“Oprah Called”

Lindsay Blakeauthor3 Comments

I’ll say this casually to my husband the day it happens. I’ll spend hours practicing my nonchalant expression in the mirror so that when I deliver this auspicious news at the dinner table, it will seem incidental.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Oprah and Ellen talk to far fewer authors than we’re giving them credit for, but believing they’ll want to chat with us honestly adds so much fuel to our writing fires. We have an embarrassing number of texts talking about these power women as if they were our BFFs.

“Oh, let’s make sure we mention this to Oprah.”

“Ellen will love this story.”

We are prepared, people.

And let’s be real honest here-we actually aren’t embarrassed about this.

Here’s how we imagine this chat with Oprah will go down.

Oprah: So what inspired this writing partnership?

Lindsay: (looks at Layne) Well, as you know we traveled together for 2.5 years with the TRACK – what our second book is about – and we started a blog together back then. We both really enjoyed writing and we really enjoyed writing together. A few years later, while I was living in South Africa and Layne was in Canada I casually suggested through Whatsapp that we should write a book together.

Layne: “Casually suggested we write a book together.” (laughs and rolls her eyes) Yeah!  I’m pretty sure we talked then about writing a book together way back then, but Linds definitely initiated the conversation for the book in a real way. Did she mention she had a newborn at the time?

Lindsay: Yay, we didn’t have a clue what we would write about but decided to each write a “chapter” and then we would see how we could combine the two and move forward. It was slightly insane. (laughs)

Oprah: What did the writing process actually look like?

Layne: Oprah, this is a little embarrassing, but when we started, we used to email a document back and forth. But sometimes we had different versions of Pages, so I’d send it to Linds, but the document wouldn’t open for her because I had the updated version of Pages and she had the older version or whatever. And we were always waiting on the other person to re-send it, or send it in the first place. And yes, this was within the last five years. Technology really isn’t my thing.

Lindsay: (throws her head back in laughter) It really wasn’t our finest moments in our writing process. I think it was Layne that actually started our google docs about two years into our first book. (Sighs loudly). Two years Oprah! But that changed everything.

Layne: So we can each work on the google doc at any time or at the same time. As with everyone else who uses it knows, it was a game changer (laughs). So I’ll write a section and color-code it to orange so Lindsay knows it’s new. Or Lindsay will add something and make it green. If something doesn’t feel strong enough, we’ll make it red. We have a system, Oprah. (laughs) And we both edit our own work and each other’s work.

Oprah: What was the hardest thing about co-writing a book?

Lindsay: For me it was the lack of actual time to write. As a mother to a three-year-old and a wife it was finding the balance and time space to actually write. Often, I found myself sitting down in my office for 30 minutes here and there while my kid ran laps in the room or played legos behind my chair. I dream of the day when I can get away for a week and focus solely on a writing project.

Layne:  What Lindsay isn’t saying is that she also has a business and is the kind of mom who takes her kid to the zoo. And she lives in her hometown so she has a ton of friends who want to see her. I’m super proud of her; she’s basically super mom/woman.

Time was hard for me too I guess, there are a lot of weeks in our busy season when I work 60 hours or more, but at least I get to schedule my time. Being a mom is 24-7! So I’d get up early to write before work and not have to think about feeding anyone breakfast. I often get one day off in a week and I’d use the whole day to write. What’s helpful is that I have no hobbies, no kids, a very small social life and gracious husband. And I don’t live in my hometown so (though I have amazing friends in Canada!) my family and most of my closest friends all live far away.

That being said, I’ve probably averaged 20+ hours a week on our book over the last year and a half, and my hands actually hurt all the time. I guess that’s hard? I’ve gotten physical therapy and wax treatments on them for the last six months.

Wow, that sounds dramatic. (laughs) Sorry, Oprah!

And not being in the same vicinity was also a challenge. It was sad not being in the same place to edit in the same room or read our book aloud to each other to check for flow. We did that after our first draft of Remember Us and it was incredibly helpful. When we submitted our manuscript to agents, we FaceTimed so we could hit “send” on our first email simultaneously. She emailed a few; I emailed a few. Thankfully we were together to celebrate when we signed with an agent, but this has been trying in general!

Oprah: Okay, you wrote two books, but I want to have you in here a different time to talk about your second one. Did you have a favorite character in Remember Us, or a character you loved writing the most?

Lindsay: (laughs) Absolutely. In Remember Us Ben is my favorite. With that book we never had a character that was just ours, however we each had a character that we wrote more of if you will. For me, it was Ben. And I’m not saying Ben was a lush, but I wrote my best Ben when I had a glass of wine or beer sitting next to me in the office. Honestly, Ben was never meant to be a main character. But as our story became less about Reese, and more about the family’s journey Ben’s character began to shine and come out more.

Layne: Yes, Lindsay and her wine definitely brought Ben to life. He was originally a blob, with barely an appearance in the book, but she started rounding his character with a line here, a section there, humor over there. She saw and loved him months before I did. Once I caught on, he was one of my favorite people to write, but he wouldn’t have come to life without Lindsay. Bernice was also fun to write. At one point Bernice was my favorite character, but I think it’s Ben and Reese as an entity now.

Lindsay: You wrote Bernice. I may have added bits here and there, but Bernice was your genius.

Layne: I will say that when we sent an early draft out to our first two beta readers, our friend Anne (hi Anne, waves at audience) and my sister, weren’t as in love with our characters as we were. My sister is an honest soul and she told me she was bored within twenty pages and didn’t like any of our characters. It was a real wake up call, Oprah.

Oprah: Did you have any  moments when you thought you might punch each other? (Oprah smiles knowingly)

Layne: Well, Lindsay is a pacifist, so I know I’m safe. (smiles at Lindsay)

Lindsay: I say I am a pacifist, but no one is perfect. (laughs) I don’t think there was a time when I wanted to punch Layne per se (although I’m pretty sure she wanted to punch me a few times) but where maybe our expectations of a timeline looked different. We both love to work and are driven. We enjoy lists, tasks, and doing our work well. However, and I’m not using motherhood as an excuse, being a mom and having a deadline with writing is difficult. Especially when you don’t have a nanny on call. That does sound nice!

There would be times where I’d be trying to write, and my kid is yelling from the bathroom, “mom, MOM, MOOOOOMMMM… I’M DONE! Are you coming?!” He needed me to wipe his bottom. So for me it’s been a lesson of balance and learning to communicate with Layne.  I didn’t always have the capacity to be the writer I wanted to be in that time, and while I tried my best to communicate that with Layne, I’m sure I could have done a better job.

Layne: I think it surprises most people when we say we didn’t really fight through the process. There were a few tense moments and the trickiest part is that since we don’t live in the same town, we couldn’t meet up, look at each other in the face and figure it out. Communicating via text (especially when one of us is running out the door) isn’t the best way to sort out a problem, question or confusion.

Oprah: What book can we be expecting from you two next?

Layne: I have half a dozen books I’ve started/drafted over the years, but I’m not sure if any of them are going anywhere. (laughs) I do have a lot of book dedications already written, waiting for a book to go with them. (laughs again)

Lindsay: Well, in January 2016 I started writing a book in Burlington, Iowa when my grandfather died. He was 94 and my grandma was 89. My grandma could not live on her own, so we completely uprooted her and moved her to Omaha, into an assisted living home. There are two sides to every story, right? (Oprah nods her head in agreement) From our perspective this was a great solution. She’d be closer to us, we’d all see each other a lot more, she would have the help she desperately needed and would not get living in her home alone back in Iowa. But I can’t imagine what that felt like for her. So I started writing a book from “her” perspective. I think that book has potential to be very funny with a lot of emotion as well. Something everyone will go through and experience in one fashion or another. And how often is there a book written from an older person’s perspective?

I didn’t get far because we were still working on our first two, but I put it in a google doc and shared it with Layne. So we will see where that takes us and if we end up writing that one together.

Layne: Yes, I love, love the book Linds is talking about. I’m not sure if it’s a book we’ll write together or one she’s supposed to write on her own. Either way, I’m stoked for it, and I’m honored that she would even consider bringing me into the project. It’s going to be pure magic.

Oprah: Now, I’ve heard a rumor that you’ve named one of your characters after your mom. I’d love to hear more about that. (Oprah laughs)

Lindsay: (laughs) It’s true. We did. And we had several people who knew Layne’s mom tell us it was a bad idea. Our mom’s name was Bernice, and while I would have been willing to change the name if Layne felt like we needed to, at that point, honestly, no other name would have worked.

Layne: Oprah, where’s your couch? I need to lay down if I’m going to talk about my mom. Just kidding, Oprah. Mama I love you. (waves at camera) Yes! As Linds mentioned we’ve gotten a lot of feedback about so blatantly naming a main character after my mother.

Here’s the thing-in the original version of Remember Us, “Bernice” had one token mention and I named her after my mom because I knew my mom would love it. We intentionally put the names of a lot of our friends in our books, because it’s fun. And we love our friends! You’ll notice Blake is Lindsay’s middle name, Charlie is the name of my cousin. We have more than a dozen shouts to people throughout the book.

Lindsay: Doesn’t Reese kiss Carsen Finkle? Carsen is my son’s name. (Hi Carsen!)

Layne: Bernice was the only token mention that subsequently bloomed into a main character, central to our plot, and by that time we’d fallen in love with her as Bernice. I don’t call my mom Bernice, I call her Mama, so it wasn’t weird for me to fully separate the two in my mind. I do like to tease my mom that we took “Bernice” out of the book, but it makes her really sad.

Oprah: Okay, you just mentioned your “original” version of “Remember Us”- what was so different about it?

Lindsay: We first started Remember Us somewhere around the first half of 2013. I can’t remember if Carsen was born or still in my belly. Anyway, we worked on it for maybe a year before we stopped all together for I don’t know, what was it Layne?

Layne: Two years. I hated the book and didn’t want to start it back up. We had a completely different storyline, if you can even call it a storyline. It was choppy, ill-written, and just bad. (shudders)

Lindsay: But I made her (winks at Layne). I knew we could resurrect this thing and make it into something special.

Layne: We basically brought a dead thing back to life. (smiles at Lindsay and shakes her head in wonder)

Oprah: Thanks ladies, I’m excited to be friends with you for the rest of our lives. Remember you can get your copy of Remember Us in your local Barnes and Noble store or online at Oprah.com.


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