah, Zane knows Italian too,” would have strained credulity. Plus, it was ever so much more interesting to have them figure out ways to work around it.
DIVIDE & CONQUER
There is a preview in Fish & Chips of Divide & Conquer, the next book in the series. This preview has so many bad puns that I should warn you not to read it while drinking your morning coffee because you will spill it either on your keyboard or on yourself. 🙂 Ty & Zane are taking readers into a whole new dimension and the prototype of the cover for Divide & Conquer should give you an idea of what you’ll be in for.
I have a couple of general questions before I let you go. I know, I know, this is my the longest interview to date lol
What new projects are you both working on, individually and as writing partners, and what are the tentative release dates?
Abigail: The only other project I have with a release set is a western entitled According to Hoyle. It follows two marshals escorting prisoners on a riverboat that gets hijacked. It should be out some time in January. I’ve been working on a ghost story set in Richmond, Virginia around a bar based on several local establishments in the Fan District. I’ve got a baseball story that hit a roadblock when the Braves lost in the NLDS! There’s a treasure hunt adventure that requires a lot more research before I get rolling on it. And I’m really considering jumping into a sequel to that western while I still have the feel for the characters.
Together we have 7 Ty and Zane novels mostly or partially planned out. Most of them even have names already! We also have two other romances we’ve worked on and off over the years, one about a bodyguard on his first job, another about a new guy in a small town.
In terms of personal achievements, what’s next for you?
Abigail: I’d like to keep writing and keep doing it well. I recently started a new job coaching Junior Olympic volleyball with the same club I grew up playing in, so I’m excited to see where that may lead. I have a two-year old daughter and I consider every one of her achievements one of my own. I look forward to pre-school and tee-ball and scaring young men away from our front door with creative threats.
Madeleine: I’m an Army widow for the next year as my husband is deployed to Iraq, so my main goal is to stay busy, and writing with Abigail will be a big part of that. I’m considering revisiting solo writing.
Which letter from a fan moved you the most and why?
Abigail: I’ve had several that have given me pause and caused me to choke up a little. One I remember from very early on was from a man who battled leukemia and saw his best friend and potential lover die from it before he had come to terms with being able to love another man. His story was heartbreaking, but he wasn’t writing to tell it, he was writing to thank us for our stories. To paraphrase his closing comment, he thanked us for showing him that there were guys out there like him, “even if just in fiction.” He told us that these stories were for more than entertainment, that they paint pictures of how a man can love another man and still be a man. His words were “they actually help guys like me find their way.”
Madeleine: I still cry over that same letter. I do have to mention, too, the note from the guy who wrote to tell us that he loves the books so much that he named his cats Garrett and Grady—and they fuss and fight all the time but curl up to sleep together at night. That just tickles me to no end.
Thank you Abigail and Madeleine.
Thank you for having us again!
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To summarize – The fans want more Jake and Brandon. We all love Deuce – (if he were gay he would be an ideal candidate for his own M/M book or series), and we would like as many books about Ty and Zane as you can write. Last, you just might be the best writing duo around. 🙂 I love the new romantic direction in Fish & Chips.
Madeleine: That’s just so awesome a compliment. Thanks.
Madeleine’s Contact Information
Abigail’s Contact Information